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ATD Blog

My Journey to Earn a CPLP


Thu Jun 21 2018

My Journey to Earn a CPLP

I first heard of the CPLP in 2014, when I attended the ATD International Conference & EXPO in Washington, D.C. The huge conference shocked me—more than 10,000 participants in the fields of training, education, and talent development from around the world. On the last day, when the board of directors asked all people who had newly earned the CPLP to stand up and accept everyone’s congratulations, that sense of honor strongly impressed me.

In the end of 2015, ATD China brought the CPLP to China. I attended the preparation workshop for CPLP and learned more about the credential. After the workshop, I didn’t have very much confidence to take the exam because I knew it was big challenge for me and I had to put in all my effort. But I wanted to try.


I waited until the early summer of 2016, when I talked with another two colleagues who were interested in the CPLP. We formed a CPLP learning group. I registered to take the knowledge exam in November 2016. The learning group didn’t last, due to busy work schedules and my companion’s personal reasons. Finally, I had to prepare alone. I designed a personal study plan for the due date. However, I just read and looked through the learning content (a thousand pages) one time before I took the knowledge examination. I didn’t pass, but the test result gave me a little comfort because the final score didn’t show quite as big gap from the passing score as I’d feared. I learned several lessons.

1. It was really necessary to make time to review the learning content two or three times. After all, the CPLP covers 10 areas of expertise (AOEs), but those who work in the training function usually acquire experience in just two or three areas. Plus, the CPLP learning system contains a lot of theoretical and essential knowledge; one time is not enough to remember and understand such a wide range of knowledge.

2. To make sure I learned all the content, a personalized study plan was important. I had to implement it carefully to make sure I was truly ready for the exam and wouldn’t waste my test fee.

3. The initial score partly depended on my working experience and existing knowledge, so it was understandable why one of the requirements is five years of work experience in the TD profession.

With this experience, I put myself into the preparation for the knowledge exam again.


In January 2017, I took the knowledge exam a second time, and this time I succeeded. It gave me more confidence to take the skill application exam (SAE) in March. Because my past experience is curriculum development and I had decided to make instructional design my future specialty, I focused on the instructional design chapter. I used the SAE practice exam, which includes two case studies, downloaded from the ATD website. Looking back at that practice exam, there were three valuable lessons there that I missed.

1. Exam time: The real SAE consists of four case studies. Each case study provides diverse material including background, interviews, analysis, reports, a training program introduction or solution, and so on. It takes time to read over and understand all the content. That information is related to whether you can answer the questions correctly; meanwhile, you also need to accurately understand the questions, and that takes time as well.

2. Difficulty of exam: The practice exam usually is easier compared to the real exam. I looked at the result of my practice exam and overestimated my ability to tackle the SAE.

3. English language skills: I realized that it was very important to have good English skills in order to understand the case studies and allocate my time well for them.

During the three hours of the real SAE, I spent a long time on the first and second case studies, and some questions were more difficult than I thought. Those first two case studies took more than half of the exam time; then I hastily read the third and fourth case studies and, under the circumstances, didn’t fully understand the questions. At the last second, I finished the last answer, and the exam was automatically submitted. I knew I was unable to pass the SAE.


After that, I told myself I should smartly allocate the time to every case study during the exam. I took the retest in July 2017. In my second SAE, my time allocation was better than last time but some answers were ambiguous. I thought if I had one more chance, I would do better. The second failure struck me, but stimulated my desire to pass the SAE. I registered for the SAE in December. I picked up the CPLP learning system and read over the instructional design chapter. Another long wait, and then I received the good message: I had finally passed the SAE.

The CPLP is not just a title or certificate. It is a process. I refreshed my own personal knowledge system. No matter how long I had worked in the TD profession, or how deeply I had worked in a certain arena, it drove me to jump out my comfort zone and expand my view and my knowledge to 10 areas of expertise; it leveled up my comprehension on what I am working on.

CPLP is not a perpetual endorsement of who I am in the TD profession. It just examined what I learned and acquired; it doesn't prove my future expertise. But it gave me plenty of knowledge, valuable insights, and the personal confidence to tackle all kinds of learning requirements going forward.

I hope everyone who is struggling with whether to take the exams for the CPLP will step forward and take action. It will be worth to experience the journey in your professional career.

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