9 Tips for Earning Your CPLP

Thursday, April 6, 2017

In 2014 I decided that I wanted to obtain a credential that acknowledged my background in organization development and learning. As a long-standing member of ATD, I was familiar with the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification. I really liked that in addition to traditional training, the comprehensive areas of expertise also included change management, coaching, integrated talent management, and performance improvement.

So, in February 2015 I decided to pursue CPLP certification. However, my busy personal and professional life made it difficult to devote time to studying. Before I knew it, the May testing window was about to open, and I knew I wasn’t prepared to take the exam.

Fortunately, I was able to reschedule my test for September, which gave me time to study over the summer when my personal and professional was less hectic. This time around, I decided to create a study plan to review material in the early mornings while there were less distractions and I could focus on one thing.

The exam was very comprehensive—to pass you need to know the material and how to apply it. Between my real world experience and the study materials I had used to prepare for the test, I felt very confident when answering the exam questions. I submitted my Work Product in February 2016, and subsequently earned my certification. While it was challenging to find time to study as a working professional, I found the overall process worthwhile.


I recommend that anyone seeking their CPLP certification should take the time to think about why they want it and whether they have sufficient broad-based experience in the field. Here are some tips for earning your CPLP certification:

  1. Research the material on the ATD website. There is a dedicated section for the CPLP that includes everything you need to know about the process. 
  2. Carefully select a timeframe based on what works best for you. Be realistic. 
  3. Consider your preferred learning style and work/life commitments. I prefer to learn in small groups, but because I was working full time (and then some) I was unable to devote any time to meeting with a group. So, I adapted my learning style to fit my needs. 
  4. Take the practice test for the Knowledge Exam to get a sense of where you need to focus. I learned that I need to improve in some areas I considered strengths. Conversely, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were many areas in which I knew more than I thought I did. 
  5. Read (and re-read) the Learning System material. It is very well written, and offers informative references and a glossary with definitions. I still use the material in my day-to-day work. 
  6. Take the Learning System chapter quizzes and refocus where needed. 
  7. Create your own learning tools. For example, I used flash cards to study once I learned the material.  
  8. While I didn’t register for the online preparation course, in hindsight I would recommend it. If you can find a study group, join one. 
  9. Start preparing for the Skills Application Exam (SAE) as soon as you’ve passed the knowledge exam. Use the practice exams and study guide found online.

Looking back, I am so glad I took this step in my professional development. I often focus on developing others, and now I have something tangible to show the depth of my knowledge and practical experience. Earning the CPLP certification has been life changing because it validates what I know and do for a living. Because organization development and learning is my passion and life’s work, including those initials behind my name really means something to me. I enjoy it when people ask me what CPLP stands for because it gives me a chance to talk about our field. Increasingly professional certifications set people apart, and this is one definitely worth having.

Learn more about the CPLP Certification.

About the Author

Tammy Neale has a breadth of experience in organization development and learning, succession management, leadership development, and employee engagement. She is the chief learning officer and managing director of organizational development and learning for the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA). As part of the executive leadership team, she has been instrumental in helping VHDA attract, retain, and grow leaders. After going through her own authentic leadership journey, she now enjoys coaching others on how to accomplish organizational, professional, and personal goals. Tammy is a graduate of the University of Richmond and is certified in Emotional Intelligence and Myers Briggs, which she incorporates into her work with others. She is also a Results Trained Coach through the NeuroLeadership Institute, enabling her to bring a brain-science aspect to coaching. After several years of managing learning programs, she earned the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance  credential in the spring of 2016 and is currently pursuing an accredited coaching certification with the International Coach Federation. Tammy’s passion is helping people be their best self. She believes that employees who have a strong sense of self awareness and management of themselves can help organizations reach their fullest potential.

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