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Credentialed: A CPLP’s Journey

Published: Thursday, August 2, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 02, 2018

“I’m surprised that he is training a class on leadership.  He doesn’t look any older than me.” – participant introducing himself to the class.


This may have been the most audacious thing ever said about me in one of my classes (that I know of... haha).  Funny enough, I was training similar topics when I was 24.  That’s when I started my career as a Training Specialist.  It has become normal for me to stand in front of people who have been in the workforce longer than I’ve been alive.  It’s humbling and sobering, to say the least.  Yet, I had never had a participant say something like that in front of everyone.


Later that day, it came up that I am a CPLP.  I didn’t hype it up or anything – I just mentioned it in passing.  My manager, who was my co-facilitator for the class, interjected, “Don’t let Kyle downplay the significance of the CPLP.  He is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance.  There isn’t a higher credential in our field.”


I watched that guy’s eyebrows do a little jump.  I wish I could have heard his internal dialogue in that moment.


The benefits of the CPLP credential are far reaching.  Obviously, your credibility increases amongst your peers and those in the TD profession.  We get it, because we’re in it.  If you are fortunate enough to have a manager who gets it and lifts his/her team members up into the spotlight, others will get it too.  I am fortunate to work in an environment in which even the head of HR gave me recognition in front of senior management. 


My journey to become a CPLP has been one filled with joy, discipline, and persistence.  I’ll keep it brief and give some advice for those pursuing this credential.  My only caveat is that if you don’t approach developing people with joy, the discipline of study, and strong persistence to achieve goals, the CPLP is likely not for you.


Create a TimeFrame

To begin, I set my first test date about 12 weeks out. I knew that I needed incentive to buckle down and take my studies seriously, so I paid for my materials and test and embarked on the journey with dates chosen. This is much like any normal class for college. You pay up front and don't have a choice when that final test will be.



In retrospect, I would suggest expanding that timeframe, but only under the condition that you are disciplined to stay motivated for a longer period.  Self-study requires substantial intrinsic motivation.  Additionally, if you are not an avid reader of all things TD, you’ll likely need more time to marinate in all the concepts and topics. 


Timeframe: Give yourself 15 weeks


Knowledge Exam: Design a Learning Path

Once I established the date, I designed curriculum for myself. I took the pCPLP Test and checked my score to have a general idea of what I was up against. Then, I assigned a chapter from the ATD Learning System per week to myself and required that I read, highlight, and take the quizzes in every section. Week 1 was Performance Improvement, Week 2 was Instructional Design, and so on. Like I said, I treated this like a college course - I didn't allow myself to waver in this week by week approach.


In my final week, I retook the pCPLP test and EVERY quiz throughout the entire ATD Learning System. This time I noted my problem sections. Any section in which I answered more than 3 or 4 questions wrong, I returned to and reviewed.


Learning Path:

  • Take the pCPLP Test
    • Identify areas in need of significant improvement
  • Spend one week per area of expertise to read and complete the quizzes
  • Retake the pCPLP
    • Identify areas in need of improvement
  • Retake EVERY quiz throughout the entire ATD Learning System
    • Identify areas in need of improvement
    • Note: the purpose is to continue to practice answering the questions. It’s not just about knowing the content; it is also about knowing how to take a test.
  • Review the areas that require improvement
  • Pass the Knowledge Exam

If I could change anything about my approach, it would be to have a meeting with someone once a week to discuss what I am learning.  The absence of making that connection made the process more difficult than it had to be.  I’m good at self-study though, so I could get away with it.


SAE Preparation

Preparing for the second exam was far more difficult.  Honestly, I felt somewhat defeated. How could I prepare for case studies that I’ve never seen?  And, at the time that I was preparing, there were only two case studies for my AOE.  Much like the Knowledge Exam, I recognized that there were two components to taking the exam: 1. Knowing the content, and 2. Knowing how to take the test.  I had read that most people took the entire time provided to complete the Skills Application Exam.  I needed to become proficient in analyzing case studies so that I could respond to questions faster.


The time limit didn’t have significant impact on me.  I’ll say that I would give myself less time if I did it again.  There isn’t much you can read or study for the SAE.  You can either apply your knowledge or you can’t.  Preparation should be spent focused on analyzing case studies.  My approach was to read the case study and take notes.  It helped me absorb more of the content compared to simply reading them thoroughly.  I needed to interact with the cases somehow, so I took notes.  It works!



  • Complete the Sample Exam Cases for your AOE on the ATD site here
  • Complete the other Sample Exam Cases as well
  • Practice analyzing 10-Minute Case Studies here
    • Use the same strategy you intend to use during the Exam


Taking the Exam

When you take your exam, remember that the test questions are designed to make you apply your knowledge somehow.  It is not just a matter of being able to recall the correct fact or principle.  You need the ability to contextualize your knowledge.  There WILL be questions that leave you completely clueless.  Do not allow that to discourage you.  The questions are designed by CPLPs that use all sorts of resources.  Some questions are piloted to determine if they will be kept.  For me, there were sometimes up to 10 consecutive questions that left me confused.  That’s okay.  Answer them and move on.  If you followed a plan like mine, it’s likely that you know the content well.  Press on and remain positive.



Becoming a CPLP is a significant achievement in the life of a Talent Development professional.  Enjoy the process, root yourself in the discipline of study, and be persistent all the way through.  Establish your timeline, create your plan, absorb the content, and develop your test-taking skills.

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Thanks Kyle. Hope this time I must succeed after taking your valuable tips on SAE.
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Thanks Kyle. This is great advice.
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Kyle, thank you for the post. I really enjoyed reading about your journey to your CPLP. I have been considering making this move and focus and this was a great resource.
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