Monday, August 12, 2013

What is a Content Outline?

The ACE exam is being updated with a new content outline.  Which begs the question, perhaps, what is a content outline (CO)?  

The ACE exam (indeed, all of the ESA Certification exams) are all based on a pre-determined set of topics. For ACE, these were originally established back in 2004 when the program was initiated. The current CO is online here and will be the testable subject matter until December 31, 2013 at which point it will expire (and this link will be no longer valid). The new CO to debut on January 1, 2014 is here.

The process of developing the new CO was very regimented so as to be certain that the ACE exam is testing on knowledge that a trained PMP should have to perform their daily jobs at the highest levels. 

In April of 2012 and working with a certification consultant, the ESA convened a panel of experts to review the existing CO. This group essentially tore apart the current CO, examined it in minute detail, and then reassembled parts of it. What emerged were four key areas of knowledge that a PMP should have. We call these the CO Domains.
  • Inspection and Identification
  • Monitoring
  • Selection and Implementation of Control Methods
  • Evaluation
Within each of these Domains there are abilities that a PMP needs to have in order to demonstrate mastery of the Domain knowledge. These we call Skills and they are an integral part of the CO.

Following the April 2012 meeting, our consultant developed the new material into a survey that we then emailed to many hundreds of professionals across the country. For each skill identified on the CO, we asked them (a) how often they performed this task and (b) how critical it was to their job.  The results of that survey are what is going to form the basis of the new exam.

As for the insects covered in the exam, they fall into these categories:
  • Biting and Stinging pests
  • Flies (Order Diptera)
  • Ants (Family Formicidae)
  • Cockroaches (Order Dictyoptera; Alt. Blattaria)
  • Stored product and fabric pests
  • Wood destroying insects
  • Occasional invaders and general household pests
  • Common Commensal pests*
The specific pests that could be found on the exam are listed on the CO in order of descending importance. For example, under the biting and stinging insects section, bed bugs are listed at the top and chiggers are listed at the bottom. So while it is possible that an ACE applicant could get a question on both arthropods on the exam, it is far more likely that a question on bed bugs would appear. 

Speaking of questions, in exam-writing parlance, a question is usually referred to as an Item. Just last week we brought another group of experts to Annapolis to the ESA HQ. They went through all of the existing Items on the current ACE Exam to determine if they fit into the new CO as-is, with some modifications, or if the Items simply did not fit the exam any longer. 

The experts chosen were all BCEs from a variety of personal and professional expertise. They all signed documents of confidentiality which precludes them discussing the exam and Items with anyone outside of the group. On a personal note, I have seldom worked with a more professional group of people. ESA, the Certification programs, and I personally all owe them a debt of gratitude. 

The result is a new question bank where the Items upon which the new ACE exam will be based have been verified to be of high frequency and importance to practicing PMPs. Over the next few months the refined, tested, and then edited again until we launch the new exam on January 1.

So all you prospective ACEs out there ... start studying the new content.  Your testing matter has been vetted against the best in the business.

* I've received some questions about what kinds of questions are apt to be found on the ACE Exam for vertebrate pests. Watch for a future blog post about this topic.