Friday, March 21, 2014

Retesting for the ACE

So you took the ACE exam and did not pass. What do you do now?

First, [work with me here] take a deep breath. Now hold it .... and ...exhale. And again ...

That's right. Take a deep breath, regroup, and then get out your books.  If you took the exam and did not pass, you're in good company -- about 25% of current ACEs did not pass on their first attempt. The ACE exam is hard by design. It is intended to be a "tough but fair" indication of the level of knowledge that one should have in their heads to be credentialed as an Associate Certified Entomologist.

When you first hit submit on the exam the computer will flash your unofficial score on the screen and you'll get this same data as an email. Within a week or so your exam will be reviewed by the test administrators and you'll get an official review that will include your score, your next steps, and a report that offers suggestions for studying. An example of this report is shown below.

Deciphering the ACE Coaching Report:
Recall that the exam is broken into four key "knowledge domains". The full exam comes from these domains -- each section has a percentage of the exam that is covered:

  • (I and I) Inspection and Identification (45%)
  • (S and I) Selection and Implementation of Control Methods (28%)
  • (E) Evaluation (15%)
  • (M) Monitoring (12%)
A previous post covered this in more detail and analyzed the first (and largest) section of the exam, but it is important to note that each domain contains a number of "skills" that a PMP would need to be able to demonstrate mastery of if they are going to be able to pass that section of the exam. The domains and skills are all listed on the ACE Exam Content Outline that is on the ACE certification website. 

Each of these skills has a number of questions on the exam that are assigned to it. And each of the questions has been defined as Easier, Medium, or Harder (This "level of difficulty" assessment is reviewed and updated quarterly). This is the recipe that builds the exam. We program the exam software to pull xx number of questions from each domain/skill/difficulty. We call that a question category.

Your ACE Coaching Report covers your version of the exam in this same level of detail. Every question fits into a Domain/Skill/Difficulty (question category) classification and your report tells you how you did on each of these. On the graphic above, the text covered in the green circle indicates the version of the test that you took. The blue arrow highlights the domain, the red arrow indicates the skill covered, and the orange arrow indicates the difficulty. 

Beneath that you'll see a comparison table that shows your percentage on all questions in that category compared to everyone else who took the exam. Bear in mind that some of the question categories are smaller than others and there may only be 1-2 questions on the exam from that category. If you got that question right you got a 100%. If you got it wrong, you may see a 0%.  For the larger categories you would more likely see more disparity in the numbers. 

So ... this is informative ... but how do I USE the report?
We would suggest the following approach when an applicant does not pass the exam.  
  1. Review the Coaching Report and ensure that you understand the structure.
  2. Look for areas where you did not do as well. Again, bear in mind that some of these areas are of lower focus, so there may only be one-two questions on the exam that come from that section. The percentage of each Domain that builds the exam are:
    1. I and I -- 45%
    2. S and I -- 28%
    3. E -- 15%
    4. M -- 12%
  3. For those areas where the score was below passing or desired, use the suggested study materials or your company's in-house materials and focus your efforts there.  Again, though, bear in mind that areas where there was a very low score and there is a lower emphasis on the exam as a whole may not warrant special attention.
  4. Since Inspection and Identification is almost half of the exam, if there are any topics within that knowledge domain where you scored very low, I would start there. Then move on to Selection and Implementation. And so forth.
When can I take the exam again?
The rules for the ACE exam (as of this writing) are this:
  • All applicants must pass the exam within 3 years of application acceptance (those accepted prior to Jan. 1, 2014 must pass by Jan. 1, 2017). 
  • All applicants must take their first attempt within one year of application acceptance.
  • If an applicant does not pass, they must wait 3 months but not more than 12 months to test again.
When you are ready, fill out the ACE Retest form and send it to ESA HQ.

If you have questions still, contact ESA's Certification staff and we'll help guide you.