Exam Info

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About the Exams

The CSAEd™ certifications utilize computer-based exams composed of multiple-choice questions administered in one online session, with a single, predefined break. All questions will be included in calculating the candidates’ scores. 

The exams contain the following number of multiple-choice questions with the noted maximum time limits:

  • Core certification exam: 150 questions (Three (3) hours)
  • Specialty certification exams: 50 questions (Two (2) hours per exam)

Individuals may request exam accommodations within the online application.

Spring 2024 Exam Window (current)

  • Spring Exams begin: Monday, May 20, 2024
  • Spring Exams conclude: Sunday, June 30, 2024

Quick Links to Exam Information:

Exam Content Outlines

Both the core and each specialty exam consist of the same eight domains. For a detailed exam content outline for each certification exam, including a breakdown of the percentage of each domain covered, see the Candidate Handbook (Appendix A). Below is a listing of each domain and its description.

Foundations of the Profession: This domain encompasses the foundational understanding of the histories and contexts of higher education systems and connects social justice, inclusive histories, and philosophies to the student affairs profession. This domain includes a commitment to research, professional standards and codes of practice, law, and organizational policies.

Student Learning, Development, and Success: This domain encompasses the application of student learning and development theories while centering and advocating for holistic student learning, development, and success. It includes the design of programs and services that retain, develop, and move students toward completion and graduation.

Assessment and Evaluation: This domain encompasses the appraisal of the quality and effectiveness of higher education work with understanding and appreciation for different contexts, cultures, and backgrounds. Specifically, the practice of assessment and evaluation grounded in outcomes, the use of a variety of methods and tools to do so, and utilizing the data to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in program, delivery, or actions.

Social Justice and Inclusion: This domain encompasses the process, outcomes, and dynamic influence of individual and institutional awareness and action to foster inclusion, create equity, and ensure access grounded in the understanding of systems of oppression and privilege and how they are perpetuated in our practice and communities. This domain includes our individual dispositions and sense of agency and responsibility for justice for ourselves, others, our community, and the larger global context.

Leadership: This domain encompasses the practices of embracing institutional values and vision to empower and engage others; valuing diverse, inclusive, and equitable views and methodologies to take risks and evolve communities; adaptively approaching problems and challenges; and navigating different types of business, political, personnel, and financial pressures to create transformative change.

Talent Management: This domain encompasses the competencies needed to support the talent life cycle within an organization. By applying effective talent management practices, student affairs educators attract, develop, and retain staff who are enabled and empowered to set and reach personal and organizational goals. In this work, the student affairs educator plays an active role in the continual assessment and relevant supports and interventions to develop the full potential of all staff, including full time, part time, graduate and undergraduate members. The student affairs educator addresses the individual needs of staff members to collectively engage in mission-based work that advances student learning, development, and success. 

Crisis and Risk Management: This domain encompasses the ability to understand, educate, plan, and apply information pertinent to emergency situations and operationalize risk management; managing uncertainty; using data; and providing direction toward institutional objectives related to crisis response and risk management.

Financial and Facility Management: This domain encompasses contributing to and implementing the effective and efficient delivery of an organization’s strategic and operational goals, managing financial and facility resources that help ensure a safe and productive environment to fulfill the mission of the organization, and practicing ethical and equitable management of financial resources.

Exam Preparation

“How do I prepare for an exam?” is an expected and common question from candidates for Student Affairs Educator Certification. The Consortium provides a content outline for the Core and all Specialty exams in the appendix of the Candidate Handbook. In addition to the content outline, candidates may also want to seek additional resources to assist in their preparations for the exams. 

The Consortium has generated an initial list of suggested resources for the Core Student Affairs Educator Certification exam to further support candidates. The Consortium plans to update this list over time as the certification program evolves. In addition to these resources, multiple Consortium founding partner associations offer optional exam preparation activities. See further below for more information.

Remote Proctoring and Online Exam - What to Expect

We have created a resource document linked here to help prepare you for what to expect in taking the online, remote-proctored certification exams. 

Suggested Resources for Core Exam

  • Ackerman, R. L. (Ed.). (2007). The mid-level manager in student affairs: Strategies for success. NASPA.
  • Adams, M., Bell, L. A., Goodman, D. J., Shlasko, D., Briggs, R. R., & Pacheco, R. (Eds.). (2023). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (4th ed.). Routledge.
  • Collins, K. M., & Roberts, D. M. (Eds.). (2012). Learning is not a sprint: Assessing and documenting student leader learning in cocurricular involvement. NASPA.
  • FEMA, Emergency Management, National Preparedness. (n.d.). Retrieved from FEMA, Emergency Management, National Preparedness: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/national-preparedness
  • Harper, K. S., Paterson, B. G., & Zdziarski, E. L. (Eds.). (2006). Crisis management: Responding from the heart. NASPA.
  • Harper, S. R. (Ed.). (2008). Creating inclusive campus environments for cross-cultural learning and student engagement. NASPA.
  • Henning, G. W., & Roberts, D. M. (2016). Student affairs assessment: Theory to practice. Stylus Publishing.
  • Lake, P. F. (2011). Foundations of higher education law and policy. NASPA.
  • McClellan, G. S., Marquez Kiyama, J., & Stringer, J. (Eds.). (2023). The handbook of the student affairs administration (5th Ed.). Jossey-Bass.
  • Professional competency areas for student affairs. (2015). ACPA and NASPA.
  • Schuh, J. H., Jones, S. R., & Torres, V. (Eds.). (2016). Student services: A handbook for the profession (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass.
  • Wells, J. B. (Ed.) (2019). CAS professional standards for higher education (9th ed.). Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Additional Preparation Resources

Various resources are offered by Consortium founding member associations to support professionals preparing for certification exams. All resources are optional and entirely voluntary. Please contact the respective association for related information.

Core Exam Preparation
NASPA's online, self-paced resource hub features a library of resources to help you prepare for the Core exam, including information about the Student Affairs Educator Certification domains, exam prep webinar recordings and materials, the opportunity to join a self-guided study group, and information about the experience of taking the online exam.

This resource is free to members of Consortium founding partner associations (ACUHO-I, ACUI, AFA, ASCA, NACA, NASPA and NIRSA). Participants will need to create a free NASPA account and complete a short registration form in order to access the resources, which are hosted within the NASPA Online Learning Community. 

Campus Housing and Residential Life Exam Preparation
ACUHO-I offers virtual preparation programs for the CSAEd-HRL exam. The first iteration of the preparation program will be offered at no charge and will only be open to ACUHO-I members. There will be four synchronous meetings during spring 2024 and additional study circles based on specific topics and domains. 

Campus Recreation Exam Preparation
NIRSA's Exam Prep Bootcamp includes a three-part webinar series designed by CSAEd-CR certified NIRSA members to provide their best tips and tricks for studying for the certification exam. Speakers dive into specific competency areas that you’ll need to understand to prepare for the examination and provide some study resources that other certificants found useful. Additionally, you’ll gain access to an exclusive NIRSA Connect community where you can connect with peers who are also seeking certification, form study groups, and share new resources.  

College Unions Exam Preparation
ACUI’s Certification Prep Program is available to anyone eligible to take the Core and college unions certification exams. Its purpose is to provide those who intend to be certified as a student affairs and college unions professional opportunities to prepare to take the exams as part of a community of their peers who are also going through the certification process or have completed the certification process.

Exam Results

The CSAEd™ Core and each CSAEd™ Specialty Area exam is designed to measure a candidate’s performance against a predetermined standard–the level of knowledge and competency in established domains that can be reasonably expected of mid-level student affairs and services educators, including within six specific functional areas.

Each exam measures what the candidate knows at the time they are taking the assessment. The candidate's exam performance is not compared to other candidates' performances on the same exam. Passing scores were established for CSAEd™ Core and Specialty exams through a panel-based standard setting process utilizing a no-data Angoff method (See Exam Score Process and Validity below).

Candidates will be informed of whether they passed or did not pass an exam via email approximately 72-96 hours after the exam conclusion. The Consortium only shares exam results with the individual respective candidate. Candidates will receive an email that includes the total score needed to pass the exam, their score, and instructions for accessing a score report within their Prolydian profile. The score report lists the candidate's score information as well as their performance within each of the eight certification domain areas. The Consortium provides this report to candidates to inform their ongoing professional development selections.

Candidates who succeeded in achieving the passing score and meeting required prerequisites will receive a separate email conferring their respective certification credential. This email will include instructions for downloading one's certificate, opting into the Student Affairs Educator Certification Directory, and claiming a digital badge to promote their accomplishment.

Candidates who did not pass an exam are invited to schedule an exam retake for at least 14 days after their initial exam date.

Time Limit to Pass Core & Specialty Exams

All candidates must pass the Core certification exam as a required prerequisite to achieve any Specialty certification. In a situation in which a candidate has passed a Specialty exam though has not passed the Core exam, the Specialty credential will remain on hold until the candidate retakes and passes the Core exam prerequisite. The candidate will have 365 days from the date the original Specialty exam was taken and passed in order to pass the Core. If a candidate does not pass the Core exam within this timeframe, they will need to retake and pass the Specialty.

Exam Scoring Process and Validity

A panel-based standard setting process utilizing a no-data Angoff method was conducted in May and June of 2022 for the seven Student Affairs Educator Certification exams. 

A panel of fifty-three (53) subject matter experts (SMEs) were identified by the seven Consortium founding partner associations and convened to execute the standard setting process. SME identification consisted of nominations of, and invitations to, respective association membership, including invitations to small colleges/university and community college member groups, racial and ethnic affinity member groups, and graduate preparation faculty.

A workshop was conducted virtually with the psychometric consultants, Consortium staff, and available panel members. Panel members who were unable to attend were given a recording of the meeting. The standard setting process was reviewed, a discussion of minimally qualified candidates was facilitated, and definitions and item ratings were presented and discussed. Panel members were assigned to either the General (Core) certification or to one of the six specialty certifications and were given two weeks to complete all of their ratings. Raters were asked to rate the entire new item bank for their assigned certification. To protect the integrity of the exam, this exercise was conducted using the standard setting tool in the secure, online Surpass platform.

Once the final ratings were collected, the psychometric team calculated the mean rating (estimated item difficulty; the item p-value under Classical Test Theory) for each item and examined overall rater agreement. Overall rater agreement was strong. Of the nine raters assigned to one specialty area, only one rater’s average cut score fell below two standard deviations of the mean and was, therefore, excluded from the exercise. All other estimated cut scores for each certification fell within two standard deviations of the mean and were retained. 

Further, the item mean ratings of all but 68 items across all seven certifications were within two standard deviations of the overall mean of these ratings. The 68 items identified as not having rater agreement were flagged for revision by subject matter experts in the future and none of these items were included in the form assembly of the new exams. In addition to their ratings, SMEs were able to provide comments as they reviewed and rated items. These comments were used to further refine item quality.

Based on the ratings of the items and the approved exam blueprint, two (2) forms of each exam were engineered. The psychometric consultants used the predicted difficulty of the items to determine combinations of items to assemble two forms with similar overall difficulty while ensuring that the content matched the approved exam blueprint. 

Exam Cancellation Policy

You may cancel your exam with no additional fee up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled exam appointment. Please visit https://app.prolydian.com/testattempts to cancel or reschedule your exam within the allowable window. Any request to reschedule an exam inside 24 hours before the originally scheduled exam time will incur a retake fee. Please view the Candidate Handbook for the full cancellation policy.