Editing an Exam: Volunteering for the Content Expert Panel

Virginia Bateman


June 03, 2009

Many nurses contact ANCC wanting to volunteer, but do not understand the volunteer options or requirements for serving on ANCC's test development committees. One such volunteer option is serving on a Content Expert Panel.

What Is a Content Expert Panel?

Content Expert Panel (CEP) members review the overall content of a certification exam. In essence, the CEP members are the exam's editors. Each of the 29 ANCC certification exams has its own CEP with 6-8 members who serve staggered 4-year terms.

Each CEP works on a 3-year test development cycle. During the first year, panel members typically meet once or twice to participate in the development and updates of the Test Content Outline. With the support of ANCC's professional test development staff, CEP members use their professional expertise, scopes and standards documents, and other documents pertaining to specialty-related competencies to come up with questions for a survey measuring the actual job functions inherent to that type of nursing. The survey is mailed to thousands of nurses, and the results used to either create or update the Test Content Outline, which is the foundation of the certification exam. By going through this scientifically rigorous process of exam development, The CEP guides the creation of certification exams that accurately measure the real-world knowledge needed to perform each nursing specialty.

During the second year of the test development cycle, CEP members meet approximately 3 to 4 times to review, edit, and approve exam items (questions with answer options). CEP members do not have to write questions themselves - exam items are written and submitted by another ANCC volunteer group called Item Writers. CEP members use their expertise to fine tune the items and select those that should be added to the item bank.

The third year of the cycle is a “rest” year – typically no in-person meetings are held. Conference calls and at-home activities are scheduled as needed throughout the test development cycle.


During the years that a CEP meets, members are expected to participate actively in all CEP meetings. (All in-person meetings are held at ANCC headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC.) CEP members are expected to have a broad knowledge base and be up-to-date on the latest trends in their specialty and they must have adequate access to reference materials for review. CEP members are also required to hold a current certification in the specialty.

Benefits of Volunteering on a CEP

The CEP selection process is competitive; membership demonstrates both expertise in your field and a commitment to nursing which will be reflected on your CV for years to come. CEP volunteers make invaluable contributions to their specialty and are recognized by the nursing community for their contributions. ANCC recognizes the efforts of our volunteers by paying travel expenses for in-person meetings, providing employers with a letter of recognition, and awarding members continuing nursing education contact hours, which can be used towards certification renewal requirements. CEP meetings and conference calls are also a great way to make contacts with fellow nurses in your specialty from all over the country.

I've Never Developed an Exam -- Can I Apply?

Many would-be volunteers that contact ANCC are concerned that they do not have enough test writing experience to be a valuable contributor to the CEP. ANCC trains all of its volunteers in the test content development process, and we welcome applications from nurses who have little to no previous test development experience.

What is the Selection Process?

In order to serve on a CEP, applicants must submit: an application form, curriculum vitae, and a current job description. These documents are then presented before the Appointments Committee, which makes all selection decisions.

Members serve 4-year terms, beginning on July 1 of the first year of the appointment and ending on June 30 of the fourth year of one's term. CEP Members are selected based on a variety of factors including: geographic and ethnic diversity, special areas of expertise, variety of experience, and variety of years in practice, as well as specific criteria pertaining to the specialty. Preference is given to those with less than 12 years of experience post-certification to ensure that the examination stays at an entry level. Those serving as ANCC volunteer Item Writers must wait until their term expires before applying for CEP membership.

Although members may be reappointed for a second term, totaling 8 years, there is no guarantee of reappointment. In order to be reappointed one must reapply and go through the exact same process that one goes through for initial appointment. Current CEP members are contacted by ANCC's staff when they are up for reappointment and asked if they would like to reapply to serve on the CEP.

Interested in Applying?

If you are interested in joining a Content Expert Panel, please visit www.nursecredentialing.org/certification/volunteer.aspx for more information and an application. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and may be submitted via e-mail or regular mail.

This content is provided by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for publication on the www.medscape.com web site.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) internationally renowned credentialing programs certify nurses in specialty practice areas, recognize healthcare organizations for nursing excellence through the Magnet Recognition Program®, and accredit providers of continuing nursing education. In addition, ANCC offers an array of informational and educational services and products to support its core credentialing programs.

ANCC is passionate about helping nurses on their journey to nursing excellence. Visit ANCC's web site at www.nursecredentialing.org

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA).


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