Clinically Speaking

The New ATP Exam: Now Ready for All

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) Certification exam.

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 Standard Setting.

Job Analysis

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:

  1. Assessment of needs (11 tasks, approximately 30 percent of the exam).
  2. Development of intervention strategies (14 tasks, approximately 27 percent of the exam).
  3. Implementation of intervention (11 tasks, approximately 25 percent of the exam).
  4. Evaluation of intervention (4 tasks, approximately 15 percent of the exam).
  5. 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 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.

Task Analysis

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.

Item Writing

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.

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.

Standard Setting

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.

About the Author

Julie Piriano, PT, ATP/SMS, is VP, Clinical Education, Rehab Industry Affairs & Compliance Officer for Pride Mobility Products.

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