April, 2013 InFRE Update: An Updated Certified Retirement Counselor® (CRC®) Exam

 Kevin Seibert, CFP®, CEBS, CRC®, Managing Director, InFRE

Kevin Seibert, CFP®, CEBS, CRC®, Managing Director, InFRE

by Kevin Seibert, CFP®, CEBS, CRC®, Managing Director, InFRE

Sound credentialing practice requires that we periodically revise and update certification examinations. Over the past several months our examination committee has been working on the latest exam update. In this article, we’ll describe the process used to ensure that your investment in the CRC® Certification, and the protection of the public, is maintained.

The CRC® was independently accredited in 2008 by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Obtaining NCCA accreditation required the CRC® certification program be vetted to meet the highest standards regarding governance, responsibility to stakeholders, exam process, and recertification on the merits of the program itself – an important difference from designations being offered by accredited colleges. Hence, the CRC®’s independent, third-party program accreditation signifies that CRC® Certificants are an elite group of qualified retirement professionals among the array of retirement-related designations available today. It took almost two years to become accredited.

The CRC® Certification Test Specifications outline in detail the knowledge and task proficiency needed for Candidates to pass the exam. The five domains of practice are as follows:

Domain 1: Provide Retirement Education
Domain 2: Identify Needs, Concerns and Goals in Terms of Quantitative and Qualitative Factors by Career Stage/Phase of Retirement
Domain 3: Design Retirement-readiness and Post-retirement Strategies within the Context of the Regulatory, Legal, Operational and Structural Environment
Domain 4: Facilitate the Implementation of the Retirement-readiness and Post-retirement Strategies
Domain 5: Evaluate, Adjust, and Document Retirement Strategies Across Career Stages/Retirement Phases

Part of the ongoing requirement to maintain accreditation of the CRC® Certification is to update the exam every two years so it is as valid, reliable, and relevant as possible, and accounts for the new trends  identified by a practice analysis study which is conducted once every five years.  The exam, of course, is updated annually for changes in tax limits, etc.

In May 2012, we began the process of working with our exam consulting firm to help us evaluate how well the then-current exam’s questions were testing and to guide us in the process of writing new exam questions. With an enlisted group of over 12 experienced CRC®s and other professionals, each question was reviewed, rewritten as needed, or replaced with a new question. Applied knowledge questions have also been added to the new exam version.

The Exam Construction Team and the exam consultant review the questions to make sure each meets psychometrically sound standards. The consultant then designs the final exam and it is then reviewed by the exam committee one last time.

The last step in the process is to conduct a “pass point study” for each new examination. The lowest test score that represents success on an examination is called the passing point. The “just barely qualified” candidate is one who would achieve this lowest passing examination score. A ‘just barely qualified” candidate is one who has just enough knowledge and ability to be certified.

Keep in mind that certification exams separate candidates into two groups – those who should be certified and those who should not. We use what is called “criterion-referenced” methods of setting the pass point. The essence of this approach is that judges review items on the test, and then make an estimate of the probability that a “just qualified” passing candidate would answer the item or items correctly.

The new exam was administered for the first time in January 2013.

Posted in: The InFRE Update

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