So, you’ve made your list of 2014 goals and at the top is ‘get my certification’ – good for you! But, where and how do you begin the process? Well, you might be tempted to ask a few CMP’s how their journey began and, as the saying goes, ask five people the same question and you’ll most likely get five different answers, each unique and different from the other. That alone might leave you scratching your head a bit and considering moving this goal from 2014 to some other year in the distant future, but don’t give up just yet! Your quest for knowledge has only just begun, and to help you on this journey we’re outlining a basic path for anyone still in the ‘wonder if I could do it?’ stage. So, here goes:
2. Back to the ‘wonder if I could do it’ part... this is really quite easy to answer. Return to that CIC website listed above and download the application. This is a personal, stress-free way to determine whether or not you even qualify at this point to sit for the exam. You will see that in each section of the application you are awarded points based on things such as years of industry experience, formal industry education, internships and other qualifications as outlined in the app. Note that these are ‘and/or’ qualifications so you do not need ‘all of the above.’ The purpose of having to qualify at all gives more meaning to the end result - that being becoming a CMP is not just accomplished by cramming with textbooks and lots of caffeine over one very long weekend! Candidates for the exam must demonstrate that they actively work in the industry and therefore have acquired a reasonable sense of understanding of basic industry standards before being allowed to sit for this exam.
3. Once you have applied and been accepted to sit for the exam, you have a one year window in which you can take the test before having to reapply. Before that precious year passes, now would be a good time to download other valuable information that can also be found on the CIC website. Things such as the CMP Handbook (a 35 page guide to everything you need to know about becoming a CMP), as well as International Standard Guidelines and articles from the APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) area will be extremely helpful to you as you begin your quest to become certified.
4. Next comes the ‘preparation’ part. Remember when we mentioned above that this is not an exam that you can just cram for the day before? Well, best that you acknowledge that much right now and take the time to map out a game plan leading up to whatever test date you have set in your mind. Most people purchase the reference books and study materials right away, and many are fortunate to live in areas where there are CMP study groups to join. In these groups, you will find stimulating peer discussions and a shared learning environment that makes studying more achievable. This, along with the ability to network with industry professionals living in real time with the same crazy-busy schedules as you, makes joining a CMP study group a great asset for most. If group studying is not your thing try an online course or chart your path to studying in your own personal style and time; just make sure to cover the standards of each domain included in the test as outlined in the CMP International Standards, referenced above.
5. TEST TIME! Most study groups work from sample test questions and will also provide sample testing at the end of their courses. Don’t worry that you’re missing out on this element if you’re studying on your own as there are both questions and a sample test available on the CIC website; make sure to take advantage of those in preparation for ‘the big day.’ (See, we told you that website was full of invaluable information, right?)
Beyond the basic steps outlined above, the rest of the story about the CMP journey is that it’s not exactly inexpensive. Between the application fees, purchase of study/reference materials and the actual exam fee itself the price is approaching (gulp) $1,000. Joining a study group also requires a fee although those vary from group to group, state to state. But when you think of the CMP in terms of your MBA in meeting management, it could also be viewed as a priceless experience, right?
Author’s Personal Journey Note
The CMP was established in 1985, and, at the risk of sounding well, ‘old’ (ahem), I’m very proud to have earned my certification in the beginning years, based on the body of knowledge I earned through my real-life industry working experiences, and before there were reference manuals and study groups! Since then, I have created and taught one of the first CMP study courses in Florida, proctored many CMP exams, chaired and participated in APEX committees, authored industry articles promoting the CMP, attended CMP Enclaves, and been a vigilant cheerleader for the CMP program. As a side note, my father was also quite pleased that I chose this path instead of the much more expensive hotel MBA program I was considering at the time, but that’s another story…