The History of CISA and the CFI Examination

The Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI) designation and examination came about through the work of professionals from both the public and private sector who foresaw the need to take the next step in the defense and professionalization of interviewers.

Pictured left to right presenting on Telephone Interviewing: David Lund, CFI, (Proctor) Dick’s Sporting Goods, David Shugan, CFI, Carter's and Stefanie Hoover, CFI, Verisk.
The CFI designation started in 2004.

The development of this concept had its origin in discussions with senior executives across the country in both the public and private sector who were attempting to provide their organizations with the most effective interviewers. Then, with the advent of DNA testing, false confessions, and the focus of the media on the process of interviewing it became clear that merely attending a short class was not a sufficient credential to defend an organization.

So the question became, "how does one create a certification examination to measure an individual's knowledge?"

As it turned out, this was a much more difficult question than it first appeared. Just make up a bunch of questions and you have one? This would certainly be one way to approach the issue, but unfortunately it would not provide a defensible valid examination that psychometrically measures an individual's knowledge of the skills core components.

A number of test certification development organizations were interviewed to assist in the creation of the CFI examination. Each of these companies had extensive experience in creating and administering national certification examinations. In the end, Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP) was selected to assist in the development and administration of the examination by the Center for Interviewer Standards and Assessment (CISA). The Advisory Board for the Center was made up of professionals from both the public and private sectors who gave extensively of their time to make this vision a reality.

The first step in developing the certification examination was to conduct a survey of interviewers in both the public and private sectors to determine the core skills necessary to be competent. Over a thousand surveys were sent out nationally and evaluated by AMP to determine the core skills necessary to be an interviewer in the public and private sector. Statistically looking at the responses from the survey AMP identified 15 core knowledge sets that were essential to being a competent interviewer. AMP was also able, based on the responses from the survey, to determine the number of examination questions which would be assigned to each of the 15 knowledge sets.

The second step in the process was determining the source material upon which the questions would be based. The examination was not to be focused on a single interview method or process, but rather to test the examinee's knowledge of interview and interrogation over a broad-based set of sources. For example, if an individual had attended the WZ interview and interrogation program alone it would be extremely unlikely that they would even be close to passing the examination. The survey and the Advisory Board's opinion was that the examination should cover the knowledge necessary to do an interview in either the public or private sector using any number of different skills.

Third, an item-writing committee, drawn from the public and private sectors was assembled to create the actual questions for the examination. Working with psychometric professionals from AMP, the item writers constructed hundreds of questions based on the source material which were selected to be the basis for the examination. Once a question was created, it was reviewed for accuracy against the source material and reworked for clarity.

Next, the committee took the examination on several different occasions to identify problem questions and create data necessary for statistical evaluation of the questions and overall examination by AMP. The questions were evaluated in a variety of ways including whether or not they were discriminatory in any fashion. All this work over several years resulted in the creation of two examinations totaling 160 questions each. Every question on the examination is in multiple-choice, and falls into one of three types. Recall questions, which simply require the examinee to retrieve information from memory. Application questions, which require the examinee to use two or more pieces of information to answer the question or analysis questions, which require the examinee to integrate numerous pieces of information to obtain the answer. Each question was repeatedly reviewed by the item-writing committee for clarity and correctness of response.

Finally, a passing score, or cut-score, had to be determined. This required that 100 individuals, who were not part of the examination development, sit for the test. Based upon the scores achieved by these 100 examinees, a passing score was determined statistically by AMP. The examination also contains 20 questions which will be used to set the passing score for subsequent tests. This is done so that a later examination, which may be easier or more difficult than the current one has the same statistical rate. In other words, the passing score may go up or down depending on the examinations difficulty. The easier the examination the higher the cut-score, while the more difficult the examination the lower the cut score.

The Advisory Board of CISA also considered the idea of grandfathering individuals into the certification. Applied Measurement Professionals strongly discouraged the board from grandfathering anyone into the certification since it hampers the defensibility of the program. While this benefits the association in gathering an initial membership, the Advisory Board felt that in addition to defending the certification, it failed to reward those who put in the time and effort to study for and pass the test. In the end it was decided that no one would be grandfathered into the CFI designation.

There is one last question that needs to be addressed as well. Is it worth spending the time and effort to obtain a Certified Forensic Interviewer designation? It's one thing to claim to have the knowledge to be a good interviewer, but it's another to have an independent organization certify that the knowledge exists. Times are changing, and this certification is simply one of those changes. It's merely a matter of whether one wants to be ahead or behind the curve, and that's only a question that you can answer.

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