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5 ATD Learning System Misconceptions


Wed Sep 23 2015

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The ATD Learning System is the official resource for preparing for the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) credential. I should know—I’ve been managing CPLP preparation for ATD since November 2012. In my work, I’ve come across some common misconceptions about the Learning System that I’d like to clear up. As you’ll see, the Learning System is actually a comprehensive resource that covers all the key areas you’ll need to know to pass the Knowledge Exam. 

What Is the Learning System and Why Is It the “Official” Study Resource? 

At the inception of ATD’s CPLP credential, the Learning System was created to be a primary study resource for CPLP candidates. ATD has a long history of partnering with the most influential leaders in the talent development industry. ATD enlisted these subject matter experts in each area of expertise (AOE), along with veteran CPLP credential holders, ATD staff, and talent development consultants, to create and design the Learning System. Combined, this brain trust has hundreds of years of deep expertise and thought leadership in the training and development field.


In 2013 The ASTD Competency Model was updated, so the Learning System also needed to be updated to provide the necessary content for CPLP candidates to prepare. We decided to move the Learning System to an online platform instead of a set of printed books. Although the Learning System was re-created in an online format, it is still primarily a textbook for study preparation, albeit an interactive one.

Misconception 1: The Learning System Doesn’t Address All the Content Needed to Study for the Exam 

The Learning System is designed using The ATD Competency Model Knowledge Areas (KAs) as the foundation for all the content. More than 600 references and citations are included to support and build on that content. The CPLP exam questions are also based on the same KAs. That said, for areas that are rapidly evolving, such as Learning Technologies, you may want to use supplemental resources to ensure you are up to date. 

There are two kinds of questions on the CPLP Knowledge Exam: recall and application. Although the Learning System does provide chapter quizzes to check your knowledge in both recall and application, the ability to apply knowledge to a given scenario rests with the test-taker and requires practice, experience, and thoughtful analysis. The quizzes test reading comprehension but do not mirror the exam questions—that would be cheating!

Misconception 2: The Learning System Is Not a Well-Designed E-Learning Course 

If the Learning System were meant to be an e-learning course, this would be true. But as I’ve mentioned, the Learning System is an online textbook. The electronic platform has a number of useful features, so it’s a few steps above a hand-held, paper-based textbook. It also combines some previous companion products into one resource. For example, interactive recall and application quizzes have replaced the Check Your Knowledge CD and the Study Guide for Groups has replaced the Study Group Leader’s Guide. 

ATD does provide an e-learning preparation course that includes the Learning System as the primary study resource. Learn more about that course here


Misconception 3: The Learning System Costs Too Much—It Should Be Free 

Free stuff is great, but a thorough resource like the Learning System has some significant costs associated with it. Creating and maintaining the Learning System involves subject matter experts, writers, editors, fact-checkers, fees for permission to use sources and graphics, platform purchase and upkeep, and developer fees. It adds up fast. 

In an effort to make the Learning System accessible to CPLP candidates, ATD kept the price of the online Learning System the same as the previous box of books, despite added costs to produce the online version. Also, if you purchase the Learning System and later decide to take an ATD Preparing for the CPLP workshop, the cost of the Learning System is deducted from your registration fee because it is included with the workshop. 

Misconception 4: The Learning System Is Boring; There’s Too Much Information 
 There is indeed a lot of information in the Learning System, which is what makes it such a comprehensive study tool for CPLP preparation. The talent development field is both broad and deep. As shown by The ATD Competency Model, there are 10 AOEs that practitioners need to have at least a working knowledge of to be skilled professionals. In addition, there are six foundational competencies needed for business success. That is a lot of real estate to cover; the Learning System does it in more than 900 pages with about 360 glossary entries and 116 interactive quizzes, plus case studies, stories, tips, and lesson plans for study groups. 

The bottom line is that if you want to achieve the CPLP credential, you have to be knowledgeable and experienced. You have to study those areas that you have less experience with to build your professional muscle, as well as brush up on what you already know. Preparing for the exam will take many months of study. However, as a CPLP myself, I can tell you that it is an investment well worth your time and effort.

Misconception 5: The Learning System Has Outdated Information 
 When Learning System users see a citation prior to 2000, they wonder if there is newer information. Take Bloom’s Taxonomy for instance. Benjamin Bloom published his taxonomy in 1956 and died in 1999. Others have made changes to his taxonomy since 1999, but Bloom’s Taxonomy has not been revised from the original. 


Bloom’s concepts, and those of others like Mager, Gagné, and Maslow, are the building blocks of the talent development field. Many others have made more recent contributions to the field. They are also referenced in the Learning System, where relevant to the 10 AOEs and the associated KAs. 

The Learning System is a dynamic resource that is continually being revised, updated, and expanded. Each time Learning System users log in, they can access the most up-to-date information ATD has available. 

The ATD Learning System Is Your Study Resource

For those of you on the CPLP journey, rest assured that the ATD Learning System is a complete resource for your study preparation. If you want to delve deeper into particular AOEs for your own development, ATD also offers an array of other publications and education programs to support you.

Also, be sure to take a peek inside the Learning System by watching this short video, which highlights the special features of the Learning System. Then check out the Learning System infographic below to find out who is using the Learning System and the impact it has on passing the CPLP Knowledge Exam. 

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Please contact me if you have questions or need more information about CPLP preparation.

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