“Here’s a blank check…” said no CFO in the testing industry, ever

Facing the annual budgeting challenge? Learn how Certiverse reduces item development costs by more than 70%

For many organizations, it’s budgeting time. As the pandemic drags on, with organizations facing an unpredictable economy, worker shortages, and supply chain issues, it’s a fair bet that many are approaching the budgeting process cautiously. Consequently, certification program managers may be wondering how to grow their programs despite meager budget increases—or worse, cuts.  

One option is to reduce current expenses. Yet while most test sponsors agree that creating exam content is expensive, they may not have a good understanding of what’s typical for the industry. That is, how much should a program expect to pay for high-quality items?  

As someone who has spent more than 20 years managing various aspects of certification programs, I’ve seen my fair share of exams developed and am experienced with different approaches (e.g., outsourcing content dev, managing it in-house, and various combinations in between).  

When I first heard about Certiverse and their innovative approach to item development, I wanted to learn more. Certiverse is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution for remote, asynchronous exam development. It's not item-banking software, but an end-to-end system that leverages technology to automate workflows and dramatically reduce cost. 

While there are different ways to calculate cost-per-item, I thought it would be helpful to put some numbers around the process, so that my colleagues in the industry could make an apples-to-apples comparison with the Certiverse offering.  

The high price of content creation 

To arrive at a realistic, “typical” range, I included the following services that fall under the umbrella of content creation and assumed the content was being developed remotely, using a combination of Zoom, Google Docs, or Teams. In-person workshops, where programs pay travel and lodging expenses for SMEs (often in lieu of other compensation) would be significantly more expensive. These estimates are for an exam consisting of 100 items :


Low End

High End


Item Bank

per item

per item


Item Development
(Conducted via Zoom or similar)

per item

per item 

Item Writing Training, Item Writing, Project Management, Editorial and Technical Review

SME Compensation



Per Item

Cost-Per-Item Range

per item

per item

Per-Item Total

Typical Per-Exam Range



Per 100-Item Exam

Based on these figures, the estimated range for remotely developing content for a 100-item exam would typically fall within $27,250 on the low end and as much as $95,000 on the high end.  

Organizations that create multiple exams will realize some economies of scale via their item bank solution, although the costs for item development and SME compensation will remain  largely fixed. So, the content development costs for subsequent exams would run $22,000 – $55,000. 

That doesn’t include what comes before … or after. 

It’s also important to note that these estimates don't include all the steps involved in building an exam. For example, they leave out the costs associated with the JTA and blueprint creation that precede the item-writing stage of development, so including these required costs would drive the per-item averages even higher. They also don’t include any subsequent steps (like form creation/test building) that need to happen before the exam is brought to market.  

Above these, there is an additional “hidden” cost to traditional item development: Security. Because individual items are expensive to create, many organizations settle for a lean item pool, but then have to spend more money trying to protect those items from theft.  

So, how does Certiverse stack up?  

With a basic monthly* subscription on Certiverse, the same exam would be less than the low end of the range shown in the cost analysis above. While any cost savings is welcome, those with larger programs will benefit even more.

Under Certiverse’s Professional** subscription model, the cost-per-exam for an organization that does ten exams would be less than $10k. 

End-to-end solution. All-in-one pricing. 

In addition to content creation, the JTA, blueprint, psychometric analyses, and subsequent test-building costs are all included in the Certiverse subscription. Even better, Certiverse lets you create unlimited items for a more robust—and secure—item bank.  

While this may seem too good to be true, it’s easier to believe when you realize that time = money, and item-writing is much faster and more efficient via the asynchronous Certiverse platform. The company’s business model is based on the belief that EVERYONE stands to benefit from making exams more affordable and widely accessible—candidates, testing programs, and also the companies that support them.  

I know that, for me, a decision resulting in this kind of cost reduction would have been a no-brainer—it would allow me to dramatically increase the size of my item bank and invest in strategic growth, while still maximizing ROI for my leadership.

So, what do you think of this content creation breakdown? Does your program fall within these ranges? What is the single biggest expense you’d like to reduce/eliminate? Please share your experiences in the comments! 


*Pay-As-You-Go subscription, monthly fee, unlimited items for 1 blueprint 

**Professional subscription, monthly fee, unlimited items for up to 10 blueprints 


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