CPLP: The Exam Itself

Monday, September 8, 2014

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on understanding how CPLP can boost your career.

Not everyone is good at taking tests. The CPLP credentialing team realized this when they designed the program. When I delved into what it would take to earn my Certified Professional in Learning and Performance designation, I was impressed. Please note that impressing me is not an easy task. Things that impress me include Alaskan glaciers, the Aurora Borealis, and my husband.

The credentialing team also put a lot of thought into what was required to pass. While I can only speculate, the team must have looked at other types of designations, including PHR and PMP, to see what their pass/fail rate was. They probably looked at how many people were getting the certifications and how fast.

The credentialing team understood there had to be a delicate balance between making the credential hard enough to give the CPLP value, but not so easy that anyone could achieve it. The CPLP experience is not designed to be a training tool. There is no debrief if you fail so you can learn from your mistakes. You don’t get a copy of your incorrect questions. It is pass or fail. End of story.

Luckily, I am a good test taker. I knew if I studied long and hard enough, I would pass. However, the work product eluded me. So I decided not to concern myself too much with that; I wouldn't need to if I didn't pass the exam. At the time I was living in Fort Myers, Florida, and was isolated. I couldn’t find any virtual study groups and my local ASTD chapter was small and in a state of flux. If there had been people to study with, I would have.

I embarked on learning all 1,400 pages of the ATD Learning System, and also read an additional 118 articles and four books. Once, I even called in sick to study because I was on a roll. I had my family quiz me every waking moment, wrote an allegory for Gagne's Nine Events, and created countless mnemonics.

There was one thing I was missing though: a study plan. I just kept absorbing material, piling it on, and never felt ready enough. It would be the most important exam I ever took and I wanted to pass the first time. Plus, I would have to travel to Miami to take the exam. Fort Myers didn't have a testing center where I could take it!


Eventually, I hit information overload and couldn't tell what was important and what wasn't. I became too granular and distracted. I skipped the first testing window I aimed for. I wasn't ready. I couldn't remember Kirkpatrick's Levels of Evaluation in order. My math was off when conducting ROI. How many of Gardener's multiple intelligences would I see on the exam? So I stopped. I completely ceased all reading, reciting, and practicing questions. After studying for two months, I took a breather. No studying for three weeks.

Stopping was a good idea. Now it was time for reflection. I began to look at everything around me—at how it was made—and wondered, how did the person who assembled/made/designed/created this learn how to do it? Then, very much like Prezi, my world zoomed out and everything came into focus. Everything fell into place. Everything made sense.

I got it.

Then it was just a matter of booking a hotel room in Miami, registering for the exam, and paying for everything. I was ready. The drive to Miami was excruciating, but I knew I wouldn’t be late to the exam if I arrived the day before. I checked into the hotel as early as possible and took practice quizzes the rest of the day. I was confident.


Alas, my confidence almost cost me my exam slot. After all that planning, I didn’t know that CompUSA had moved their testing center, and I barely made it in time to the other facility in time to take the exam. Looking back it is kind of funny. Wait, I change my mind. It’s not funny; it’s horrifying. I didn’t need that sort of pressure when I was already hyped up about the exam. The CompUSA people were great, though, and I managed to get where I needed to be on time.

I took the exam and was gratified I had spent so much time studying. The questions were not foreign to me, which was not surprising, and I completed the exam with eight minutes to spare. Before I hit the submit button, I took the exam backward (starting at 150 and going back to one). It was good thing I did—I caught three wrong answers. The difference between the words “tacit” and “explicit” barely escaped me. Once I clicked submit, my score appeared.

Needless to say, I passed. I left the facility, walked to my car, put my head down on the steering wheel, and cried.

Learn more about the CPLP Certification. Read Lara's first blog post, "CPLP: The Certificate Itself."

About the Author

Lara Loucks is a talent development professional and author with more than 20 years of experience. Currently, she serves as the director of training and development for the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union and is the owner of SkillzNow. Lara also serves as the VP of professional development, ATDSFL Chapter. Her expertise includes managing the training function and organizational knowledge, developing and delivering training programs, improving human performance and coaching, career planning and talent management, measuring and evaluating, and facilitating organizational change through effective project management. She holds the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance and Competent Communicator designations, as well as a master’s degree in business administration. 

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