Yesterday I talked a little about why the concept of a Certified Information Professional is important to making Information Management a real profession and the gap that it is aiming to fill. Today I want to talk about the exam itself and whether or not it is a good measurement tool.
I’m not going to bore you with all the details on how the exam was prepared by outside experts or any of that. While important, that isn’t a true measure. I think the true measure is the opinions of the battle-scarred veterans of the Information wars. Being one, I offer my opinion here to start building a consensus.
I’m telling you right now, my approach should not be replicated by anyone who actually wants to pass the first time. I went in cold. No studying on the AIIM website, and there is plenty to study. All I did was sign-up, look at the topics covered, and take the exam.
The reason was that I wanted to see how it measured my experience as an information professional. I was pretty confident that if I studied that I would pass. What I wouldn’t learn is how much I know because of my experience and how much of the score was due to studying. I was trying to measure the exam, not just pass.
Looking at the topics was both a blessing and a curse. It was good to look at them and think on what I knew about each topic and how it was all inter-related. It was bad because I looked at some topics and knew that while familiar with the topic, I just knew high-level information.
Another thing I noticed is that the exam isn’t a percentage score. Like a section of the SATs, the top score is 800. Unlike the SATs, there is a minimum score to pass, 560 in this case. This leaves me with no way to even begin to gauge how I am doing on the exam.
Which is good and bad.
As I sat down for the exam, it was all very confortable. I’ve taken many certs (the Microsoft Solution Developer has consumed most of my exam money) in the past and the whole process was familiar. I then started the exam and was immediately concerned.
Some questions had one answer. Some had multiple. While it was very clear how many items I had to select, it made determining how I was doing impossible. I quickly guessed, maybe incorrectly, that you could get partial credit for the questions with multiple answers.
It also meant that selecting the correct answer as a whole was that much harder. There were many questions where one was obvious but the others seemed uncertain.
This basically ruined any possible enjoyment from the exam. I would hit a series of questions where I wouldn’t feel confident and then I would get a Content Management or eDiscovery question to pick up my spirits. Of course a quick question on Master Data Management would squash that burst of enthusiasm.
By the time I finished the 100 questions, I had no idea how I had done. There were 2-3 questions that were outright guesses and there were a large number that had been carefully answered with logic because I didn’t definitively know.
I figured I had broken 500 and definitely not gotten an 800, but anything beyond that was open to speculation. As 560 was needed for passing, I was a tad nervous when I hit the button to conclude the exam.
Obviously I passed. I said so yesterday and you can bet your bottom dollar that I wouldn’t be talking about it if I hadn’t passed. While I’m not going to share my score, I will say that I didn’t squeak by with a sub-600 score. I figure that once you get above 600 that the luck factor is pretty much gone and that there is some knowledge guiding your selections.
This exam, even though I passed, was hard. There were a lot of terms, concepts, and best practices that while I use in practice, I don’t always use the same semantics.
The “easy” questions were the ones in domains that I had the most experience. As easy as those questions were to me, I know that there are people who will take this exam who will think the questions I considered easy to be hard. This should also work in reverse.
It is this realization that makes me think that the exam has real validity. If all the questions were hard and vague, or there were randomly dispersed easy questions, that would be a concern. The challenges I had were exactly the ones I expected to have when I entered.
Seriously though, I’ll tell you right now that if I meet another one, I know that either they did a LOT of studying or have a lot of battle scars. Likely both. Just studying will be hard if you don’t have experience. The topics are so broad that covering each in enough detail to be sure you will pass will be a challenge.
Is the exam perfect? No, but no exams are perfect. It is a version 1.0 as well. The exam does meet its purpose though. The the exam will evolve over time as the role of the Information Professional evolves and our codification of the body of knowledge continues.
The thing that I think gives this certification real legs is the Continuing Education component. Taking another page from the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, to maintain your status, you have to keep learning. You have the option to just retake the exam every three years, but continuing education is both cheaper and easier on your blood pressure.
This means that in four years, if I am still certified, you will know that I have at least been active in the space, continuing my education.
It really comes down to this. Would I give preferential consideration to someone with their CIP versus someone without it? If it is for a non-developer role, definitely. Would I require it? In a few years, after the certification has been disseminated, I will absolutely require it of my Project Managers, Functional Leads, and Architects.
I will also start telling people now that if they want to move from the tactical/technical roles to the positions that are involved in the strategic and design decisions, then preparing for the CIP will help them begin that journey.