COVID-19 Update -- Phase II

March 31, 2020

Dear 2020 ACVP Phase II Candidate Class,

The Certifying Examination Board (CEB) has heard from many of you regarding the upcoming certification exam, which is scheduled for August in Tampa, FL. We are listening and we empathize with this difficult situation. We also understand the gravity of any decisions to delay or cancel the exam. Whatever outcome is ultimately selected will certainly be chosen with consideration of all factors for the sole purpose of delivering a valid, fair examination that withstands the rigors demanded by both our College and the American Board of Veterinary Specialties.

The purpose of this communication is to provide insight into our decision-making process and to contextualize the complexity of the components that go into the delivery of a high stakes examination of this type. This document is written in question and answer format, so that each candidate can read those portions of interest.

Why is the Phase II examination given in Tampa, anyway?
Phase II is given in Tampa because this is the home of our partners at the American Board of Pathology (ABP). The amazing group of individuals at ABP run a world class testing center, with mechanisms in place to ensure that the examination is secure and that all technology works as it should. The center is uniquely designed to accommodate examinations using microscopic examination of test material.

Why can’t you just give the exam in August in Tampa to those of us who can get there?
At this time, we still hope to be able to give the exam in August in Tampa as scheduled, but we have no way of knowing if this will be possible. As of March 30, 2020, the state of Florida has the following restrictions to inbound travel: “All persons traveling to Florida from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut are required to self-isolate or quarantine for 14 days upon entry to the state or the duration of their presence in the state, whichever is shorter. Roadside checkpoints are set up on interstates to check for potential COVID-19 cases coming into Florida. Anyone traveling into Florida from Louisiana and other areas with substantial community spread of the virus will be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.” No one is able to predict when these restrictions will be lifted. If these or similar restrictions were are still effect in August, the majority of candidates and examination administrators will not be able to travel to the test center.

Why can’t you offer the exam at site(s) outside of Tampa?
At present, there are 144 candidates approved for the Phase II examinations in anatomic and clinical pathology. These candidates train in many countries, spanning four continents. Due to the limited numbers of glass slides and concerns regarding examination security, it is impossible to give the Phase II exam in its current format at multiple locations across the globe. Additionally, the knowledge and interpretation (multiple choice question) portions of the Phase II examination are best viewed with specific software and monitor settings. Alternate locations are generally not able to provide this infrastructure. Another significant hurdle has been lack of availability of alternate sites as facilities are prioritizing customers who have pre-existing commitments that have been delayed by earlier COVID-19 disruptions.

Why were you able to make accommodations for Phase I?
The Phase I examination is an examination made up only of multiple-choice questions that was designed to be compatible with the testing facilities of our Phase I partner, Scantron. Scantron already had the infrastructure available to provide live online proctoring, allowing for changes to be made rapidly across the globe. Phase II is a different type of examination, which requires the use of glass slides, images, and computerized essay entry, none of which can be accommodated by the current Scantron infrastructure.

Why can’t you just use digital slides so that travel isn’t an issue?
Going digital is a future goal for the ACVP and would certainly be useful at a time like this. However, there are significant limitations to this option at the present time. A few of these include: 1) our Phase I partner for exam delivery has no experience with whole slide technology and cannot make the necessary arrangements for an August delivery date; 2) there is high variability across the quality of scanned slides, particularly in clinical pathology ; 3) many candidates have limited to no experience with digital slides and asking them to acquire this knowledge before August may divert their focus from other aspects of preparation; 4) the exam is equated, meaning that scores are adjusted to account for degrees of difficulty, compared with a base form examination. If a different mechanism of slide delivery is utilized, equating cannot be done meaningfully, which is of detriment to candidates and scoring validity.

Why can’t you just pick a date further in the future so that we will all know the exam date?
We would love to do this. It would be helpful for everyone’s planning. However, scheduling of the ABP facility is not determined by the ACVP. Many specialty examinations are given at the testing facility and several that were scheduled for April and May have already been cancelled, so will have priority for rescheduling. Our partners at ABP tell us that they cannot offer us a specific rescheduling date at this time and have advised us to wait and see where the situation is in mid-June. If Phase II is postponed, it is anticipated that December is the earliest it could be rescheduled in Tampa.

What happens if the exam is postponed?
We don’t want this to happen. But, if the global health crisis that we are currently experiencing prevents us from holding the examination in August, the ACVP will do two things: 1) we will, at the candidates’ direction, either refund or transfer all 2020 registration fees to the postponed examination date; 2) we will make sure that 2020 does not count as an “attempt” or count toward years allowed to attain certification. We will also continue to work closely with our partners at ABP to see when rescheduling is a possibility.

What happens if the exam is cancelled?
We certainly don’t want this to happen either. But, if the health crisis persists and we are unable to travel, or if we are unable to reschedule, or due to lack of test center availability, cancellation may be the only option. If that happens, the ACVP will, at the candidates’ direction, either refund or transfer all 2020 registration fees to the August 2021 testing date. Similar to postponement, the 2020 candidate eligibility would be extended to the 2021 exam period.

What if I cannot get my ADA paperwork completed by the deadline?
We recognize that many medical facilities are closed for non-emergent care. The ACVP Credentialing Committee will work with the team of physicians at ABP to evaluate each candidate on a case by case basis and will communicate with affected candidates individually.

Do you realize that delaying the exam might impact my job prospects and/or pay rate?
We are very sensitive to this reality and recognize that most, if not all, of you have been living on a trainee’s salary for several years. As in all years, we know that board certification will make trainees more competitive and marketable. All of us have been residents and train residents and understand the economic reality of this situation. Nevertheless, it would make sense for employers to be mindful of the current public health emergency that we are experiencing and take the circumstances into consideration.

If the Phase II examination is postponed or cancelled will the cutoff for the reading list change?
The cutoff date of January 1, 2020 will remain if the 2020 Phase II examination is postponed. No new material will be added to the scope of the exam. In the event that the examination is cancelled outright, the cutoff date will change to reflect the 2021 cutoff date (January 1, 2021).

Please know that many individuals on the CEB and on ACVP Council have spent countless hours deliberating about both the Phase I and Phase II examinations. We are committed to offering you the opportunity to take a valid and fair exam, as soon as the timing safely allows. We sincerely hope that we do not have to follow in the footsteps of our European colleagues and our colleagues at the ACVIM who have cancelled 2020 certifying examinations. However, we will make an informed decision as quickly as we can, based on the limited information that we have available. We will continue to communicate with you as decisions are made. Thank you for your continued patience. We wish you all good luck in your exam preparations and good health in the coming days.

Sincerely,

Anne Lewis, DVM, PhD, DACVP
Chair, Certifying Examination Board

Melinda S. Camus, DVM, DACVP
Vice-Chair, Certifying Examination Board
Chair, Exam Assembly and Administration Group, Clinical Pathology

Amanda Fales-Williams, DVM, PhD, DACVP
Chair, Exam Assembly and Administration Group, Anatomic Pathology

 

March 20, 2020

Dear Phase II Candidates,

We have been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving domestic and worldwide pandemic related to COVID-19 during the last several weeks. There is tremendous uncertainty at present regarding what will happen in the coming months.

As of now, plans for Phase II Certifying Examination are being assessed. By May 1, we hope to know whether having the examination in August will be feasible.

We continue to track the latest news from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, as well as state and local health organizations regarding this pandemic. We encourage you to stay up to date by visiting the resources listed below.

The health, safety and well-being of our global community is our highest priority. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to everyone impacted by this global health crisis.

Take care of yourselves and stay tuned for our updates.

ACVP Council

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Food and Drug Administration
Florida Department of Public Health
Tampa Department of Public Health

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