Dominating the CSCP
By Michael Nichols, CSCP
Dear supply chain colleagues:
At the beginning of the year, I decided to pursue the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation. In July, I sat for the exam and passed, which has led to my receiving countless questions about my journey. This article is intended to provide anyone considering earning this certification with all the lessons learned, tips and answers needed to be successful.
There are two options for exam preparation: self-study or classroom courses. For me, self-study was the best method of learning and most cost effective. The self-study option includes three books, flashcards, online practice quizzes and exams, and access to the highly regarded APICS Dictionary. The total cost of all the online content and printed materials is $995 for ASCM PLUS members and $1,380 for nonmembers.
Your own preparation method decision warrants more than just comparing prices. Honestly assess your levels of motivation and dedication to push yourself through 1,500 pages. Be wise!
The APICS CSCP Learning System
A connection of mine reached out to me on the ASCM discussion boards, asking if he could sneak through the exam without reading through the aforementioned material. My response: “There's no need to sit for the exam without the APICS Learning System material. You failed.”
Honestly, unless you’re an industry titan, the chance of passing without the Learning System is razor thin.
The best way to utilize this system is to follow it sequentially. Assess yourself before you begin reading through the material by taking the pre-test. If you score above 30%, you’re doing better than I did. A low score should not discourage you, but motivate you!
Now that you know where you stand, read an entire module. Complete the end-of-section progress checks. After you’ve finished a module, return to the quizzes and take all of them. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to avoid memorizing answers. The exam is strictly based on comparison between terms. Use these quizzes to both understand which answer is correct and comprehend why others are incorrect.
Finally, take the post-test and score above an 80% to earn your congratulatory letter.
Write flash cards by hand or in a word-processing program. Memorizing hundreds of key words may zap the enthusiasm out of us all, but writing them even just once helps with retention. Treat this as another type of homework, and it will pay off at exam time.
How long will it take?
Everyone has different levels of experience and learning ability, but a good rule of thumb is your CSCP journey will be a minimum of three months. I began mine in March and tested in July. Along the way, I highly recommend at least touching the material daily. Putting it off for a week and rushing to catch up puts unnecessary stress on you and hinders your ability to learn.
The exam has 150 questions. Of those, 130 are operational and 20 are pre-test (not counted). You will have 3 ½ hours to finish. There will be two answers that fit and two that are clearly incorrect. Do you know what the difference between third- and fourth-party logistics? Can you quickly state the triple bottom line? How does a make-to-stock manufacturing organization respond when demand forecasting predicts increased demand due to economic growth?
The exam will question your knowledge of minor variations between two terms (3PL/4PL), if you clearly understand what makes up a term (TBL), and if you understand how one key word is changed by a variable.
Scores range from 200-350:
- Fail – 200-299
- Pass – 300-350
The questions all carry a hidden weight based on difficulty. The three modules require about a 70% or higher to pass.
Put in the time. Read the books at least once, preferably twice. Write down all of the flashcards. Take the quizzes slowly to gain comprehension. On test day, go slowly and flag questions you simply have no idea how to answer. I flagged a question during my exam and proceeded on. Roughly 30 questions later, something triggered that gave me the answer to the one that had stumped me!
Hope this is helpful to all of you aspiring CSCP designees!