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ATD Blog

10 Strategies I Used to Successfully Complete My CPLP Journey

Thursday, February 15, 2018

For the past 30 years, I have been a member of the training and development community. During that time, I’ve witnessed an ongoing evolution in the industry. Staying current with learning trends involves not just learning new technical tools, but also applying these tools effectively based on the science of learning and performance. While my undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science and technical communication, respectively, have been great credentials, I began to realize that earning the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification would help me distinguish myself even more. I decided to make it a personal goal in 2017.

When I first began pursuing my CPLP certification, I purchased the ATD Learning System, which lays out the 10 key areas of expertise (AOE) to learn. While all the required information is contained in the Learning System, I needed a way to navigate through the 1,000 pages of information, so I signed up for the ATD workshop in the spring. The online workshop suited my busy schedule; I looked forward to the weekly sessions in which our instructor summarized the week’s topics and facilitated discussions and learning exercises within our groups. As I began the ATD online workshop, I studied at least an hour each day, with the goal of taking the exam in the summer. This strategy helped me successfully complete the Knowledge Exam. Then, I immediately set about studying for the second exam, which is the more challenging Skills Application Exam (SAE).

As I began to prepare for the SAE, I discovered that my local ATD chapter in Raleigh did not have a study group, so I was on my own. The most difficult challenge of the exam for me was the multiple-answer questions, because all answers must be correct. I needed to know my topic thoroughly, so I read the instructional design section of the Learning System multiple times and continued to retest myself with the available questions. In addition to thoroughly knowing the content, I devised the following 10 study and test-taking strategies:

5 Study Tips

1. Review all questions and answers in the Learning System multiple times.

2. Listen to webcasts on the ATD site to see new ways to apply the methodology.

3. Take advantage of ATD membership and read articles about your SAE topic.

4. Create a study guide and use sites such as Quizlet to test yourself.


5. Join the LinkedIn CPLP Candidate Group to get tips and support from others seeking the certification.

5 Test-Taking Tips

1. Determine the theme of each of the multiple-answer questions so that all answers fall under the same theme. For example, if the question is about motivating learners, the answers will relate to the four foundational principles that motivate adults to learn.

2. Answer multiple answer questions by selecting your answers from the bottom up.

3. Read the questions and answers very carefully to find subtle clues to answers within the questions.


4. Try to answer all the questions as you go, because the timed exam with the case studies can go quickly.

5. Go with your first instinct when choosing your answers, because that is typically correct.

These 10 study and test-taking strategies, as well as the online workshop, really helped me successfully complete the SAE on my first attempt in September.

After successfully completing my CPLP certification, I was immediately able to apply my knowledge by devising an assessment template based on Bloom’s Taxonomy for a new learning program in my company. While I am thrilled to have received my CPLP certification, I know the journey does not end here. I am happy to be a part of the ATD CPLP community and share my lessons with others, as well as continue to learn from all of ATD’s resources.

About the Author

Eva Hamburger resides in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is currently an instructional designer and program manager at Cisco. Eva has an undergraduate degree in computer science and a master’s degree in technical communication from the University of Michigan, and 30 years of experience in learning and development.

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Thank you for those effective tips, Eva. I am about to start my preparation for the SAE(yes! I cleared my Knowledge exam) and this serves very useful!
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Thanks Eva
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Great strategy and advice Eva. I am very interested in becoming CPLP certified. My hurdle has to do with time management considering the numerous activities I am involved in. You said you developed a study guide. Do you care to share some more on this? Thanks for sharing.
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