To create the FSA Level I and Level II exams, SASB used best practices within the testing and credentialing industry. More than 40 volunteer subject matter experts—who have experience in sustainability, finance, law, and accounting—contributed to the exam development, which included reviewing the study guide and writing and reviewing the exam questions. SASB also worked with a professional examination development company that has decades of experience in exam development. The exam was rigorously developed to meet expectations of fairness, validity, and reliability.

Features of a Certificate Program

The Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) Credential exams are assessment-based certificate exams. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence describes the difference between an assessment-based certificate program and a certification on its website. The FSA Level I exam is highly rigorous – developed by a wide range of subject matter experts, overseen by experts in exam development, with a proctored, secure testing environment. When candidates complete a certificate program, they do not receive letters after their name. FSA candidates can identify themselves as “FSA Credential holder” after they pass both the Level I and Level II exams, as described in the Candidate Handbook and on the FSA website.

1. Identifying Learning Objectives

The first step in the exam development was identifying the Learning Objectives. The Learning Objectives subsequently determined the exam questions and the content for the study guide. To scope the Learning Objectives, SASB considered the following questions:
• What skills and/or areas of knowledge are essential for professionals in this space?
• Which skills and/or areas of knowledge are more important? Less important?
• How much detail is appropriate for each skill and/or area of knowledge?
• What is an appropriate number of questions for each Learning Objective?

2. Developing the Study Guide

To provide a common knowledge base from which exam questions could be developed, SASB collaborated with subject matter experts to create a study guide. The study guide for each exam discusses the essential information that is tested.

3. Writing the Exam

Volunteer subject matter experts, trained by the professional examination development company, wrote the exam questions. The questions assess the knowledge and skills reflected in the Learning Objectives. Each question has undergone numerous reviews and revisions to ensure:
• It tests one or more of Learning Objectives
• It is fair and based on the content in the study guide
• It is unbiased

4. Determining an Appropriate Pass/Fail Score

The passing score is determined after a statistically significant number of initial administrations of the exam. The results of the initial exam administrations are aggregated and reviewed by the professional examination development company and an additional group of subject matter experts. They review the results to assess:
• The difficulty of each question
• If questions are ambiguous or misleading
• If questions should be revised or removed
• If wrong answers should be revised

Finally, the appropriate passing score is determined using the modified Angoff method, a standard practice in the testing industry. The passing score is set based on a specified level of proficiency. There is no pre-set percentage of candidates that will pass or fail the exam. Periodically, the passing score will be reviewed to ensure that is still appropriate. It may be adjusted, as necessary, using the same process outlined above.

Protecting the Integrity of the Exam

To protect the integrity of the exam, SASB takes multiple precautions including:

  • Conducting every exam administration with a proctor
  • Administering multiple, statistically-equivalent versions of the exam
  • Delivering the set of questions in a random order, with the answer choices in a random order
  • Introducing new questions periodically to minimize over-exposure

Every administration of the exam is conducted with a proctor. Click here for more information about the proctors.

There are multiple forms (versions) of the Level I and Level II exams. Although the forms are different, they have been tested to ensure they are statistically-equivalent in their assessment of a candidate’s understanding of the Learning Objectives.

The same form (version) of the Level I and Level II exams will have questions delivered in a random order for every administration of the exam. The answer choices for the questions are also randomized.

Each exam administration includes a certain number of unscored questions. These questions do not affect the candidate’s final score. The results from unscored questions are aggregated and assessed against standard statistical performance criteria. Questions that satisfy the criteria may be included in future administrations of the exam. This process allows new questions to be introduced and prevents any single question from being over-exposed.

Collectively, these precautions help protect the integrity of the exam and minimize the risk of candidates gaining unfair information about exam questions.