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How to Become a CPLP Rock Star


Wed Aug 12 2015

How to Become a CPLP Rock Star

My CPLP journey began when I attended ATD’s  2014 International Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C. The conference was amazing! I was surrounded by more than 9,000 training and development professionals just like me. There was one group, however, that clearly stood out from this assembly of awesome professionals: the Certified Professionals in Learning and Performance (CPLPs). Through their certification journey, they had distinguished themselves as the leaders of the pack. To me, they were rock stars, and I wanted to be just like them.

Lesson 1: Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into


I had a high-level understanding of the requirements for the CPLP certification: I knew that I had to pass a Knowledge Exam and submit a Work Product. For some reason, I thought the Work Product would be a piece of cake because I’ve been designing training programs for more than 10 years. I decided to focus on the Knowledge Exam first and then focus on the Work Product once I’d passed the test. This was a huge mistake, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Lesson 2: Practice, Practice, Practice

I took the CPLP practice test to get a baseline of my knowledge. I then purchased the ATD Learning System. This cohesive, 800-page document was amazing! It pulled together all of our profession’s best practices.

I studied after work every day. I would then share what I’d learned with my co-workers the next day to solidify my knowledge. My team felt as if they were learning everything with me.

Lesson 3: Unlearn What You Have Learned


Over the years, I’ve tended to cut corners and not follow best practices, usually because of time constraints. Sure, I knew how to do things the right way, but how often did I follow the best practices as presented in the ATD Learning System? My shortcuts were a way around what I knew, so I needed to start recognizing how things should be done instead of how I currently do them. This new mindset helped me see new pieces of information that I’d missed, and certain concepts started to make more sense.

Lesson 4: Relax, You Got This!

Exam day arrived. I got enough sleep, woke up early, ate breakfast, and left for the testing facility an hour early. The first 20 or so questions were probably the most difficult for me. I doubted myself, and I was unsure about the answers I was selecting.

But there came a point in the test when I told myself to relax. I studied, I prepared, and I knew my stuff! I just needed to be more confident. After that internal pep talk, I thought my answers were on point. I finished the exam with 20 minutes left and clicked the “End Test” button.

Then there were survey questions! It’s so hard to complete a survey before getting your results. The results were a little difficult to read, but I finally found the word pass on the screen.


I was relieved and elated. All of my studying had paid off, and I’d passed one of the most difficult tests of my life.

Lesson 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Scratch

When I finally got around to reviewing the criteria for the Work Product, I freaked out! I didn’t have a Work Product that successfully demonstrated my instructional design skills in accordance with the criteria. What was I going to do? I had just worked so hard on the Knowledge Exam and another challenge seemed daunting.

It was late November, and I had to submit the work product by mid-February. My only option seemed to be starting a new project from scratch. Fortunately, we were having a learning conference in January, and I had an opportunity to design a training course for this audience.

Lesson 6: Follow the Criteria

I carefully followed the criteria for each step. No shortcuts! I made sure that I performed each step to at least a 3 standard, with 4s and 5s whenever possible. My team was amazing. They supported me the entire way. I could never have completed the Work Product in this timeframe without their hard work. It was a true collaboration throughout the entire project, and we were all following best practices.

The experience was also a wake-up call for our team. We needed to raise our standards of performance to make sure that we were always following best practices, not just for this project. Moving forward, we wanted to look at each project as a potential Work Product for the future.

Lesson 7: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

After submitting the Work Product, the waiting game began. I’ve never checked my email so often in my life. My heart was pounding like crazy when the results arrived. It took a while to sift through the email to find that I had successfully passed the Work Product. I actually cried tears of joy because I’d finally done it. I’d put myself out there. I’d demonstrated my knowledge and skills. I’d completed my CPLP journey. I was a CPLP rock star!

Lesson 8: Rock Stars Pay It Forward

Since passing, I now have more confidence in my role. I stopped taking shortcuts, and I changed the way my entire team works. I’ve assisted other CPLP candidates in preparing for the Knowledge Exam and Work Product. It is with great pride that I can now share this experience with others in the hope of helping them on their journeys. 

Learn more about the CPLP Certification.

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