Occupational licensure: testing as a tool for measuring minimum competency

Janice Marie Turner, Atlanta University


The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of testing as a tool for measuring minimum competency as it applies to occupational licensure. The primary purpose of State Examining Boards for licensure and certification is to protect the public from unsafe or incompetent practice of individuals in a profession or trade by which the public may suffer harm through loss of life, health or property rights. The significance of this study is to examine the impact testing has in attempting to assess an individual's level of minimum competency for occupational licensure. In the current debate on occupational licensure, the following questions have been raised: How accurately can minimum competency be measured? What will be the standards for measuring minimum competency? Is a passing score on a State Board examination an accurate reflection of minimum competency? In an attempt to address these concerns the writer identified four areas of licensure testing that impact greatly on the credentialing process. These areas included: test validity. test reliability, test bias, and test policies. The main sources of information were informal conversational interviews and participant observation. Secondary sources included books, articles, lectures and journals. While the writer's findings were inconclusive, and many of the problems that are common with testing were not evident with the State of Georgia Examining Boards Division, Examination Development and Test Administration Section the writer offered several recocrmendations in an effort to improve on the efficiency of the Examination Section of the Board.