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Swift CPTD Preparation Journey

Published: Saturday, November 21, 2020

I have been thinking about starting my CPTD journey for at least seven years. Always found a reason to push it down the list a little thinking to myself I am too busy with work, no energy to sharpen the saw or can’t really afford it right now. Then the pandemic hit, work vanished, time stretched and the pilot window of the new CPTD test was announced at the same time when my work stopped due to the lockdown and I felt I don’t need more reasons to proceed with booking the test date.  

Why now?

I registered 12 weeks before the exam date giving me less than 11 weeks in total to prepare. My APTD recertification deadline was approaching and I just thought to myself “wouldn’t it be amazing if I could upgrade to CPTD”. I have to admit the thrill of the pilot test also got to me. I registered for the test and booked a date at the very end of the testing window then sat there just staring at the screen with the test information feeling completely lost and unable to decide what I should do next. Then it hit me, what is better to identify where do I stand from the industry standards than the ATD Capability Model self assessment tool. Yes the exam preparation materials has a gap assessment tool but since I already did the capability model one few months earlier I thought it was more holistic and not focused on the exam. My first step was opening the exam content sheet and cross check it to the self assessment report then I highlighted the weakest 5 areas where the score was less than 40%. This 10 minute activity gave me a very clear idea of what I should start with and how much time I should be spending on each area. 

Next step was arranging the studying material. There are so many amazing resources out there and I fell in the trap of thinking I need to “study” every word. Then I quickly realized it is not about studying, this is a practice and experience exam hence I should treat the material as a resource to expand exposure. 

Preparation Resources 

When it comes to planning I can be a mess which is something I am not very proud of. I got the on demand preparation course and that was an amazing resource to help me organize my time and thinking process. The main advantages of this course are: 

  • The Chungking: the content is presented as easy to grasp chunks in a well-organized structure that gave me a sense of progression without any boredom since the media is so diverse between text, podcasts, videos, infographics, discussions and many others. All of this made it the most engaging asynchronous course I have ever experienced. 
  • Practice questions: the course offer hundreds of questions that are used for pre and post assessment as well as a full practice test. These in my opinion were the main reason I managed to get into the “exam mode” and practiced reading and comprehending questions quickly while finding the best test-taking tricks that work for me. Of course, none of these questions will show up in the test but they were still an excellent resource to practice exam-taking skills.
  • Key point’s sheets in the wrap up section of each area were an interesting resource. I downloaded them all and used them as my pre-test day cheat sheet where a quick glimpse would just remind me of an entire topic. 
  • Access to the needed part of the TDBoK is provided as well at the end of each area, which I read through highlighting the main ideas. 

The other tremendously helpful resource in my opinion was the fact that I was blessed by joining a study group. Although I was never a big believer of study groups, this experience managed to completely change my mindset and I would not be exaggerating if I say that they were the best part of this entire experiences. Certification is all about reaching a benchmark and nothing helps more than hearing the experiences of others and see how different organizations put things in practice. A group of diverse talent development professionals with a common goal, meeting once or twice per week to bounce ideas, share resource and answer questions can really take things to the next level. We quickly had some unspoken rules such as coming to a certain person with questions about a certain topic or that we volunteer to explain the parts that we struggle with to the rest of the group as a “teach to learn” practice. I can see this study group turning into a community of practice already. 
I also used a big variety of resources to expand on the topics in which I did not have a lot of experience. Those resources include 

  • The ASTD Handbook, which I have been using like a user manual for talent development. 
  • ATD Foundations of Talent Development book, this one tackles the how and why compared to the what in the TDBoK
  • Talent Management Handbook that gave more depth to some topics especially in the impacting organizational capability section. 
  • Videos; whenever there is a model, a quick search on YouTube would help me understand the basics of these models and see how they could be applied. 

Tips and Tricks 

Few more tricks I had up in my sleeve helped in making the most out of the short preparation window I had while engaging as many senses as possible to achieve accelerated learning. Some of these are:

  • Listening to content; Most phones have the “speak text” option either built in the system or through an app. So, I tried opening the articles from the reading reference lists and get the phone to read the text while I am doing something else like grocery shopping, cooking or at the gym. I am not necessarily 100% focused with what the article is saying but it’s like brain wash, information is stored without me noticing really. Same thing worked with the podcasts that were in the on demand preparation course. I would bookmark them and listen to them later. 
  • Making summaries also helped a lot to make the learning stick especially with the knowledge based bits where we need to familiarize ourselves with models, steps and names. Mind maps are my favorite way of summarizing content. They are visual and easy to grasp which makes them ideal for a final round of reversion. I also tried the summarizing into 32/16/8 words way which requires deeper understanding in order to identify the key words. 

Congratulations !

“You have passed the Certified Professional in Talent Development™ (CPTD) Exam. You are an CPTD credential holder!”. Best email ever! After going through this experience, I can confidently say it made me a much stronger talent development professional and left me eager to learn more. After finishing the test, I realized I have not been preparing for 10 weeks, I have been preparing for the past 13 years of working in the talent development field and I am honored to be a Certified Professional of Talent Development. 


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Congratulations Aya! This is really inspiring and encouraging particularly the strategy you have shared for creating summaries such as mindmap. I read about the concept of Interleaving in Learning sciences topic. The way I see it I think I can study parts of Learning Sciences and Instructional Design topics together as there is a lot of overlap and common ground. Is this a free resource for all ATD members? - Talent Management Handbook
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Congratulations :)
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Congratulations, Aya! I'm really inspired by your article, and all the practical ways you shared. Thank you for blazing the path, and I look forward to joining you "there' in the adventure of enjoying a successful CPTD adventure.
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