The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters

Are You Ready to Take the C.P.M. Exam?

 You only have a few years left to do so before the exam is discontinued in favor of the CPSM certification. (last day to take the C.P.M. exam is 12/31/2009) I applaud your plan and highly recommend it. Bridging to the new certification will be available so you can always move forward later – but you’ll never be able to go back.

If you are just getting started, here are a few suggestions:

HOLD IT! Don’t look at this list and complain that it is too long or complicated. Taking the test and becoming a C.P.M. is not a walk in the park. If you want easy, become a CPA . You are going to have to call on all of your time management skills and self discipline to get it done. It will take an investment of time on your part – procrastinating is not an option grasshopper.

  1. NOTE: DON’T BUY ANYTHING YET – read these recommendations first before spending money on materials you don’t need or won’t use.
  2. Spend some quality time on the internet with the ISM certification information pages. There are many links to resources, which could be of help and information. I can’t emphasize this enough! Spending enough time getting familiar with this material now, will pay off in the long run. Have a cup of coffee (or tea) and spend some time browsing though all of the information, FAQs, links, resources, etc! Even if you don’t need a specific piece of information now, it’s good to know what’s available when you do want it.
  3. Register for the certification update email newsletter – doesn’t hurt, it’s free and it could help steer you in a useful direction.

  4. Glance through the Credentials Discussion Forum. Get in the habit of regularly reading through the postings. Lot’s of people sharing questions, comments and materials. Yes, used study materials are sometimes for sale!
  5. Always check the discussion forum before purchasing any study materials – someone else may have a used copy available. Negotiate well – these are experienced purchasing people!
  6. Download a copy of the C.P.M. application and review the criteria. Might as well verify all of the requirements at once so you can gather work-experience documentation at the same time you are preparing for the exam.
  7. Place a copy of the application and all of your supporting documentation in one place ( a folder in your desk for example). Get in the habit of keeping any new supporting documentation (continuing education credentials, etc.) in the same place – you will need them to recertify and it’s much easier to gather while you go. When you return from a class or conference, first thing to do is store the credential in this certification folder.
  8. Download a copy of the C.P.M. exam specification. It’s a complete outline of the topics covered by the exam and can be used as a checklist for locating references and studying. I’d suggest printing it and marking it up. Color code the items that you are comfortable with or need to study or need help with. There is also a document referred to as the General Format of the exam. It might be a useful index.
  9. Don’t be daunted by the overall length and complexity of the exam specification. This is generally a full outline of Supply Chain Management topics. It won’t all be on the exam – and this is a very important point: The exam specification and study materials are just general guides. The exam could include anything related to the Supply Chain topics from many different sources. Don’t assume that just by reading a study guide you will be prepared. Current literature, articles, and practices are all part of the exam. If there is a hot issue relating to Supply Chain Management in the news today, it could be on the exam tomorrow.
  10. The exam specification should become your study plan to specific topics. Start with module 1 and review the topical areas listed. Scan through the specific tasks to get a feel for how comfortable you are with the topic. Use this outline as a guide when reviewing articles, books and web sites for information related to the specific topics. The exam specification can also serve as an outline for study groups.
  11. Don’t forget to solicit program information from your local affiliate. Specific exam topics could make useful affiliate program topics. Example: when I was studying for the exam, I knew nothing about hedging (still don’t know much) so I encouraged our affiliate to find a local company to do a program on commodity hedging. Helped me a lot.
  12. Don’t assume you know the topic just because the terminology looks familiar. It may not be your highest priority, but you should verify that what you think you already know is correct. I personally know of one person who failed module 1 of the exam twice, before realizing that he “knew” all the wrong definitions for freight terms. He absolutely ‘knew’ that FOB meant Freight on Board – after failing twice he opened the book and discovered it doesn’t.
  13. Now that you have reviewed the web site and the specification, you can start gathering study materials in a systematic way.
  14. Approach this task like you would a college course. Only a very few special people in the world, could take the C.P.M. exam and pass it without making a concerted effort. Allocate time to read. Join or form a study group. Carry the materials with you so that down time can be productive study time. Remember how we all learned to work on assigned reading while standing in line or waiting for class…
  15. Call in all of your favors. Got a little trouble with a specific point? Find someone who understands it and ask for an explanation. Bring questions to affiliate programs and start a discussion over dinner.
  16. Don’t forget that you probably will need to practice test-taking skills as well. The questions are worded very carefully to be differentiators. That means they are HARD. You’ll want to get back in the habit of looking for double negatives and qualifiers like “ALL or ALWAYS” . Practice taking tests and analyzing why you missed questions.
  17. Also, don’t fall into this trap when taking sample tests. This tip from my old psychology days. The answer a person selects in a sample exam will look familiar and sound correct when they sit down to future exams - regardless if it was right or wrong. So, after taking a sample exam, deliberately review and look at the correct answers carefully to make sure they override your memory of the wrong answer.
  18. You can find a number of resources on the web about how to study for and maximize your score on multiple choice exams. This would be a great dinner table discussion topic! Here’s one:  and here is a Google search to find a bunch more.
  19. Set a goal! I have collected all of the study materials for module 1 and will review them by Feb 1. On Feb 15, my study group and I will meet take one last sample exam and quiz each other. I have registered for the exam on March 1 and will be ready!

Good Luck grasshopper! May being prepared bring you peace of mind and success in this worthy endeavor.

Hope this helps!

Mike Taylor

Read more articles about negotiation and creative contract solutions in the MLTweb Purchasing Toolbox at and in the BuyTrain news article archive at

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