About the National Optical Sciences Examinations
The National Optical Sciences Examination evolved from ongoing discussion amongst regulatory bodies and associations over the past two decades regarding reciprocity of licensing. In 1996, examination initiatives ongoing in Alberta and Manitoba provided a logical platform for developing a national project. Early in 1996 representatives of some of the provincial education bodies, came together with the facilitation of the National Examination Committee (NEC). This meeting was held at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Continuing Education Centre. Present was a representative from the University of Alberta Coordinating Council who outlined a template for the development of professional examinations that would stand scrutiny.
By March of 1996 there was enough momentum to call a meeting at which representatives from all the regulatory bodies and some associations agreed to form an ad hoc examination committee. Nelson Kennedy, Dean of Health Sciences at NAIT described to the delegates the necessity of developing national examinations. National Accreditation Committee of Opticians (NACO) representatives added to the discussion through their work on the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and the emerging Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). The terms of the MRA made clear the necessity and practicality of developing a common licensing examination for all 10 provinces. As the Manitoba regulatory body was already in the process of developing a skills-based examination template the committee determined that Manitoba should be the lead organization and that their template be used as a foundation for the national exam development.
By June of 1996, the Optical Sciences 1 - Eyeglasses examination was in final draft form. At their June meeting, provincial representatives agreed to take the draft back to their respective regulatory boards asking for approval to move forward.
In September of 1996, the examination committee began work on the development of the Optical Sciences 2 Advanced Practice - Contact Lens examination.
The NEC is a working sub-committee responsible for the development of examination content and policy. The NEC is a sub-committee of NACOR the National Alliance of Canadian Optician Regulators. The administration of the examinations is designated to NACOR.
In 1998 Assessment Strategies, specialists in professional examination development and assessment, was contracted to assess the examinations and marking criteria and to outline any improvements that were required.
Establishing a Pass Mark
Critical to the reliability of examination results is the method by which the pass mark is established. The method used by the National Examination Committee to establish the pass mark for the examinations is the modified Angoff method. Using this method each component of the examination is isolated. Each member of the examination review panel is asked the question, If 100 candidates of entry level competence were to answer this question, what percentage of candidates would get the correct answer? If there is a divergence in opinion of more than 30%, those delegates estimating at the high and low end of the spectrum are required to provide a rationale to defend their estimation. A second poll is taken, and a third until all delegates have rethought and realigned their assessment and are satisfied in validity of their pass marks. Assessment Strategies uses the data collected to establish the pass mark for the examination.
The NEC met a minimum of 4 times a year during the development phase of the examinations and continues to meet once a year to evaluate results and make modifications to content as required.
Examination Security and Integrity
The NEC has developed a bank of questions. Each candidate receives an examination paper with a mix of questions that differs from other candidates' papers.
In order to ensure uniformity of exam application, the NEC has developed candidate and examiner instructions for each section of the examination. Examinations are held in various locations throughout the country and NACOR sends an Examination Moderator to each sitting of the examination. The host province supplies a Chief Examiner as well as invigilators. All examination papers are sent from the NACOR office to the Examination Moderator who transports them to the exam site, collects them upon completion of the examination and is responsible for returning the examinations to the NACOR office for marking.
All marking of examinations is done in the NACOR office.
To date 9 provincial regulatory bodies use the Optical Sciences 1 - Eyeglasses and Optical Sciences 2 - Advanced Practice Contact Lens examinations to evaluate candidates for membership. Quebec has opted for different assessment modalities.