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NBEO Reflects on a Challenging Year

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NBEO Reflects on a Challenging Year

With the testing administrative year coming to a close, NBEO is taking time to reflect on the past year. There have been multiple positives amidst the challenges of the pandemic. NBEO has emerged from the last year with new knowledge gained through facing those challenges. NBEO’s mission is to serve the public and profession of optometry by developing, administering, scoring and reporting results of valid examinations that assess competence. Our examinations are used by regulatory boards for licensure decisions. We remain fully committed to executing our mission while balancing ongoing and future challenges. The following is a summary of events from the last year, concluding with a look ahead.

Computer-Based Exams

In March 2020, NBEO faced an immense challenge due to the pandemic with the first mass closure of Pearson VUE testing centers throughout North America. This was a stressful time for our candidates who were only hours away from the Part I ABS examination. NBEO immediately began work with Pearson VUE leadership to identify examination windows for both the cancelled March Part I ABS and April Part II PAM/TMOD examinations. To provide testing options to candidates, NBEO offered multiple administrations and enhanced testing windows, including two different three-week windows for Part I ABS. Changing from our standard four-day testing window represented a monumental pivot for NBEO and required the development and deployment of a new exam security plan. Both the Part I ABS and Part II PAM/TMOD examinations have been offered multiple times over the last year.  

Performance-Based Exams

After a two-month testing suspension, NBEO reopened the National Center of Clinical Testing in Optometry (NCCTO) on May 18, 2020. We wanted to protect the health and safety of our candidates and staff, but we also understood that being closed meant a delay in new graduates entering the optometric workforce. Because our candidates move directly into unsupervised, independent practice without a mandatory residency, there was no mistaking the impact closure would have on our candidate population and consequentially the public at large. NCCTO reopened with all rescheduling policies relaxed, so no penalty existed for any candidate who preferred to reschedule or move a testing appointment to a later time.  

NCCTO has remained open since mid-May 2020. By the end of June 2020, all candidates from the Class of 2020 had the opportunity to take Part III CSE. Candidates from the Class of 2021 will be completing this testing administrative year on time. NBEO staff have worked hard to add additional testing windows, including additional evening and weekend testing sessions to provide opportunities to candidates through a difficult year. Although the pandemic continues and we must remain committed to safety, we have been able to operate the NCCTO with an impeccable safety record. We recognize that this is due to the extreme care of our NCCTO staff, standardized patients and the candidates in our center. 

Task Force

Last September, NBEO coordinated with the Association of Regulatory Boards in Optometry to convene a Task Force to review alternative testing methodologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complete report of this Task Force can be found here. All recommendations of the Task Force were taken very seriously by NBEO, including research to explore the development of a rapid response.


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