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What really works for a candidate to ensure passing any ASQ certification exam?

There are numerous questions about the exams from those interested to obtain one of these certifications. Sometimes there are questions from the candidates who do not make it through the examinations on the legitimacy of the examinations. To be specific: how these exams are developed, and how the pass/fail point is determined. This article is meant for all those who are interested to know about the development and evaluation of ASQ certification exams and how to increase your success rate in any such certification examination.

About ASQ certification exams in general

ASQ certification examinations are different from any typical university or college examination on a subject. They are designed to test an individual's knowledge of a given body of knowledge to judge whether a certificate could be awarded to that individual in that specific category of certified quality professionals. These exams are not all that complex but are unique in the following:

a) The body of knowledge for ASQ exams (like CQE) covers a wide variety of topics that are drawn from several text books, and there is no prescribed course, even though there are many agencies that offer courses.
In the case of a typical university subject exam, the volume of topics covered is much more focused, and there is a prescribed course at the university with term exams, exercises, and project work etc., that build clarity of concepts and knowledge of applying those concepts through problem solving exercises and discussions in the class and among classmates. The fact that this type of prescribed learning is typically not available for ASQ examinations makes the examinations a bit tough for many candidates.

b) Exam questions: The questions in the CQE certification exam a re only multiple choice questions and test mostly the conceptual clarity and general applied knowledge of various subjects in the body of knowledge. The majority of these questions really do not require detailed calculations. In fact over the years the number of questions with very complex calculations or time-intensive problem solving has been reduced significantly for the CQE certification exam. This change is largely the result of technological innovation. Up to a few years back the CQE exam was an all day test with two exams of 3 hours each (forenoon and afternoon) and candidates had to do complex calculations.

c) The time factor: Many candidates complain that the number of questions in ASQ examinations and the time allowed to do the exam limit the amount of time you can spend on any question to less than two minutes. Perhaps a better way to look at this challenge is to realize that a quality practitioner is quite experienced with a variety of quality tools and techniques and is able to remember those quality concepts including the nuances of applications of these concepts and thus is able to answer many of the certification examination questions in less than a minute. Of course some of the more complex questions may take as much as 5 minutes or more to calculate or to make up your mind in choosing, which of the options is the best fit when faced with choices that are quite close. It is important to remember that the calculated amount of time per question is only a mean, and, as any quality professional can tell you, that figure doesn’t factor in the range or variation from the mean.
d) Criteria for registering for an ASQ exam: A candidate registering for any ASQ certification exam is required to have a combination of educational qualification and practical experience in the field of quality.

What really works for a candidate to ensure passing any ASQ certification exam?

Please note that points described below are my own personal recommendations on how to prepare to take and pass an ASQ exam. This is also based on my experience and the experience of others who shared them with me.

a) Go through the body of knowledge booklet for the exam and get an idea of the topics.

b) Identify your strength and weakness in terms of your depth of knowledge of the topic areas and check how comfortable you are answering some of the sample questions.

c) Prepare for the exam by using a combination of the following (depending on your background and knowledge comfort level):

(i) Self study using CQE primer, reference books from the CQE bibliography etc. The CQE primer developed by the Quality Council of Indiana presents over 600 pages of subject material collected from several books. This primer also contains a collection of 600 sample questions and answers that could be used as practice exams. (Note that that these primers are not developed by ASQ or in collaboration with ASQ; but they published by private companies.) Reference books from the Body of Knowledge (BOK) booklet for each certification (or through certification website) offer much more in-depth review of specific subject areas. After reviewing the body of knowledge booklet, the candidate will know which areas of the BOK are challenging. It is well worth the investment to acquire specific textbooks for these areas, because no primer or refresher course will give the necessary depth of understanding possible through these sources. A good reference book is also a good investment.

(ii) Taking college/university courses: For candidates who find complex some topic areas (such as reliability engineering, or design of experiments) too tough to understand by self study, it is good to try some specific courses on that topic. Community colleges do have a number of such courses on many topics. The need for such courses would depend on your background and expertise. For candidates with good academic background and familiarity with statistical tools, this need would be very minimal. However, keep in mind that by passing a set of these college courses you cannot expect to just walk through the ASQ certification exams. These courses really help to a large extent. But coursework alone is not sufficient.

(iii) Using Practice exams: Using mock exams in the form of sample questions from various sources (primers, ASQ information bulletin, refresher course material, etc.) is a good way of exercising your brain and making it sharper for the actual the exam. Through several such mock exams it is also possible to identify common mistakes that you may make and develop strategies to guard against them during the actual exam.

(iv) Taking preparation courses: There are a few refresher courses offered by senior quality professionals or colleges. Once you have completed the general preparation, it is a good idea to join any of the refresher courses to get a sound, overall review and opportunity for discussion on some of the more typical questions that are likely to show up on the exam. Many of the refresher courses offer tips on formulas, definitions, etc., and can be quite helpful to increase your confidence on tools that you don't use everyday in your work.

Ontario College of Technology has been providing ASQ exam preparation courses for many years. What it provides is more than just a refresh course before the exam, but a comprehensive and in-depth coverage of each and every topic required by the Body of Knowledge. The results, the exam passing rate and graduate employment rate, are miracle. For more information, please contact

Ontario College of Technology
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