Studying, laptop

5 Steps to Earning CPLP Certification

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

My company's performance program has two tracks—one to meet business objectives and one to meet individual development objectives. My supervisor earned the CPLP many years ago, and in the fall of 2017 suggested that I might want to earn the certificate as part of my individual development in 2018. Now, a year later, I am happy to say I just hung my CPLP certificate on the wall. It was a major achievement that required planning and dedication. I'll share the steps I took, hoping it will help you as you pursue the CPLP.

1. Educate yourself.

I read everything on ATD's website about the CPLP to determine if earning the certificate would be good for my individual development. Once I decided it was the right thing to do, I read everything again to ensure I could talk about the CPLP with others and to know exactly what I had to do to earn it. One of the resources I found to be invaluable was the CPLP Handbook. Among many things, it helped me realize that if I registered for the CPLP in January and passed the Knowledge Exam and Skills Application Exam on my first attempt, I could earn the certificate in six months. This appealed to me because I didn't want to take too long to earn the CPLP, and I didn't want to be studying indoors in the summer when the weather would be nice.

2. Develop a business case.

When I told my supervisor I wanted to earn the CPLP certificate as part of my individual development plan, he let me know there was potential for my company to assist me with the costs. Through initial conversations with senior management, I was asked to submit a business case to be approved for financial support. While I was not asked to present the case formally, being reimbursed for the costs meant a lot to me. I worked over a few evenings and referred to the CPLP introduction and handbook to write a case that introduced ATD, the CPLP, facts about CPLP holders, and costs. I also described how earning the certificate would specifically impact the work I do for my department, how it would develop me as a professional, and how it would benefit my company long-term. I created my business case in a Word document and added the ATD Competency Model as a supporting graphic. Senior management approved of me earning the certificate and my company reimbursing costs for the exams and Learning System, so I added earning the CPLP as a goal on my development plan and waited for the first of the year to enroll.

3. Enroll.

I applied for CPLP eligibility on January 1. The next day, ATD notified me that I was eligible, so I immediately registered for the Knowledge Exam on the last date possible in the first exam window. I knew doing this would give me 12 weeks to study for the first exam.

4. Study.

Before I started studying, I took the CPLP practice test to identify which areas I would need to spend the most time on. Then, I downloaded the CPLP Learning System. It's a great electronic organizer, but I like to study with paper and a highlighter, so I printed the 11 chapters, which cover the 10 areas of expertise (AOEs) and the global mindset competency. Since I had 12 weeks before my first exam, I planned to read and study one chapter every weekend and have the final weekend to study all topics. I like to study alone, at my pace, so I did not try studying with groups. However, my supervisor shared index cards he had created when he studied for the CPLP certificate. I created a few more cards to go with the ones he shared and used them to test what I was able to recall. After I completed the Knowledge Exam, I had eight weeks before the Skills Application Exam. Since I had read about and studied all of the topics at that point, I chose to study every other weekend and focus the most on my AOE.

5. Take the tests.

As I studied from the CPLP Learning System, I completed all chapter quizzes and case studies, which was a good way for me to simulate taking the actual exams. The day before each exam, I ate right, went to bed earlier, and set out what I needed to take with me to the testing center. On the days of the exams, I wore comfortable clothes and gave myself extra time to drive to the testing center. When I took the tests, if I was not sure about an answer to a question, I answered based on my gut response, flagged the question so I could revisit it if time permitted, and moved on. I'm glad I did this, because you need time to read the question and options; you cannot hesitate too long or you risk not being able to answer all questions, which can affect your ability to pass.


As I look back, earning the CPLP was a lot of work, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy; but in the end I'm glad I made the decision to set this goal for myself. Along the way, I recalled information that I had not focused on in the last few years, I learned new information, and I began applying some of the concepts at work. Earning the certificate has brought about a great sense of accomplishment and confidence. It's a goal I would highly encourage others to achieve.

Learn more about earning the CPLP.

About the Author
Teresa Hughes is an instructional designer and learning design specialist who is passionate about helping employees improve their performance so they are more satisfied in the workplace.

With 20 years of experience in her role, Teresa knows training is only one of many solutions for improving employee performance. However, she was immediately drawn to and remains committed to training because she enjoys developing resources that help others learn new knowledge and skills that impact their life and the lives of others.

Teresa has designed and developed classroom and web-based training that has reached thousands of employees. Her greatest contributions have been developing courses for the automotive and pharmaceutical industries that teach concepts that affect public health and safety.

Teresa holds a master’s degree in training and development from Oakland University.
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