Wednesday, September 03, 2014

What's the Fastest Way to Fail the CPLP Knowledge Exam? Part II

In my last post, I talked about CPLP candidates making the oftentimes fatal mistake of diving straight into consuming content and mistakenly calling that "studying."

I explained that the consequences of "studying" this way often takes candidates off-course.

Instead of focusing on the core essentials of the ASTD Competency Model that provide the foundation for the CPLP Knowledge Exam, they get distracted by a bunch of random minutiae that robs them of their attention, time, energy, and effort (all precious resources in limited supply).

Worse, it causes what Dr. Ruth Clark - and other learning luminaries and psychologists - refer to as "cognitive overload" where the steady stream of irrelevant content so completely short-circuits short-term memory that nothing "sticks" - retention is limited (if at all); comprehension is virtually non-existent (which is terrible when preparing for an application-level exam); and, because what they're consuming doesn't transfer into long-term memory, candidates find they can't recall any of it when they appear for the exam.

At best, cognitive overload slows down your study progress, wears you down, and tires you out; at worst, it so completely overwhelms you that you find yourself sitting in the exam center on Exam Day anxious, exhausted, and ill-prepared for the task at hand --  unnecessarily challenged in your attempt to pass the CPLP Knowledge Exam.

I know - Old habits die hard.

This need to rush past planning and straight to "consuming content" is something many of us learned - and practiced - in our academic careers where we were often able to "cram" for school exams and rewarded for our ability to regurgitate content.

Perhaps that worked on tests that didn't assess you higher than basic recall / remembrance and required no more than rote memorization; but the research shows (here's what the American Psychological Association experts say) it does not work for application-level exams - like the CPLP.

HINT! CPLP Knowledge Exam primarily consists of  questions at the level of "Application"

So - what to do about it? 

How do you avoid cognitive overload and Exam Day disaster?

You assess your readiness and dial-in your focus.


As I stated before, I've written and published a whole book, courses, and workshops on a collection of these comprehensive study prep strategies - but the one I want to share with you here is one of my favourites!

Quick, easy, insightful. :-D

What you Need: 

A printed copy of the CPLP Certification Handbook, Part 2, Appendix F: Detailed Outline from the ATD CI Web site.

Have your copy handy?

Review the competencies in the first three Areas of Expertise listed in Appendix F:

  1. Instructional Design
  2. Training Delivery
  3. Performance Improvement

Check off the items you feel most familiar with; leave the items you're unsure about unchecked.


Good. Go back and look over those three AOEs. 

Based on the items checked and unchecked in each - in general (just off the top of your head) how would you rate your readiness in each? 

Informal "In General" Readiness Scale
  • Ready (Green)
  • Kinda Ready (Yellow)
  • Not at All Ready (Red)
Rate yourself in each AOE like the examples below:

Here's the thing: Those three Areas of Expertise alone represent almost half (48%) of the CPLP Knowledge Exam.

What should this quick readiness assessment tell you?

If you have little to no experience or exposure in 1 out of the 3; you should know right from the start that you're at risk (before you even look at the other SEVEN areas) and will need to work extra hard to overcome that one major gap.

If you have little to no experience or exposure in 2 out of the 3, then it's like a three-legged stool - you're at HIGH RISK with barely a leg to stand on (and, again, you haven't even considered the other SEVEN areas yet). 


Do you see how people miss conducting this type of upfront readiness assessment and fall into the "content consumption" and "cognitive overload" trap, spend months "studying," then go on to FAIL the exam? (According to ASTD CI, on average, 25% of candidates fail the exam - that's 1 person in every 4.)

Missing 2 out of 3 often requires an intervention out of scope for study prep - meaning, you're not ready for CPLP.

You need training or coaching in the missing Areas of Expertise - with some time devoted to putting them into practice before becoming a CPLP candidate.


CPLP is an assessment of your current competencies; it's not meant as an educational or enrichment program - and neither is study prep.

There is not a single study prep resource that can replace the breadth and depth of experience and exposure you are required to have - across the vast competencies in the ASTD Competency Model - before entering the CPLP program and attempting the exam.

(And let's say you ignore this, plunge ahead anyway, and pass the exam - how will you obviously demonstrate mastery of skills you do not have on Work Product? It's like showing up at DMV the day of your Road Test, but you've never actually driven a car. #justsayin)

Study preparation is review; it means you've seen / done it before - have experience putting the competencies into practice - and just need a refresher and some practice translating what you already can do on-the-job to your performance on an exam.

Yes - sometimes people are eligible to enter the program, but not qualified for CPLP success.

Be smart about where YOU are, what YOU need, and how YOU need to get there.

Be intentional. 

This part of what it means to think and act as a professional.

I hope you've enjoyed this blog series!

It is always my pleasure to demonstrate to you, my peers, strategies you can use for your  success!

The last CPLP Knowledge Exam test window is only a few months away, so after today, my attention needs to shift to addressing the needs of our candidates.

Like you, my summer break is over - and I must turn my attention to my commitments.

If you find that you're ready for CPLP, you're looking for more efficient and effective study preparation strategies and tools like this, and you'd like to work with me and my team --

Consider joining our upcoming -- CPLP Mastery Series: Knowledge Exam - Online Course

It's our last course offering to help candidates test and achieve CPLP Knowledge Exam success in 2014!

If not, I wish you well in your future endeavors and looking forward to running into you again at some future point in time. :)

To your success!

~ trish


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