Assessment Expert Peter Bennett shares his learnings
from a career in the design, development and management
of examinations and competence assessment programmes
Our new blog series ‘Examining the Experts’ asks leaders
and experts in assessment – practitioners and
consultants, authors and solution providers – to share
their experience and knowledge on examination design,
certification management and the changes brought by
online assessment software and examination technology.
Today's contributor is Peter Bennett FCIB, who been
involved in the design and development of examinations
and competence assessment programmes for more than 20
years. He formed QuestionBank Management Ltd in July
1995, which in January 2015 became Assessment Design
and Development (ADD). Peter is a Fellow of the
Chartered Institute of Bankers, a member of the
Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), runs
workshops for the Federation of Awarding Bodies on the
‘Design and Development of Examinations and
Assessments’ and has been engaged as the lead
consultant for the introduction of many examinations
for professional bodies.
Read on to learn from Peter’s wealth of experience,
including inspirational thoughts on what assessment is
trying to measure and how we should do it differently.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone planning a
career in assessment?
First, I’m not sure anyone plans a career in assessment
do they? I certainly didn’t. However if there is anyone
out there quietly contemplating whether they should be a
derivatives trader, a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist
or a specialist in the field of assessment design and
development my advice would be to go west and study for
a degree in psychometrics from a university in the USA.
Thinking back over your career, what would you rank as
the most important innovation in management of
Well I have been rather a long time at it so there is no
doubt that electronic delivery of tests has allowed for
much more flexibility and efficiency. Since then there
have, of course, been other innovations like remote
invigilation, electronic marking etc, but those first
pioneers some 25 years ago really laid the foundations
for all that has come afterwards.
What would you say was the biggest challenge facing
awarding bodies today?
Oh blimey, there are so many to choose from that I’m not
sure which is the biggest. Perhaps the main three are:
1. Satisfying those regulators who seem to change the
rules with frustrating frequency; 2. Global demands for
UK qualifications, meaning that translations are
required that will still produce fair and valid
assessments; 3. To what extent and how they should
embrace electronic design, delivery and marking.
Do you think that the use of paper in examinations will
be phased out or will it always have a role?
Easy - it will be phased out. Although having said that
it won’t be until the test delivery companies can come
up with innovative business models which will suit the
myriad of awarding bodies, of varying sizes, in
different phases of development and which work in
What are the most dramatic changes you have seen in the
running of exams over the course of your career?
I’m not sure I have seen anything that is truly
dramatic. I think we basically continue to do what we
have always done but, because of the advent of
electronic design, delivery and marking, with a little
more efficiency and flexibility.
Perhaps my imagination is getting the better of me but I
think we should now be thinking about what we are trying
to measure and how this can be done differently. The
type of questions that I ask myself with regularity are:
Why do we still have to
have exam sittings twice a year or three times a year
or whatever, surely we can now begin to run
examinations whenever is most suitable for the
Why do all school
examinations have to take place at the same time;
wouldn’t it be better for students to study a few
subjects at a time, take the examinations and then
study a few more rather than have all the subjects at
the end of the school year?
Why do we still force
candidates to attend a particular place in order to
take their examinations?
Why, unless we want to
assess someone’s hand writing, can’t candidates type
Why, unless we truly want
to assess that a candidate can communicate in concise,
understandable English, must they be assessed by
writing an essay?
And finally the million dollar challenge – let’s find a
way to measure what we truly want to measure - changes
and growth in an individual’s knowledge and abilities -
without the need for any type of formal of examination.
What’s the most unusual assessment story you have
encountered or experienced?
As if to completely support the points I have made
above, it was a guy who got stuck in traffic and so
couldn’t make the examination venue. He completed his
examination on his lap top, in a service station car
park. And……….yes, he passed.
(Editorial note: The candidate was using TestReach
remote invigilation to complete his exam securely,
using the hotspot on his phone to connect to the
internet! Read the full story of
remote invigilation at the Institute of Directors
Have you had a professional mentor who was especially
influential in your career? If yes, what lessons or
advice have proven to be most impactful for you?
Around 25 years ago I left the field of professional
training in the financial services industry and moved
into that of designing and developing assessments.
Within a couple of months I had a very lucky break. I
was invited to work with an American AO to produce a
competence assessment test which was going to be rolled
out worldwide. This brought me into contact with Jackie
Callaghan who became my assessment guru. In the States,
even then, there were competence assessments for
literally every occupation. Jackie opened up a brand new
exciting opportunity for me and amongst other things,
introduced me to the wonders of facility values,
discrimination values and even Cronbach’s Alpha. Since
then I have been lucky enough to be paid to travel the
globe working on every continent except the Arctic and
Antarctic, taking in over 20 different countries and
including 15 different cities across the USA and seven
What business book or blog do have you found most
interesting or useful in the past year?
Peter Bennett FCIB has been involved in the design and
development of examinations and competence assessment
programmes for more than 20 years. He formed
QuestionBank Management Ltd in July 1995, which in
January 2015 became Assessment Design and Development
Peter deals with the design, development and management
of examinations and competence assessment programmes for
awarding bodies, professional bodies and internal
company use. Peter is a Fellow of the Chartered
Institute of Bankers, a member of the Institute for
Credentialing Excellence (ICE), was the UK’s competence
assessment expert on ISO/TC222222 for Financial
Planning, runs workshops for the Federation of Awarding
Bodies on the ‘Design and Development of Examinations
and Assessments’ and has been engaged as the lead
consultant for the introduction of many examinations for
Most recently Peter has been working with:
The Institute of Directors
where he has been engaged to review and implement
changes to the whole assessment suite culminating in
Chartered Director status.
The Fire Industry
Association Awarding Organisation, where he is guiding
them through the introduction of their qualifications.
Institute for the Motor
Industry on their Apprenticeship End Point
SQA where he is an external
verifier of the HND in Financial Services.
The Chartered Institute of
Securities and Investments where he is writing items
for a number of its examinations.
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