Guest blog written by: Beth H. Chaney, PhD, MCHES®, The University of Alabama
Many degree programs at four-year institutions/universities require an examination of students’ knowledge of their field of study, before awarding the degree.
This can be done in the form of a capstone/culminating experience to showcase the students’ competency in specified field areas, or oftentimes, graduate programs administer a comprehensive exam that is a test of the student’s mastery of an array of subject areas in the field.
As such, in the field of health education and promotion, developing a comprehensive exam would entail creating an assessment to test students’ ability to perform at the entry-level of practice in the field. In lieu of creating a comprehensive assessment in-house, several universities have worked with the administration at their institution to utilize the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) exam as an option for the health education (or related) degree programs’ comprehensive exam. Universities with health education programs that provide the CHES® exam as an option for students in their degree program, include, but not limited to, Louisiana State University – Shreveport, A.T. Still University, the University of Florida, University of Indianapolis, and The University of Alabama.
Below are 3 tips for those interested in creating this as an option for the comprehensive exam with health education/promotion degrees at your institution:
1. Create a brief rationale for why the CHES® exam would adequately serve the purpose of a comprehensive exam for students in your program to share with your Department faculty and Graduate School administrators.
- The exam is designed for individuals in the early stages of their career.
- The exam is validated by a comprehensive job analysis study (updated every 5 years) to identify entry-level Competencies for health education specialists.
- The exam tests on what is relevant and current in the field of health education/promotion.
- The exam verifies if students are competent to practice at the entry-level and provides the program with national pass rate data for program comparisons.
2.Create exam options for students in the program.
- Options could be the CHES® exam is a program requirement (outline payment of the exam as part of the degree program requirement), or the CHES® exam could be one of two options for students, with an in-house exam also being offered (students decide which they would like to take). Provide a deadline for students to determine which option is best for them.
- Specifically outline the times that students would need to register, schedule the CHES® exam, and provide results to the program (CHES® exam results are provided to the test-taker upon submission of the exam). Deadlines for (2b.) will vary depending on Graduate School deadlines for reporting results of comprehensive exams of students. Note that the CHES® exam is only given twice a year (once in October and once in April), and upon completion of the exam, candidates receive a preliminary pass/fail notice. Official notification of complete scores is mailed four to six weeks after the exam testing window closes.
3. Create policies regarding passing/failing CHES® exam (specific deadlines for registering during the degree program and reporting results are essential) and what students do if they should fail the CHES® exam.
- If a student fails the exam, an option of taking an in-house version could be offered, or the ability to sit for the CHES® exam, again, in the next exam cycle. (Note payment requirements for re-sitting for the exam must be considered.)
- Students should be aware of all policies in the program handbook and university catalog (this includes payment requirements).
The CHES® exam is a competency-based tool that is used to assess an individual’s “possession, application and interpretation of knowledge in the Eight Areas of Responsibility for Health Education Specialists,” as determined by the most recent U.S.-based practice analysis study (NCHEC, https://www.nchec.org/ches). If feasible at your institution, this exam would be a great option for the program to assess qualifications of entry-level students for the field. Therefore, using the tips above, start a conversation with your faculty and Graduate School to weigh the pros/cons of offering this as an option for your institution. Incorporating the CHES® exam into the program will allow students the option to get a degree in the field, but to become certified, as well.