40th Anniversary Feature: The Evolution of the CRSP® Examination

This is part of a series of articles that are being published throughout 2016 in commemoration of the BCRSP’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, 1976-2016

Thank you to Renzo Dalla Via, CRSP (NP), Peter Fletcher, CRSP (NP), and Heather Harvey, CRSP (NP) who contributed to the content for this article.

The Evolution of the CRSP® Examination

Hundreds of candidates report to test centres across Canada each year in hopes of successfully passing the three and a half hour Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP)® Examination and becoming a CRSP®. The examination is stage four in the seven stage certification process and is only available to those who meet the minimum eligibility requirements

Mandatory Testing 

From 1976-1981 the examination was only required for applicants who did not meet a threshold score during the initial assessment of their professional qualifications. The original assessment process included a paper application/supporting documentation review and interview much like it does today. The certification decision was based on an individual’s professional practice and each applicant was assessed individually. Whether or not an individual was recommended to write the examination was based on the number of assessment points obtained during the application and interview process.

As the registration numbers increased so did the need to change the primary assessment criteria. It became evident to the Board of Governors that the examination needed to be administered to all applicants in order to apply a consistent standard and as a result, the examination became mandatory in 1982. 

Applicants are still required to meet a minimum eligibility threshold before they are permitted to write the examination. 

The Early Years

In the early years, the examination was administered in a paper and pencil format across Canada. Typically the examination was held in a conference room or boardroom and was proctored by a Regional Screening Centre (RSC) committee member. The examination itself was six hours long and took place over a two-day period. It consisted of essay questions, short answer questions, and multiple choice questions.  

The examination packages were assembled at the BCRSP office, then sent across the country to RSCs. Once examinees completed the examination, the examinations were sent back to the office, photocopied and sent to the examiners across the country, to be marked by hand, based on a marking/scoring matrix. 

Marking the examinations and providing the results took months. There was also a higher potential for security issues occurring. These factors led to the Board researching solutions that would streamline the examination marking process, and increase examination security protocols. 

Changing the examination process was no simple task since not all members of the Board were convinced that the process needed an overhaul, and the financial obligation to make the change was significant. After much debate, the Board consulted a specialist in the area of examination and assessments. The firm, Assessment Strategies Inc. (ASI) helped the Board to better understand the requirements needed to improve examination development and delivery options.   

The New Examination Format

In 2000, the first survey on the Competencies Required of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals in Canada was completed. The competency survey is the base document used in the development of the CRSP® Examination Blueprint. The committee originally grouped the competencies into 10 domains and experts in each domain helped develop the body of knowledge that the new examination would be based on. The Competency Survey is conducted at least every five years to ensure that the CRSP® Examination Blueprint remains reflective of current occupational health and safety (OHS) practice. 

One of the first tasks that had to be undertaken was the creation of examination items (questions). Compiling questions that adhered to both the item writing guidelines and to the CRSP® Examination Blueprint requirements took many hours.  Each question was debated, discussed and analyzed by subject matter experts (SMEs) before being included on the examination. (Which is similar to the process the BCRSP uses today.) Over 200 questions were written during that period. In 2001, the new examination was introduced in a multiple choice format. 


40 Years Later…

Today, Assessment Strategies Inc., continue to work with the BCRSP providing examination development and psychometric services. Examinations are delivered via computer-based testing (CBT) at PearsonVUE test centres globally. Item development is a continual process and new reference texts and material are continually being identified and updated. 

The CRSP® Examination has undergone numerous changes in the BCRSP’s 40-year history including the introduction of mandatory testing; moving from essay style questions to multiple choice, and the transition from pen and paper delivery and hand marking to computer-based testing. 

As we step into the next 40 years there is no limit to the potential for growth. What does the future hold? On-demand testing? Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)? Innovative item types? The Board continues to look at ways to ensure the examination process remains relevant and reflective of current trends and best practices in certification and licensure testing. 

Have you participated in the BCRSP exam development or item writing process? Share your insights we'd love to hear from you. Email us at mycrsp@bcrsp.ca or log-in to your account to post a comment below.