June 2021 Volume 27 No. 2

The Grievance Process — What It Is and How To Use It

by Rehan Siddique, ACAS

There has been a lot of changes in the exam process over the last year. Given that these changes were meant to occur over a three-year period, it’s understandable that candidates have a lot of questions. Two exam-related changes you may have noticed in this most recent sitting are the feedback and the grievance processes. The feedback process is analogous to the old appeals process for candidates who feel that there is a defect in an exam question, while the grievance process is meant to provide candidates a way to alert the CAS to any extenuating circumstances that may have affected their chances of passing.
 

What are grievance submissions?

The CAS currently defines a “candidate grievance” as a candidate concern that is unrelated to the content of the exam itself. This process is centered on the CAS’s commitment to fairness to candidates whose exam conditions were impacted beyond their control. The paper and pencil exams had analogous events as well, for instance, a fire alarm going off during an exam causing candidates to leave the examination room or loud construction noises causing a major distraction. The CAS would be alerted of such events and would carefully consider what kind of response would be most appropriate. In the computer-based testing (CBT) environment, especially during COVID, there are also variables that may affect a candidate, such as an internet or power outage, software issues, site staff misunderstanding the specific rules for CAS exams, or local jurisdictions closing testing centers at the last minute. The CAS understands how distressing these events can be in the heat of the exam and how even minor disruptions can affect your overall test-taking ability. These events are extremely rare, however, with less than half a percent of candidates having experienced a disruption of this kind during their CBT exam sittings.


How do I submit a grievance?

If an event like this has happened to you while taking your exam, the first thing to do is notify the site staff and request a “case number” before exiting the examination center. Case numbers are internal IDs that PearsonVUE assigns to various events that occur throughout the exam process. For example, if your computer were to kick you out of your exam before time ran out, PearsonVUE would produce a case number unique to that event. PearsonVUE tracks many different metrics throughout the entire exam process from the second you sign in with the front desk to the second you sign out after the exam. All irregularities are tracked and receive an ID for further investigation as needed. The CAS recommends requesting a case number for any event you think worked against you in the exam; however, keep in mind the grievance process does not apply to anything related to exam content.

Next, you should fill out an exam process grievance submission form for the CAS to review. Although the case number is not a required field, it will vastly improve the chances of your grievance being qualified and help the CAS investigate what went wrong. In order to give the CAS time to investigate and come up with a solution, candidates have five business days from the date of their exam to submit the grievance.


How does the CAS respond to grievance submissions?

Every grievance submission received is acknowledged within three business days and a full response is sent to candidates within 30 days of the submission date. The response from the CAS is tailored to the unique hardship that the candidate experienced, so rest assured that there isn’t a blanket approach to handling grievances. Whatever response the CAS decides upon, it will be motivated by the desire for fairness as much as possible.
 

Conclusion

No examination process is perfect, and the CAS doesn’t pretend its process is perfect either. CAS is always working towards a fairer exam process, while evolving to meet the educational needs of the industry. Each CBT sitting provides the CAS a wealth of data to analyze in order to improve the exam process. Candidate input in the form of feedback and grievance submissions also imparts valuable candidate perspectives. Submitting the grievance reports with as much detail about your experience as possible and in a timely manner will help you in your exam grading and the CAS in planning future exams. For more details regarding the grievance process, refer to the CAS Candidate Feedback and Grievances announcement made on April 13, 2021.

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