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The first consideration to take into account when developing test items is to assemble a panel of qualified subject matter experts.

How do I choose SMEs?


Three major factors should be considered:

  1. Expertise within the field
  2. Participation within the profession
  3. Willingness to participate in the exam development process.


SMEs should have a broad understanding of the field in addition to any specific expertise, and should be at least as qualified as a certified practitioner. It is also important that they have a working knowledge of the profession in terms of professional duties, educational background, and related concerns. The value of such a panel can be increased by involving established figures in the field, and stakeholders.  Stakeholders may be used in a smaller capacity, as their expertise may be limited. Finally, the work of an SME panel can be extensive in scope, participants must be flexible in terms of cooperating with others to achieve the project goals as well as being reasonable about schedule and timeline modifications.

In order for someone to break down the particulars of a job, he or she will obviously need to know the job very well. An item writer should be a representative of the profession as well. The item writers should be representative of the exam candidates in job title, education level, geographic region, and gender.

It is essential that an item writer attend the required meetings. He or she should have the ability to work as a team or committee since this is how the discussion and domains are decided. Finally, an item writer should be able to complete the work assignments they will be given to ensure that deadlines for the exam are met and the exam is completed in a timely fashion.


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