October 30, 2020

YSK: NASBA Is Considering Letting You Take the CPA Exam at Home If This Rona Thing Gets Bad Again

When the world went to shit way back in March, it seemed like it happened almost immediately. I don’t know about you guys but I remember going to the bar with my boyfriend in February thinking “no biggie, we’ll be back here in a couple weeks” and next thing I knew, three months had gone by and I’d barely left the house. Although things are slowly getting back to normal and the places we used to go have opened up, I must admit we still haven’t gone back to the bar all these months later.

Given how fast everything happened, it’s pretty amazing how the benevolent overlords of the CPA exam were able to keep on top of things. Sure, Prometric closed for several weeks and there have been concerns over expiring exam scores but taken on the whole, they did a pretty good job managing the chaotic conditions that hit us out of nowhere earlier this year.

In that vein, you should know that NASBA is batting around the idea of implementing remote proctoring for CPA exam testing should conditions deteriorate to the point it’s necessary. Say, if the Rona hits extra hard in the fall and civil unrest leads to testing centers getting burned to the ground or something equally apocalyptic. The possibility was discussed at their regional meeting this past June, which was held virtually for obvious reasons.

From the Summer 2020 NASBA State Board Report:

The significance of disaster planning has been underscored by the COVID-19 restrictions. Testing options are one of the elements NASBA has been studying as it considers worst-case scenarios, NASBA Executive Vice President and COO Colleen Conrad told the Regional Meetings. Remote proctoring, which would open the possibility of candidates testing from home, is now being studied by NASBA’s Computer-Based Testing Committee and the Executive Directors Committee as a backup plan should testing centers be unable to reopen at some future time.

While Ms. Conrad praised Prometric for their handling of closings and openings of test centers during the pandemic this spring, the question remains: What would happen if the virus comes
back in the fall and the centers need to stay closed? “We need a backup,” she said. NASBA and the AICPA are discussing what would be necessary to have a remote proctoring alternative, which is not covered in the current contract with Prometric. “We would want to be sure the Boards are comfortable with it,” Ms. Conrad stated.

The article goes on to mention that remote proctoring has been available for some time but wasn’t considered viable to high-stakes licensing exams, such as the CPA exam. It’s called ProProctor and boasts 24/7 test-taking for maximum flexibility, as well as security, such as 100% live monitoring, live security agents, and 360-degree environmental readiness checks. The Institute of Internal Auditors already used this type of testing for their Certified Internal Auditor and Certification in Risk Management Assurance exams in April.

A few of NASBA’s June Regional Breakout Sessions were asked about their views on remote proctoring. Several participants cited computer problems students had experienced with such testing and some educators mentioned security issues. There were also concerns about potentially introducing barriers to testing for those
economically disadvantaged. Several State Board members felt more information on what other professions are doing is needed.

President and CEO Ken Bishop advised the Board of Directors that several State Board executive directors had participated in discussion groups where they raised questions about remote proctoring and expressed significant concerns regarding its use except for an emergency situation.

So all that to say you probably shouldn’t expect remote proctoring to be an option anytime soon (hopefully not, anyway), but it’s good to know they’re thinking ahead, considering the what-ifs, and planning for a worst-case scenario which could mean taking the CPA exam from the comfort of your home. Although given how hellish the last few months have been with all of us locked up like animals, I’m not sure “comfort” is the right word. You get the idea.

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