Practice Analysis

Practice Analysis

A practice analysis was conducted in 2017 at the request of the American Board of Genetic Counseling, Inc. (ABGC). The type of study is used to describe the job activities of a Genetic Counselor in sufficient detail to support the development of a professional, job-related certification examination.

The members of the ABGC Practice Analysis Advisory Committee (PAAC) were experts in the duties and activities associated with the profession and their years of professional experience were representative of the entire population of genetic counselors. PAAC members were appointed by the ABGC. Daniel H. Breidenbach, PhD (Program Director) and Neil B. Guman, MA (Research Associate), Psychometrics Division, PSI Services, Inc. (PSI) provided expert guidance to the committee.

The PAAC undertook a series of activities that allowed them to identify job responsibilities and develop the test specifications for the Certified Genetic Counselor examination. This included developing a job task list and survey, distributing the survey, and analyzing the survey responses. Test specifications were developed based on survey responses.

Electronic invitations to complete a web-based survey were sent to 5,369 genetic counselors. The survey was open for one month and usable responses were received from 1,454 participants, for a corrected response rate of 27.7%. Responses to the demographic questions indicated that there were sufficient numbers from relevant groups for subsequent analyses.

More than 97% of the respondents felt the job task list adequately covered the responsibilities of the genetic counselor. The task ratings and raters were reliable (consistent). Relevant demographic subgroups were adequately represented.

The PAAC used the survey data to develop and apply task exclusion decision rules to identify tasks appropriate for the certification examination. Of the 188 original survey tasks, 19 (10%) were excluded based on the exclusion criteria. Respondent comments were then reviewed, but no changes were made on the basis of the comments. The detailed content outline was constructed from the 169 remaining tasks. Taking into account psychometric considerations offered by PSI and programmatic guidance from the ABGC Board of Directors, the PAAC decided that a 170-item examination would sufficiently sample the content domain to render a pass or fail decision based on examination scores. The PAAC took into account respondents’ input on item allocation and their own expert judgment to create test specifications. The resulting detailed content outline and test specifications are used by the ABGC Certification Examination Development Committee to assemble test forms.

Provided below are some of the data on the survey respondents to the 2017 Practice Analysis.  A similar analysis was completed in 2011 and 2008. These results are published in Hampel et al. J Genet Counsel (2009) 18:205216.

Respondent Demographics


Figure 1. Years of Genetic Counseling Experience


Figure 2. Percent of Time Spent in Clinical/Non-Clinical Roles. Respondents were asked to state the average percent of time devoted to clinical and non-clinical roles and to total their time to 100%.

Those respondents who indicated that they counsel patients as part of their regular job responsibilities were asked to identify a primary clinical specialty. This was defined as the subject area of their practice in which they spend the greatest portion of their clinical time. Respondents had 19 potential clinical categories to select from. These responses were collapsed to create 4 primary clinic specialties: prenatal, cancer, pediatrics and adult. Table 2 details the percent of respondents who identified a specific clinical area of practice.


Detailed Content Outline

As per the Standard of Accreditation of Graduate Programs in Genetics Counseling, adopted by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling on February 13, 2013, these results can be used to determine the distribution of core cases across different practice areas. This distribution should be used to guide graduate training effective June 1, 2014, in conjunction with the implementation of the new Standards.

Examination Scoring Methodology