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Volunteer Test Constructor Information

The Department of Testing Services (DTS) seeks volunteer subject matter experts (SMEs) to serve as test constructors in support of critical examination programs. DTS, a shared service of the ADA, provides professional psychometric and test development services for high stakes testing programs in dentistry and healthcare. DTS develops and implements licensure and admission testing programs under the purview of the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE), the American Dental Association (ADA) Board of Trustees, the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure (CDEL), and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

The following examinations rely on volunteer subject matter experts: 

Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations:

National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part I
National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part II
National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)
Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE)

American Dental Association—Council on Dental Education and Licensure:

Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT)
Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)

Test Constructor Responsibilities

Apply now to be a test constructor Link to application coming soon!

Test Constructors are responsible for developing clear, accurate test questions in accordance with the specifications of examination programs. Through their volunteer work, they can make a significant contribution to their profession.

Applications for Test Constructors can be submitted throughout the year and will be collected and applied to the appropriate application cycle. Selection decisions are made in the second quarter of each year.

The term “subject matter expert” is broadly defined as an individual possessing expert knowledge on a particular subject, such as dentistry, dental hygiene, biomedical science, or related fields. Examination programs rely on volunteer SMEs for their content expertise as they work to create accurate, reliable, valid, and fair test content. With the assistance of ADA test development staff, test constructors are asked to complete tasks such as:

  • Item writing
  • Writing and providing case materials
  • Reviewing items
  • Reviewing exam forms
  • Submitting clinical images
  • Writing reading passages
  • Drawing visuospatial graphics

Additional TCTs may also be created on an ad hoc basis to meet targeted needs for examination programs.

Volunteers do not need to have prior experience with test development in order to apply.  DTS test development staff will provide training and resources to help volunteers write and review items. 

Why volunteer?

Volunteering to serve on a test construction team is not only a great way to contribute to your profession and earn continuing education (CE) credit, but it is also a unique and rewarding experience. 

As a volunteer subject matter expert, you will learn item writing best practices in order to help create valid, reliable, and fair test questions. You will contribute to the continued excellence of your profession by sharing your valuable knowledge and expertise. Your contribution helps ensure that health professionals possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities  necessary to practice safely, thus ultimately helping to protect the public. 

Additionally, by attending meetings you will have the opportunity to meet your peers from across the United States. Meetings are typically hosted in downtown Chicago at the ADA building near the beautiful Magnificent Mile and across the street from the historic Chicago Water Tower. When your work is completed each day it’s the perfect location to explore the city, sightsee, go shopping, or enjoy Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza. Volunteers stay in hotels just a short walk from the ADA building, at no cost to you. A catered breakfast and lunch are provided onsite each day of the meeting.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Areas of required expertise vary depending on each examination. As such, a variety of subject matter experts are needed to assist in the construction of examinations. There are often volunteer subject matter expert needs in both generalized and specialized dentistry, for both educators and practitioners. In addition, there are often volunteer opportunities in areas such as biomedical sciences, as well as basic sciences and mathematics. While some volunteer opportunities do require a doctorate level degree, there are various opportunities for volunteers with a master’s level degree. Please see the Test Constructor Teams and Selection Criteria (PDF) document for more details on eligibility.

The following are considered highly desirable characteristics of Test Constructors:

  • Ability to be flexible and adaptable
  • Ability to work with different groups
  • Intellectual curiosity and openness
  • Writing and communication skills
  • Range of knowledge and skills
  • Expressed interest and enthusiasm for the role
  • Receptive to feedback from peers and staff

How to Apply

Those interested in volunteering as a Test Constructor must provide contact information, educational background, employment background, and proof of credentials. Additionally, applicants are asked to select which exams they are interested in developing and to indicate their specific areas of expertise. The application is available year-round and applied to the appropriate application cycle; selection decisions are typically made in the second quarter of each year.

Please note that only individuals who submit a valid and complete application will be considered for appointment to become a volunteer Test Constructor. Be sure to follow all application instructions to ensure your application is valid and complete.

Apply now to be a test constructor Link to application coming soon!

*New* Test Constructor Pool System

In 2018 all testing programs implemented by DTS have approved resolutions transitioning test development activity into a “Test Constructor Pool” system.  Under this new approach, ,Test Constructors are approved to serve within the pool and then selected onto a Test Construction Team (TCT) based on volunteer availability and the needs of the testing program. This is in lieu of having standing volunteer test construction teams with multi-year terms. A TCT is formed for each specific meeting, and disbands at the end of that meeting. These teams are flexible and may or may not consist of the same Test Constructors each year. Individuals are invited to attend a given meeting and once they accept, they are considered part of the team that year. Teams may be rearranged as needed in the event that a given volunteer is not able to attend. If a volunteer is invited but is unable to attend, an alternate volunteer will be selected. Additionally, if a volunteer is invited to attend a meeting and does not respond in a timely manner, an alternative volunteer will be identified and invited to attend the meeting. This helps ensure teams will always have a sufficient number of volunteers with the required expertise, so that meeting goals can be accomplished efficiently.  

This pool system has been put in place to facilitate the development of high quality high stakes examinations, and to help ensure that that every examination will be developed and reviewed by a variety of volunteers throughout the dental community across the United States, providing appropriate representation across dental schools and areas of expertise. Additionally, since this process is more fluid and dynamic, it gives volunteers more flexibility and greater opportunity to participate in a wide variety of test construction meetings and activities. Overall this structure is anticipated to provide the following benefits:

  • Facilitates the process of identifying and selecting qualified volunteers.
  • Helps keep test content fresh through the utilization of a dynamic pool of qualified individuals who can serve and provide content as needed.
  • Helps ensure TCTs are composed of a representative group of test constructors.
  • Provides flexibility in filling content area expertise when assigned individuals have scheduling conflicts and are unavailable to attend meetings.

Time Commitment and Travel

Each exam program meeting typically lasts for two to three days and takes place at the ADA headquarters in Chicago. Test constructors may be approved to serve on a TCT for more than one exam program, and may be asked to attend more than one meeting in a given year. Requests to attend meetings as a test constructor are typically sent at least four months in advance of a meeting, and we ask that you confirm whether or not you are able to attend the meeting in a timely manner. Reimbursement for transportation and hotel expenses (room and tax only) and a per diem are provided as indicated in the volunteer travel  policy. In addition, continuing education credit may be available to volunteers for their participation. (For details, please contact DTS at nbexams@ada.org).

Apply now to be a test constructor Link to application coming soon!