The views expressed here are mine alone and have not been authorized by, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, Citrix.
This blog was written by Lourdes Soler and is intended to provide our test takers with further insights into our test development process.
Ever walk away from a Citrix exam wondering “Who writes Citrix exams? How did they come up with the questions?” The short answer is that it is a joint effort between Citrix Exam Developers and subject matter experts (SMEs). A more “complete” answer would detail the rigorous 12-step process Citrix exam developers follow when developing a certification exam, which for certain exams may take anywhere between 6-18 months (sometimes longer) to complete.
The focus of this blog post is on the four key steps of the process where YOU can get involved! These steps entail scoping the job role being tested, designing the exam, developing the test questions and reviewing those questions.
Who comes up with the idea for the content?
Citrix certification exams are designed to go beyond certifying that you know how to use a particular Citrix product. They are designed to certify that you have the minimum knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to do the job of a Citrix administrator, engineer or architect (depending on the level of certification). In order to arrive at those minimum KSAs, Exam Developers collaborate with SMEs in order to find out what they do in their jobs, and how they do it. Now, you might be wondering, “Ok, so how do you collect that information?” Good question. There are various ways but I will focus on the most commonly used. For instance, for some exams I have conducted Job-task analysis (JTA) workshops with all or most participants attending in-person at HQ or in our Santa Clara offices, while for other exams, I have led smaller web-based focus groups, which makes it easier to receive input from SMEs around the world. In short, SMEs, not Exam Developers, provide the list of tasks that are necessary for successful job performance. That list of tasks is then validated by SMEs and typically, a smaller subset of “critical” tasks is selected by the SMEs to be tested in our exams; these are called our test points.
The final list of job tasks/test points is later distributed to SMEs in the form of a survey so that they can provide information about how often they do these tasks, how important the tasks are to the job, and the level of experience required to successfully accomplish each task. Exam Developers then use this information to determine the number of questions to devote to each topic. With this information and the feedback gathered from the focus groups, Exam Developers then write testing objectives (you can find the objectives in our Exam Prep Guides) which describe what will be tested and how it will be tested. And with that, the exam design is finalized.
How is the content developed?
Once the exam design (also referred to as the exam blueprint) has been finalized, it is time to develop actual questions. There are several methods used at Citrix to get the content down on paper. One method is to host an Item Development Workshop (IDW). In an IDW, the Exam Developer chooses a group of experts from around the world to fly in to one location to write questions based on their knowledge and experience. Again, since the exam is designed to certify that you can do a job, having SMEs who actually perform the job role being tested write the questions provides that real-world experience that helps make our exams more relevant!
At the beginning of an IDW, the Exam Developer facilitating the workshop trains the SMEs on the item writing process and informs them of the guidelines governing the entire workshop. Then, as SMEs develop their assigned questions during the workshop, the Exam Developer reviews, edits and provides feedback to SMEs to ensure the exam blueprint parameters are met, the questions are written at the right rigor, and quality and style guidelines are followed.
Very importantly, during these workshops, SMEs are asked to “disconnect” from both their personal and professional lives (includes cell phone ringers off, pagers on silent, laptops not connected to email and the Internet, etc) barring any emergencies. As you can probably imagine, the goal is to have participants stay 100% focused on the task, especially since in a week’s time they have to develop a large bank of questions! While the process does involve some “long” days for all those involved, time and time again, participants say that they walk away with a new found appreciation for the exam development process and all the work that goes into putting exams together.
How is the exam content reviewed?
Once an exam is written, the content must be reviewed by SMEs to ensure that exam questions are technically accurate, answers are 100% correct, and the questions are relevant to the job role being tested. The intent of the exam review is to “clean up” any mistakes that are found within the questions.
Instead of getting into specifics about this workshop with you, check out a blog post by one of our technical review participants for his take on this process: http://www.dabcc.com/article.aspx?id=13248.
What’s in it for me?
There are many benefits to participating in any one of these exam events. The most obvious benefit is that you get to be involved in the development of the exam, which will likely increase your chances of passing it. Furthermore, SMEs will oftentimes get a “sneak peak” of the newest code of a Citrix product during these workshops. Participants of the workshop also receive credit as a subject matter expert for the developed exam, as well as free copies of related courseware and vouchers for the exam, in addition to other benefits.
Where do I sign up?
So, hopefully after reading this, you now know the answers to the questions “Who writes Citrix exams? And how did they come up with the questions?”. In addition, hopefully I have been able to convey to you that there are plenty of opportunities for YOU to get involved in the Exam Development Process.. I go through this process for every one of my projects and given that the exam team releases an average of 5 new titles per year, each requiring approximately 3 events with at least 5 SMEs per event, it is clear there are lots of opportunities for you to contribute! Advertisements for all of these exam events are posted on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, , etc. You can also write in to Training@Citrix.com and let us know you are interested in these opportunities so we can include you in the recruitment of the next workshop. I challenge you to get involved next time!