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How Healthcare Boards use Surpass

With the American Academy of Neurology (AAN)

In this case study, we will explore how The American Academy of Neurology was able to overcome challenges proposed by the COVID-19 pandemic using technology and how Surpass enabled them to transfer their exams from paper-based to computer-based.

The organization

Organization type: Healthcare

Number of countries reached: 90

Number of members per year: 36,000

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is a medical specialty society that was established in 1948.

The AAN is committed to improving patient care by increasing participation in clinical trials, promoting public awareness of neurological disease through education campaigns, providing access to high-quality health information, advocating for non-partisan funding of research, and ensuring access to care regardless of income.

Aims and key challenges

The AAN delivers self-assessment neurology exams aimed at assessing competency and continual improvement. They have a Residency In-Service Training Examination (RITE) that is 8 hours long and consists of 400 individual questions. The RITE examination allows neurology residents to assess their current level of knowledge in neurology and neuroscience, identify areas for growth, and track progression. Performance on the RITE is reported to be a positive predictor for future performance on the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) Certification Examination.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, items for the RITE examination would be selected by an in-person panel. Unable to continue this during social distancing measures, the AAN had to adapt in order to continue delivering an excellent candidate service. The organization therefore required a robust and secure computer-based solution for their item banking.

The method

The AAN joined the Surpass Community in 2018 while looking for a solution to transfer their RITE qualification from a paper-based exam to a computer-based exam. They opted to use the Surpass Assessment Test Conversion Service to help manage this transition. This service provides an analysis of sample content to ensure understanding of requirements for items, tests, delivery, and scoring. Sample items and tests give the testing organization an opportunity to feed back and ensure everything meets their requirements. There is also an in-house quality review process prior to items and tests being made available for use in tests.

The solution

The AAN uses Item Authoring, reviewing, and banking features within Surpass in conjunction with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) management tools to ensure each item goes through the required quality review steps in a controlled, collaborative environment. The AAN utilizes a wide range of standard and technology-enhanced items available within Surpass, including Multiple Choice, Hotspot, Drag and Drop, and File Attach, which allows candidates to use secure templates to complete detailed answers in external apps that have been approved by the testing organization.

Surpass allowed the AAN to tailor their team’s workflow with assignable roles and permissions for the whole item authoring process. Depending on the needs of each exam, the AAN has used both browser-based test delivery, which allows for quick and lightweight testing across any device, and SecureClient; a secure browser application with offline testing capabilities and built-in security features. If internet connection is lost, finished tests are uploaded to Surpass from SecureClient once internet connection is restored. This ensures security and integrity for both their candidates and their content.

“It’s critical for us to be able to deliver our exams directly to university medical schools and hospitals for the convenience of neurology programs. Surpass has provided us the flexibility to reach all of our candidates in a secure way.”

Lynne Shindoll, MA, Senior Program Manager, eLearning at the American Academy of Neurology


The AAN continue to use the Surpass Platform’s Item Authoring (banking), test development, and test delivery functionality. The secure Item Authoring and test development support in particular has allowed the AAN to run collaborative test development processes remotely using 3rd party video conferencing software, which was very helpful throughout the pandemic and is still used today to help manage the required quality assurance processes 

The browser-based test driver and secure browser application, SecureClient, have continued to provide the flexibility AAN need. Surpass assists many healthcare organizations with all their assessment needs – find out how.

Watch more

Hear first-hand from Lynne Shindoll at the AAN on how healthcare organizations can use Surpass to create secure exams for their candidates that replicate the real-life experiences that many doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals will face in their careers.

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