From the Executive Director

From the Executive Director

Advances in the Remote Exam Platform Improve Candidate Experience

By Brent Wagner, MD, MBA, ABR Executive Director


Brent Wagner, MD

The ABR embarked on a path to develop remote exams in the early summer of 2020. At the outset, the model for remote high stakes medical specialty certification assessments had not yet been defined. Along with many of our colleagues in other specialties, we found ourselves innovating and, to some degree, experimenting with platforms that would strike a balance between maintaining a valid credential and creating an acceptable user experience.

In early 2021, we administered our first remote exams. We used a third-party remote proctor system, with a long history of success in higher education testing, to allow examinees to avoid the risk, stress, and expense of travel at a time when infection rates were high and vaccines were unavailable. Although we were confident that this allowed us to satisfy the first criterion (a secure exam as part of a valid credential), there were opportunities for improvement of the user experience. This past year, we developed a remote proctor system that is integrated with our exam software. Following a pilot in early July, this was implemented across several exams beginning in September. For the user, this provides a more seamless process for entering the exam. For ABR staff, it allows us to do “real time” monitoring of the video, so we can coach candidates to correct minor issues during the exam. In contrast, with the former method, we might not discover until many days later, during retrospective review, that the camera was incorrectly positioned or that we received incomplete video.

Another upgrade of the computer-based exams was introduced a few months ago: authentication of identification in advance of the exam. By removing as many steps as possible from the sign-in process, we hope to anticipate problems and mitigate examinee confusion and stress on exam day. In a post-exam survey, 94% of examinees agreed that “the process for providing my identification was easy to complete” and 96% agreed that “overall, the check-in process was easy to complete.”

Although no system is perfect, and occasional dropped connections or other problems will inevitably occur, the feedback we have received regarding our remote exam platform has been overwhelmingly favorable. This is especially true as it relates to the convenience for examinees. We are not surprised that nearly 100% of examinees are not only cooperating with the software and hardware requirements but also participating in ways that speak to the high level of ethics and professionalism that we expect of each other in the radiologic sciences.

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