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ATD Blog

My Certification Journey from APTD to CPTD

Thursday, February 25, 2021

I had been working in human resources for 17 years when I decided to specialize in learning and development. I wanted to focus on making a difference helping employees through training and development, so I started exploring my options. I applied for and received a promotion into organization development at my company’s home office. I realized quickly that I had basic knowledge and good instincts, but I needed to build a higher level of knowledge.

Why Certification?

When I was in human resources, I obtained two certifications through which I gained significant knowledge. I wanted to do the same in my new field. Certification is a great form of professional development, with a measurable outcome that acts as evidence of knowledge ability to employers. It also helps me stay current and makes me a stronger contributor.

How I Made My Decision

Embarking on a certification journey is not easy. I had to determine if I could devote the time and energy to studying while still managing my commitments. I talked with my manager about my career development then researched external job postings to see if employers prefer certifications. Based on what I learned, I decided to take the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) exam first. I planned to go for the Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) later if I passed the first one.

My Preparation

For both certifications I reviewed the materials and study recommendations. I set up a target date and worked my way back on a calendar to create a custom study plan. I scheduled a chapter per week to read the learning system, take notes, and complete the practice questions.

I also did the online practice test every week to measure my progress. I was able to isolate areas where I needed to study more and iron out information that I had misunderstood.


For the APTD I read the online learning system, took a lot of notes, and completed the study questions. I felt like I would have retained information better if I had a printed binder where I could highlight things and scribble notes my way. I took what I learned from studying for the APTD, and when I decided to study for the CPTD I purchased the preparation course from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and bought a printed binder. There was more information to cover, so I wanted resources that would work best for me.

A Painful Lesson Learned

At times I fell behind schedule and found myself having to double-up the following week. Sometimes I was reading or doing practice tests when I was already tired and would not remember content. When that happened, I had to redo those sections when I was not sleep deprived. This probably cost me five hours in rework. In hindsight, I should have scheduled a set day each week to study and made sure I had a good night’s sleep. That consistency would have helped me stay on track without having to reread chapters. It also would have helped my confidence.

The Exam Experience

For both exams, I experienced a significant amount of test anxiety because the last big exam I took was in 2003. To set myself up for success, I made sure I got a good night’s sleep, had breakfast, and drank coffee, which helps me wake up. I arrived early and spent a few minutes reviewing notes in the parking lot. I then did deep breathing exercises to relax before I walked in.


When I went into the center, the proctor registered me and locked up my belongings. I took the time to read the instructions and become familiar with the software before I started answering the questions. I made sure that I followed the preparation advice and focused on questions I knew first and went back to those I was unsure of after. This helped me not get stuck on a question.

What I Got Out of the Process

The processes of preparing to take the exams helped me expand my knowledge and made me a stronger performer at work. It built my confidence, and I realized I was not an imposter in the field of learning and development. My newer co-workers benefited as well because I shared concepts that I learned to help them grow their knowledge.

Final Thoughts

Certification through the ATD has changed how I approach work every day. The knowledge and confidence I gained by embarking on my certification journey changed who I am as a professional. My contributions and recommendations at work are based on sound theory and best practices, and they use ATD competencies for high impact. I recommend considering certification for those who want to grow in the talent development field.

About the Author

Brenda Forgione, MM/HRM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CPTD, is an organizational development project, focused on career and leadership development programs that help employees pursue their aspirations and reach their potential.

She focuses on providing solutions that help organizations achieve their goals through talent development. This promotes a culture of engagement and growth, while providing a pipeline of future leaders and developing highly skilled workers.

Brenda is currently an organizational development project Manager at Encompass Health, a large inpatient rehabilitation, home health and hospice provider in the United States.

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