The New ATP Exam: Now Ready for All
- By Julie Piriano
- Mar 01, 2017
As the RESNA Board liaison to the Professional
Standards Board (PSB), I commend the PSB on
a job well done in their implementation of a
new, robust Assistive Technology Professional (ATP)
RESNA began the credentialing process in 1992, with
the first ATP (Practitioner) and ATS (Supplier) exams
administered in 1996. Its purpose was to “identify qualified
providers by testing fundamental knowledge”
and “set standards to measure competence and guide
professional conduct.” In 2008, when it became clear
that successful candidates of the two “generalist”
exams demonstrated the same foundation of knowledge
in assistive technology (AT) regardless of their role or
method of service delivery, RESNA began consolidating
the two exams.
The consolidated ATP (Professional) certification recognized
individuals who analyze the needs of consumers
with disabilities, assist in selecting appropriate equipment
or services, and train consumers to use equipment
in a “best practices” manner. These individuals reach an
internationally accepted standard of knowledge in AT
and promote RESNA’s standards of practice and code of
ethics. But to make this an exam that could be effectively
administered internationally, as requested by colleagues
in Canada and numerous other countries, all United
States-centric information needed to be removed.
The new exam, launching March 13, has no questions
related to U.S. laws, policies or funding, and was
updated to test candidates’ broad scope of knowledge
currently used in AT. Since the credential is not specific
to one type of service delivery setting (e.g., clinics,
schools, agencies), AT (e.g., augmentative and alternative
communication, wheelchairs, computer access) or
diagnosis, disability or age across the lifespan, the PSB
enlisted 53 subject matter experts (SMEs), who volunteered
their time to each step of the process.
According to PSB Chair Dan Cochrane, “The exam
outline and the questions on the exam were written
by highly experienced AT practitioners who apply their
expertise to the scenarios depicted. The exam reflects
a variety of real-life situations related to the assessment,
intervention planning and implementation of AT.”
Developing the new ATP exam involved five steps,
completed from 2013 to 2016, to meet accreditation
standards from the Institute for Credentialing Excellence
(ICE). These include Job Analysis, Task Analysis, Item
Writing (creating test questions),
Field Testing, and
Led by Knapp & Associates,
the first group of SMEs defined
the scope of AT practice based
on how a transdisciplinary
range of professionals with
basic competence provides
AT services. They started with
RESNA’s existing job analysis and updated it to reflect
current practice. Their greatest challenge was capturing
the generic tasks that define AT service provision no
matter where it happens, what type of AT is implemented
or who receives it. The final outline can be viewed at
and includes updates to the following:
- Assessment of needs (11 tasks, approximately
30 percent of the exam).
- Development of intervention strategies (14 tasks,
approximately 27 percent of the exam).
- Implementation of intervention (11 tasks, approximately
25 percent of the exam).
- Evaluation of intervention (4 tasks, approximately
15 percent of the exam).
- Professional conduct/ethics (2 tasks, approximately
3 percent of the exam).
In conducting the ATP Job Analysis Study, the panel
identified 81 knowledge areas relevant to the provision
of AT services, which can be viewed at resna.org. While I cannot tell you what is on
the exam, understanding the 81 knowledge sets and 42
tasks used to write the questions will help you prepare.
The final outline was sent to 3,520 AT practitioners; 371
(11 percent) responded. A wide variety of AT practitioners
participated in the survey, which was used to create a
weighted blueprint for the exam.
The exam blueprint was further analyzed by a second
panel of AT practitioners working in pairs with trained
facilitators at The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Center
on Education and Training for Employment (CETE). Each
task in the job analysis was broken down to identify steps necessary to perform the task, the knowledge and skills
required, and potential mistakes that could result from
performing tasks incorrectly. This matrix guided SMEs as
they designed questions that would test relevant topics.
Two panels of AT practitioners wrote exam questions
during two workshops at OSU’s CETE. For the first two
days, panelists worked in heterogeneous groups of three
or four to craft exam questions, guided by trained professionals
at CETE. The mix of AT practitioners in each group
helped ensure a balance of perspectives and prevented
overly specialized questions while maintaining the rigor
of the exam. On the last day, the whole group reviewed
each exam question for accuracy. After editing, exam
questions were separated into two balanced forms and
published by Prometric for the field test.
Two beta forms of the exam were field tested by
270 candidates from July to October 2016 to collect
data on the performance of each test question.
Psychometricians at OSU’s CETE reviewed the statistical
performance of each test question and facilitated a
cut-score study to determine the passing score for the exam.
The last panel of AT practitioners created a definition of
“basic competence” against which performance on the
exam would be judged. Each panelist rated the difficulty
level of each test question. This rating was performed
twice during the workshop. Panelists’ ratings were averaged,
and a range of statistically acceptable cut-off
scores was presented to RESNA’s PSB by the lead psychometrician.
The PSB then voted on a passing score for the
exam, and candidates who field tested it were notified.
Many candidates were happy with their test results; as
is the nature of certification exams, some candidates did
not pass. I encourage them to review the exam outline,
develop a prep strategy, and retake the exam. While
the new exam is no more or less difficult than previous
versions, hopefully all current and potential ATPs can
better understand the extensive process used to update
it and can appreciate its value to AT. As a RESNAcertified
ATP since 1996, I know I do.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Mobility Management.
Julie Piriano, PT, ATP/SMS, is VP, Clinical Education, Rehab Industry Affairs & Compliance Officer for Pride Mobility Products.