October, 2002
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



National Home Inspection Exam News

NOEL ZAK

EBPHI: Who we are and what we do

This month, the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors conducts its second “role delineation study” to define the minimum requirements of competency for home inspectors. Last performed in winter 1998-99, the study serves as the foundation for the National Home Inspector Examination by defining home inspection as it is currently practiced. The study is performed every 3-5 years to insure the Exam is in line with current practices in the field.

A little history

In 1997, it became evident regulation of the home inspection profession was probably inevitable. However, legislation lacked consistency—from registration that simply required a fee to the state to call yourself a home inspector, all the way up to full licensing. The American Society of Home Inspectors took the position that 1) uniformity of regulation was important for both consumer and home inspector protection, and 2) the ASHI membership exam could help foster that uniformity by serving as the minimum standard for regulation.

Because it is often perceived as self-serving for a membership organization, such as ASHI, to promote its own exam as the competence standard to public regulatory bodies, most legislators and regulators simply will not consider an examination that is not independent of the profession’s representative organization.

That’s why, on the advice of examination development professionals, ASHI established the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors in April 1999.
EBPHI’s mission is “to establish the standard of competence for home inspectors and to enhance consumer confidence in home inspection professionals.” The method for accomplishing this mission is to develop, maintain and administer the National Home Inspector Examination.

What EBPHI is not

EBPHI does not “certify” home inspectors. A true certification program is extremely costly to develop, market and administer. Because 98 percent of consumers believe their home inspector is licensed by the state, EBPHI focuses its efforts on state regulation.

EBPHI’s mission differs philosophically from ASHI’s. While ASHI provides benefits directly to its home inspector membership, the National Home Inspector Examination focuses on consumers. It is used to assess competency for purposes of licensing home inspectors. State laws are intended to protect the public, while providing a reasonable business arena for regulated professionals.

It’s not the “old ASHI exam”

The National Home Inspector Examination is not just a rewrite of the former ASHI technical exam. While that test was the best available at the time, it was not suitable for consumer protection purposes.

The process for development of a high stakes, public protection examination like the NHIE is complex. First, the profession as it is currently practiced is established by a role delineation study, where a group of home inspectors develop consensus about what knowledge domains, skills and tasks are required of a “minimally competent” home inspector. Hundreds of home inspectors are then surveyed for their agreement with the study. A “test blueprint” emerges on which the examination is based.

By employing these processes, as well as meeting accepted standards for review, development and administration, EBPHI can state with assurance that the exam is valid and reliable for purposes of regulation.

NHIE is a fair and reliable examination 

Home inspection requires not only technical knowledge—it is also the art of observation, analysis and synthesis. Given the variety of opinions among home inspectors on any technical issue, and also given the highly individualistic nature of observation, analysis and synthesis, it’s no surprise that questions on the National Home Inspector Examination frequently give rise to discussion and controversy.

That’s why a high stakes examination like the NHIE employs accepted development practices to create the “items” on the exam. Each year, EBPHI invites a group of “subject matter expert” home inspectors to review performance of the exam and to create new questions for the item bank. At the item writing meeting, each question is first developed by a team of three home inspectors, then reviewed by a different team. Our psychometricians (experts in examination development and statistical analysis) also review them to assure proper wording, avoid “trick” language, and fit into the test blueprint.

To keep the exam fresh and relevant, new versions are implemented each year. These contain some questions from the prior year and some new questions. Also, “experimental items” are included to see if they perform well enough to be included in the item bank for future use. (Experimental items are not included in the examinee’s score.)

Throughout these processes, EBPHI takes care to invite subject matter experts who represent states where regulation exists or is imminent, who are recognized by their peers as having significant expertise and experience, who represent the geographic regions of the nation, and who have the ability to set aside personal concerns and employ “big picture” thinking in defining the practice of home inspection.

EBPHI and the NHIE are independent

ASHI does not “control” the National Home Inspector Examination or the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors. For the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE) to be credible to lawmakers and regulators, it must be completely independent. Therefore, the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors is a separately incorporated not-for-profit organization with its own staff and board of directors.

There is a relationship between ASHI and EBPHI. ASHI established EBPHI for a specific purpose: to insure as far as possible that state regulations have a consistent competency standard throughout the country. This relationship is not unusual. Many, if not most, certification and/or examination bodies are established by parent organizations. Examples include the American Society of Safety Engineers and its Board of Certified Safety Professionals; the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s NATA Board of Certification; and the American Association for Respiratory Care’s National Board for Respiratory Care.

Further, while ASHI and EBPHI are independent entities, it’s in ASHI’s best interests to promote the examination that it requires its membership to pass. ASHI has developed a position statement on home inspection legislation that promotes both public protection and setting reasonable competency standards. ASHI supports the NHIE as the best competency assessment exam available, both for state regulation and for membership.

Setting the competency standard  

As of this writing, nine states have approved the National Home Inspector Examination to assess competency for purposes of licensing.

And the trend to regulate the profession continues. Whether driven by Realtors®, legislators or home inspectors, licensing is coming your way.

When it does, it’s important that the resulting laws and regulations provide true public protection and reasonable requirements for home inspectors. EBPHI and ASHI will continue to work together to insure its preeminence as the standard for public protection throughout the nation.