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Proctoring – A Most Important Job Profile

As stated in the 2010 AAPC Local Chapter Handbook, the mission of the local chapters is to:

  • Promote and expand the medical coding profession
  • Provide an educational forum for AAPC members to receive low-cost or no-cost CEUs
  • Offer an opportunity for networking among AAPC members
  • Establish an environment where less-experienced members may interact, learn and be mentored by those members with more experience
  • Proctor AAPC certification examinations

One of the most important responsibilities of the local officers is proctoring the certification examinations. A great deal of accountability has been placed in the officers’ hands as it is their charge to ensure exams are administered accurately and fairly as per the AAPC requirements. Strict adherence to the rules is critical in maintaining the integrity of the credentials for the whole organization. The importance of this assignment cannot be overstated. If there is a breakdown in the process, every certified member of AAPC is affected.
Most of our proctors pay careful attention to the rules and do their best to proctor accurately. However, recently we have experienced an increase in complications associated with the examination process. It appears in several cases these complications are due to failure of the proctors to follow the rules. These complications have adversely affected the examinees as well as AAPC. Recent complications include the following:

  • Proctors have not allowed the correct amount of time for examinees to take the exam, forcing examinees to retest.
  • Proctors have allowed examinees to use unapproved reference material, forcing examinees to retest.
  • Proctors have failed to show up on exam day to carry out their responsibilities, forcing examinees to reschedule.
  • Proctors have not followed proper procedure for returning the completed exams (placing exam grids in the mail without any postage or not delivering the completed exam package to Fed Ex, etc.) forcing examinees to retest.
  • Proctors have made inappropriate decisions during the test although a hotline number has been provided for such cases, forcing examinees to retest.

When following up after these situations, we have found the proctors have failed to read the proctor instructions thoroughly and haven’t followed the instructions strictly. Occasionally officers state they proctor so often that they feel they already know the rules, so they do not re-read them each time.
Proctors should put themselves in the shoes of the examinees. Not many would take well to having to retest because of an error on the part of the proctor, an error that could have been avoided had the proctor read the instructions or made a simple telephone call.
In an effort to counteract these issues, it is critical that you always remember to do the following:

  • Contact the first and second proctors 30 days in advance of the exam to remind them of the proctoring date (AAPC will provide the president with a reminder email 30 days in advance).
  • Keep track of the number of examinees for each exam so you can arrange for an additional proctor when there are 40 or more examinees.
  • Remind the proctors that it is very important to always read the entire proctor instructions in advance of the test. Keep in mind the AAPC’s Exam Department frequently updates the proctor instructions.
  • Verify that the proctors know there is a hotline (801-836-4813) available for help with any issues on exam day. The phone number is also found in the proctor instructions. Note: This resource is available during the entire testing time regardless of the time zone. When in doubt, call.
  • Check that the exam site is still available 30 days in advance and that there are seats for all examinees.
  • Ensure the proctors have contacted all the examinees beforehand and communicated the time and place of the exam.
  • Work closely with any proctors who have never proctored.
  • Remind all proctors that the proctor instructions do change so the rules must be read carefully each time; do not assume you know them.
  • Stay abreast of the monthly email to officers from AAPC, which is where updated information is sent out.
  • Make special emphasis that the grid circles are filled in properly. Noticeable erasure marks, lightly filled-in circles, or incompletely filled-in circles affect the grading. We don’t want someone to fail when they really passed, due to this problem.
  • Respect the local chapter president as the person who has the ultimate responsibility for correct proctoring.
  • Remember that although reimbursement for food, parking and other expenses is appropriate, payment to individuals (both officers and chapter members) for proctoring is not. The handbook states, “Local chapter officers and members should not profit for administering the certification examinations.”

The 2010 Local Chapter Handbook states that officers who fail to proctor properly can be removed from office and lose their credentials. Most officers take this responsibility very seriously and proctor accurately and without glitches. However, for the few who choose to disregard the instructions, we hope we are not forced to take these drastic measures as well as temporarily revoking the chapter’s proctoring privileges.
Again, we stress that when breakdowns occur in the exam process, every certified member is affected. We need every member of AAPC to care about the quality of proctoring.
We know you want each examinee to be fairly tested. Thanks in advance to all of you who take this message to heart, pass along the information, care that the rules are followed, and help us raise the level of accuracy each time the exam is administered.

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