William Ellis - BPS Executive Director

Testing Pivot with COVID-19

by William Ellis, MS, RPh
Executive Director
Board of Pharmacy Specialties



There are many things changing and evolving in the world of certification. However, one of the most frequently discussed topics is the use of remote proctoring in examination administration. There is increasing interest in the use of remote proctoring as a test delivery monitoring method and that interest has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essentially remote proctoring is a process where an individual can test at a computer, usually their own, in a location largely of their choosing with the exam proctored electronically using software, web cams, speakers and other technology. The proctor is watching the examinee in real time just not at the same location. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which accredits certification programs, defines live remote proctoring (LRP) as proctoring that occurs with a person actively watching a candidate (remotely) during the time of the test administration. Vendors in this space will point out that the proctoring is powered by technology (artificial intelligence) and is supported by people.


Recently due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, BPS initiated a pilot for live remote proctoring in the U.S. and Canada for the September-October 2020 examination window. It is important to note that:

    • BPS did not move forward with live remote proctoring until an application for a special limited exemption was approved by NCCA. Live remote proctoring is currently prohibited under the current NCCA accreditation standards however, NCCA is considering a change in standards related to live remote proctoring and is analyzing data from a study conducted earlier this year. It is interesting to note that over 40% of all NCCA accredited programs have applied for an exemption to utilize live remote proctoring this year. BPS takes very seriously compliance with all accreditation standards and wants to help assure the security and rigor of the examination process.


It is important to note that there are several security measures in place for the September-October 2020 BPS examination window:

    • Outside materials are prohibited
    • Login controls use a unique confirmation number and surname characters for access
    • Individual “Remote Test Center Check-In” processes use best practices and are modeled to replicate the physical test center experience
    • Biometric identification capture with continuous authentication is in place using both automated technology analyzers and live proctors
    • 360-degree environmental checks occur
    • Candidate security inspection is part of the check-in
    • A browser lock-down feature is used
    • Candidate exam launch can only begin after completing the check-in process and is controlled by Prometric’s proctors


Other Important Points:

    • LRP examinations will be available for all BPS specialty certifications.
      • Scheduling for a LRP appointment opened on 7/1/2020.
    • Candidates approved for LRP examinations must review and meet all testing requirements, including, access to appropriate technology (i.e., personal computer, webcam, and high-speed internet connection) as well as compliance with unique security requirements.
    • Candidates considering LRP for the September – October 2020 test administration should note that special terms and conditions may apply, and keep checking for updates at www.bpsweb.org.


As BPS embarks on this pilot, we will gather data to assess the effectiveness of this examination delivery method. While live remote proctoring provides an added flexibility measure for candidates, BPS is especially sensitive to the security of intellectual property and how that is maintained throughout the remote-proctored test. While it is still too early to reach a conclusion, this pilot will allow BPS to learn a great deal about the live remote proctoring process and that along with the results of the NCCA research could help inform the future of examination monitoring for BPS and many other high-stakes certification programs.


In summary, BPS has received a limited exception approval in order to provide remote proctored testing as a pilot measure for the September-October 2020 BPS examination window. Like the rest of the world, BPS staff and specialty councils have moved quickly to keep the certification process moving forward. The COVID-19 pandemic is very fluid, and BPS appreciates everyone’s patience and professionalism as we deal with this issue.


While discussing how BPS has pivoted with this pandemic, I want to acknowledge all the pharmacists, particularly BPS certified pharmacists, who have also pivoted to provide patient care during this time. Your efforts speak to your commitment to provide patient care and is inspiring. BPS continuously hears about individuals and groups who are making a difference on the front lines. Thank you; your expertise and contributions truly matter!


William Ellis
BPS Executive Director