Entry-to-Practice Exam Development Proposal

Background

The College has a responsibility to ensure that applicants successfully complete a standards assessment examination prior to registration and has approved two exams for this purpose: the Optometry Examining Board of Canada (OEBC) exam (Canadian) and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exam (U.S). The College also has a statutory responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure that the OEBC and NBEO assess qualifications in a way that is transparent, objective, impartial and fair. The College has confidence in candidates who successfully challenge either exam with respect to entry-level competence and public safety.

The College has, however, had concerns about the content and transparency of the OEBC exam for some time. In particular, a decision was made to use models instead of live patients in the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) without consulting the College. This change and lack of transparency has compromised the College’s confidence that appropriate oversight of the OEBC exam can be exercised.

The College has a responsibility to ensure its applicants for registration have continued unrestricted access to a valid and reliable entry-to-practice (ETP) exam in both English and French languages. To that end, in June 2019 the College decided to move forward with the development of a competency profile by the Touchstone Institute. This competency profile will fully describe the scope of practice of optometry in an organized fashion and will support appropriate oversight by regulators, the ability of educational institutions to train, and the ability of testing organizations to identify areas for testing. The competency profile is the foundation for the development of an ETP exam.

The development of the competency profile is not yet complete. However, because the OEBC has been reluctant to further consider the College’s July 2019 proposal (new exam to be developed, administered and maintained by Touchstone Institute but ultimately owned and funded by OEBC), and has not taken definitive steps toward making substantive improvements in operations, sustainability, and external exam oversight by member-owners, the College feels that it is crucial to move forward with the development of an alternative ETP exam for prospective applicants.

Next Steps

At its January 2020 meeting, the College Council will be considering a motion from the Registration Committee to approve the development of a new ETP exam in optometry by Touchstone Institute. Further information about Touchstone Institute and its proposed approach to this project is attached.

The College has always been and continues to be fully committed to ensuring candidates are able to challenge an exam in Canada (in its entirety) and in both official languages. Accordingly, it is also committed to collaborating with its partners – other provincial regulators, the OEBC and the optometry schools in Ontario and Quebec – to achieve this objective.

The purpose of this consultation is to receive feedback on this proposed approach prior to the January 2020 Council meeting. Feedback is much appreciated and will be carefully considered by Council in its deliberation, even if it is not necessarily reflected in the final decision.

Key proposed timelines

  • The competency profile is anticipated to be completed in April 2020.
  • Development of a new ETP exam is anticipated to begin in May 2020 but Touchstone Institute can begin recruitment and preparation for the next phase prior to that.
  • Developing a new ETP exam is a significant undertaking that is estimated to take between 15-18 months.
  • Once the exam development is completed, the exam will be tested and implemented. The earliest an exam could be available to applicants is fall 2021 or spring 2022.

Consultation questions

  1. Do you agree with the development of an alternate ETP exam? Why or why not?
  2. Are there particular issues or concerns the Council should consider prior to making this decision in January?

Send your feedback no later than Wednesday, January 8, 2020 so that responses can be provided to Council prior to its meeting on January 17, 2020.

Feedback can be submitted via mail or email as set out below:

College of Optometrists of Ontario
Consultation Feedback
65 St. Clair Ave. East, Suite 900
Toronto, ON, M4T 2Y3

Email: feedbackETP@collegeoptom.on.ca