How many questions are on the Examination?
There currently are 132 scored questions on the Examination. However, there are also beta questions being tested for possible inclusion on future versions of the Examination.
Why are there beta questions?
In order to keep the Examination current, new questions need to be added and old questions need to be removed. Before a new question can be added to those questions that are scored, it needs to be tested to ensure that it is a statistically valid question. The candidates taking the Examination do not know which questions are scored or in the beta phase.
How are beta questions determined to be statistically valid?
After approximately every 100 administrations of the Examination, each of the questions is evaluated by an outside psychometrician to determine how well or how poorly each tests. For example, if all of the candidates who pass the Examination miss a particular question, it likely is too difficult. Conversely, if a very high percentage of the candidates who do not pass the Examination get a particular question right, it likely is too easy. It is this highly statistical evaluation that determines which questions should remain because they test well, which must be removed or rewritten entirely and which may need to be modified.
Who writes the questions?
Any practitioner can contribute questions for potential inclusion on the Examination. This process is called item writing. The Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) typically solicits at least 33 questions each calendar year.
Are there guidelines for item writing?
There are established guidelines for item writing to assist practitioners in this process. These guidelines follow industry standards for computer-based exams. Additionally, each question on our Examination requires an academic citation from one of the textbooks on our bookshelf. Training also is available for those interested in helping with this process. Once questions are submitted for the Examination, each question is reviewed for technical accuracy, aligned with the Examination objectives and sourced; most questions are revised in this process.
Who reviews the statistics?
A statistical analysis of all questions on the Examination occurs after approximately 100 administrations. The UAB contracts with a psychometrician to analyze the data and present it to the Exam & Prep work group of the UAB. This session is called the In-service Analysis and identifies questions that need to be replaced or rewritten. A panel of Accredited professionals, referred to as subject-matter experts (SMEs), conduct the technical review, which includes a series of approximately eight, two-hour-long conference calls with a panel consisting of six to eight professionals participating on each call. (Participants may help with one session or multiple.) During these calls, the participants review all questions that fall outside the acceptable range for performance, meaning those that were too hard, too easy or had poor answer options. The panel will review the way a question is worded, determine if it matches its objective, determine if there is one clearly correct answer, and if the distractors (wrong answers) are appropriately distracting. Once a question has been reworded, it goes back into the beta cycle of being tested 100 times. All newly-written questions also are subject to the technical review process before being entered into the Examination in the beta phase.
Why are there unequal numbers of questions for each of the KSAs?
Prior to the launch of the first computer-based Examination in 2003, the UAB conducted a Practice Analysis, which was an in-depth survey of 1,147 Accredited and Non-Accredited public relations practitioners from all of the UAB participating organizations. This process seeks to determine which specific areas of public relations knowledge, skills and abilities are the most important, are performed with the most frequency and are most relevant to the current practice of our profession. The greater the weight of a particular area (e.g., research and planning), the more questions there will be on the Examination in that area. As our profession evolves, and as tools and tactics emerge, the Examination also must evolve and remain current.
How often are the KSAs updated?
The UAB conducted a second practice analysis between 2011 and 2013 and made slight modifications to the KSAs based on the outcome of that research. Additional modifications are expected in 2014–2015.
Are there test questions available to help candidates prepare for the Examination?
The UAB has made available sample questions to help candidates better understand how the questions are framed and presented. These questions do not appear on the current Examination.
Earning the APR reinforced for me that although I was a sole practitioner in an association office, I still understood and practiced my profession with the same level of skill as “the big corporate boys.” Since I became APR while I was Chapter president, it gave other Chapter members confidence that they could earn the APR, too. When that first association position ended, having the APR gave me the confidence to open my own solo practice 21 years ago!