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Frequently Asked Questions Assessment Policy

Can agencies limit the number of times an individual is allowed to take a test or assessment during a given timeframe?  What guidance is available if our agency wants to develop its own retesting policy?

Yes, under delegated competitive examining, an agency may establish its own retesting policy and procedures.  The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (Section 12: Retesting of Applicants, http://uniformguidelines.com/uniformguidelines.html#50) requires employers to provide applicants with "a reasonable opportunity for retesting and reconsideration."  It's good practice to provide a reasonable opportunity for retesting, which should also be consistently communicated to all applicants.  Unless the examination announcement states otherwise, the default policy is that applicants may reapply and be reassessed at any time as long as the examination is still open.

 

The technical and/or administrative basis for a retesting policy should be clearly explained and documented (e.g., availability of alternate forms of an assessment, impact on the validity or integrity of the assessment process).  Additional retesting information appears in other authoritative sources such as:

 

Factors that should be considered with retesting include:

 

  • Eligibility:  The conditions which prompt or allow retesting and how retesting will take place need to be explained to applicants.  Conditions typically include the elapse of specific time intervals or the completion of a required developmental activity or required corrective action (e.g., correcting errors or disruptions in assessment administration, delivery, or scoring).

 

  • Opportunity:  Some employers will only open their examinations when a job vacancy needs to be filled, while others offer continuous testing with an open continuous announcement.

 

  • Change in the Assessment:  If an assessment changes, applicants are required to retest.  Examples may include significant modifications to the scoring process, qualifying level, or assessment content.

 

  • Type of Assessment:  Retesting considerations must be appropriate to the nature of the assessment. 
    • For cognitive measures (e.g., mental ability, job knowledge), repeated exposure to the examination material may threaten test security (e.g., test items could be copied or memorized) and can undermine the validity and usefulness of the assessment.  For example, applicants can obtain high scores by "learning the test" rather than mastering the work content domain from which the items are sampled.
       
    • For non-cognitive measures (e.g., personality, biodata, training and experience questionnaires), there is minimal harm in repeated exposure to assessment items because responses are usually based on the applicant's past experiences, opinions, or preferences rather than on objectively verifiable facts.

 

  • Waiting Period:  The retest waiting period is the time interval that an applicant must wait to retake an assessment, starting at the assessment administration date.  Typical intervals are three months to three years for cognitive assessments and zero days to three years for non-cognitive assessments.  Some employers allow a limited number of retests to be given within a specified time period (e.g., up to three retests will be given at any time within a 12-month period).

 

  • Score Replacement:  When applicants are permitted to retest, consideration must be given to which score becomes the score of record:  the highest, lowest, or most recent?  Most employers and college admissions screeners use the scores earned on the most recent test administration when making eligibility and selection decisions. 

 

  • Availability of Multiple Forms:  Multiple, parallel (equivalent or possibly adaptive) versions of an assessment may need to be developed for assessments where repeated exposure to the examination content undermines validity (e.g., most cognitive measures).  Where feasible, applicants should not be given the same form of the assessment twice in a row.

 

Employers and other users of high-stakes assessments are subject to legal and other pressures to provide reassessment and reconsideration opportunities to applicants.  The major consideration is the potential for retesting to undermine the integrity and usefulness of the assessment procedure.

 

For more information regarding retesting policy, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.

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