The certified professional in learning and performance (CPLP) has some of the most rigorous requirements of any certification process. When I first read about the credential in 2010, I was intimidated. I didn’t know of any other certifications that required passing a difficult exam and submitting a detailed work product. But I kept coming back to the website—the challenge definitely appealed to me.

Once I decided to take the plunge, I found the process of earning the CPLP certification tremendously valuable as well as challenging. Through The ATD Competency Model, I learned new knowledge and skills across the talent development field, while maintaining a focus on my area of expertise (instructional design). The process also helped to reinforce knowledge I had obtained through my day-to-day work. I gained a better understanding of the research and theory that supported my established practice, which was a great way to increase my confidence in my skills.

Remembering how intimidated I was when I first learned about the CPLP certification, I wanted to share the tips I found most useful in preparing for the exam and work product, so that you too can be successful.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time. I passed the CPLP knowledge exam in September 2013. I studied all spring and summer, starting in May, using up every little spare bit of time. You may not need as much time as I did (especially if you have plenty of free time), but I found that it made the process much less harried, and gave me the opportunity to dig into areas of weakness in greater detail. I completed the project that I was submitting for my work product more than three months prior to my submission date, which gave me plenty of time to organize my evidence. I also sent my work product a week before the submission date, so I didn’t have to stress about whether it would arrive in time.

  2. Get the ATD Learning System. Aside from being the one place where you can find all the content needed to study for the exam, it’s a good reference to keep around in general. I have a paper copy, but the PDF is nice because it’s searchable! These materials are worth the cost and I continue to use them.

  3. Don’t do it alone. There are many other professionals studying for the same exam window, or preparing work products for the same submission date. Connect with them, via LinkedIn or your local chapter, and form a study group! Many ATD chapters run study groups too. I met regularly with my CPLP study group. They brought accountability to my studying, because each week we would teach several chapters of material back to the group. We still occasionally meet now, even after we have all attained our CPLP certification. Studying for the CPLP knowledge exam turned out to be a great way to build my personal learning network!

  4. Take the practice exam. The practice exam offered on the ATD website will help you gauge what knowledge you need for the real exam. It also looks similar to the real exam, which is helpful for those who get test anxiety.

  5. Read everything in the candidate handbook. This is especially important to do early on, so that you can identify the best project to submit for your work product and have plenty of time to assemble your evidence. Getting a clear understanding of what the reviewers will be looking for makes it much easier to structure your narrative responses and ensure your submission receives the best score possible.

The CPLP credential has shown my colleagues and clients that I have passion for my work and have demonstrated that my knowledge and skills meet ATD’s high standards. The process was worth every minute and dollar I spent.


Are you preparing for the exam? Have you already taken it? Let me know! I love connecting with CPLP credential holders and candidates!

Learn more about the CPLP certification.