APICS CPIM CSCP Study Tips
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It is important to get into the right frame of mind as you start your studies. It's not about merely achieving your APICS certification. Achieving your APICS certification is about career advancement. Isn't that why you want to be certified? Your career advancement will be determined by your success in making dramatic and positive change to the work environment and this will be based on how well you can combine your knowledge into the complexities of a dynamic company. This level of performance goes way beyond the achievement of your APICS certification, which can be viewed as merely your ticket to entry to play in this profession. So, the right frame of mind to begin your studies is to commit to studying OPS-MATH and the body of knowledge as defined by the Exam Content Manual (ECM). When you do you will find that you are better prepared for the certification exams and leading workplace improvements.
The wrong frame of mind is:
- What is the minimum I need to do to get by?
- Attending class is enough to pass the exam.
- I only need to study the materials provided by the course.
- I will do what another person did to pass the exam.
APICS generally updates their courseware and materials annually and are released in December or January for the new calendar year. These updates could be major or minor and the student may contact APICS for the latest update information. Be aware of the dates or revisions of the study materials you use and their applicability to the current Exam Content Manual.
APICS publishes separate ECM's for CPIM and CSCP. The importance of this document to your studies cannot be over-emphasized and you must own it, read it, and follow it. It includes an outline, vocabulary, and exact references from which they will derive certification exam questions. The material in these references will far exceed what is covered in a course because the body of knowledge is so large. This manual forms the basis for your studies per the Examination Procedures Bulletins. At this writing it is included in the purchase of the CSCP Learning System. For CPIM the applicable portions of the ECM are included with the purchase of CPIM course Participant Guide. For example, if you purchase the MPR Course Participant Guide you would get the portion of the ECM that applies to MPR only - not the entire ECM for CPIM. Contact APICS to learn if they are still offering the ECM with these materials.
APICS publishes separate bulletins for CPIM and CSCP and for North America and International. It includes important information on the exams such as cost, number of questions, passing score, procedures, and other helpful information. The Bulletins state that exam questions are derived from the Exam Content Manual. They are available as a free download from the APICS website.
The APICS Dictionary is a primary reference for study for the CPIM and CSCP certifications. You must have one. At this writing, the APICS policy is to provide APICS members with a free dictionary. This includes new versions as they are released. They are not provided automatically. Order from APICS and indicate this is your free copy. Check with APICS for their current policy on providing the APICS Dictionary for free to members and any applicable shipping charges. Sometimes the APICS Dictionary is included with a course so you should check with your course provider.
This is largely dependent on the students personal preference and self-confidence in using self-study to pass an exam. Online courses may be either self-study, instructor facilitated, or parts of both (blended).
Some advantages of taking a classes are:
- Interaction with others
- Benefit of instructor knowledge and experience
- Provides a resource for answering questions
- Provides structure, pace, and schedule
Some disadvantages of taking a classes are:
- Cost of class
- Travel time (usually after work when roads are congested)
- Class time
- May not be offered at a convenient time or location
- Does not negate the need for self-study. You have class time plus study time.
- May take longer than self-study
The value of your APICS certification usually far exceeds the cost of obtaining it. Here are some ideas for reducing the cost.
- Use the FREE Budget & ROI spreadsheet to calculate your budget & ROI.
- Employers may pay for or reimburse at least part of the cost.
- Self study. This is your lowest cost option.
- Ask your employer to fund a library of self-study materials that many could use. Companies that won't reimburse expenses may find that this is a good compromise between the cost and education they want their employees to have. Often, managers can approve the cost of books more easily than they can the cost of sending people to courses. Self-study using company purchased materials.
- Use OPS-MATH to learn the math you need. Self studying text-based math can be very time consuming and frustrating. OPS-MATH vs text-based. It can help avoid exam retake fees. You can answer many non-math questions when you understand the math, planning hierarchy, terminology and data relationships that are in the OPS-MATH exercises.
There is no mandatory order to take the five exams, but there is a natural order. It is recommended that you study and take the exams in their natural order. This order is important because each level feeds the next with information. The natural order is:
- Basics of Supply Chain Management (BSCM or Basics)
- Master Planning of Resources (MPR)
- Detailed Scheduling and Planning (DSP)
- Execution and Control of Operations (ECO)
- Strategic Management of Resources (SMR)
Recommendations for self-study CPIM
- Study the references listed in the ECM.
- Use OPS-MATH to learn the math you need. Self studying text-based math can be very time consuming and frustrating. OPS-MATH vs text-based. It can help avoid the exam retake fee. You can answer many non-math questions when you understand the math, planning hierarchy, terminology and data relationships that are in the OPS-MATH exercises.
- You may purchase the printed Participant Guide for the course but you should know that this is meant to assist the instructor-led course. As a "guide" it lacks a lot of the details that are covered by the instructor. You will find that it is very abbreviated compared to the reference books listed in the ECM. At this writing the CPIM Course Participant Guides are not listed in the ECM as references.
Compared to CPIM, the courseware printed material for CSCP is very large and thorough. The CSCP Learning System contains many resources including on-line resources.
Recommendations for self-study CSCP
- Purchase the current year CSCP Learning System from the approved APICS supplier. For most people, the CSCP Learning System will negate the need to purchase the textbooks listed in the ECM.
- Use OPS-MATH to learn the math you need. Self studying text-based math can be very time consuming and frustrating. OPS-MATH vs text-based. It can help avoid the exam retake fee. At this writing, the North American exam retake price for CSCP is $450.00. You can answer many non-math questions when you understand the math, planning hierarchy, terminology and data relationships that are in the OPS-MATH exercises.
- The lower cost of used and out-of-date CSCP materials is an enticement to many. Blogs are filled with people offering them and others asking if they will be successful if they purchase out-of-date materials. As an APICS certified master instructor for CSCP, here are my thoughts for using out-of-date CSCP materials.
- Purchasing out-of-date materials often does not include the online materials, which have likely expired. You are giving up a lot.
- You are taking a financial risk because if you don't pass the exam, your best recourse is to purchase the current year CSCP Learning System plus you will have to pay the exam retake fee.
- Don't be influenced by others who have said "I used out-of-date materials and I passed." That was them and you are you. Perhaps the other person had a lot of experience or education and has very good test taking skills. You need to make an assessment of your ability to pass the exam with out-of-date materials. You may not be hearing about the people who purchased out-of-date materials and did not pass the exam.
- Never use materials that are more than one year out-of-date. Two or three minor updates may add up to a large update.
- Never use materials that are older than when a major update to the material was made. If a major update was made this year, don't use last year's material.
Bloom's Taxonomy is a list of descriptive words that courseware developers use to write courseware goals and objectives. APICS uses the six levels described in the cognitive domain of Bloom's Taxonomy. The key to these levels is that they rank from the lowest levels of cognitive learning to the highest. APICS targets certification exams to be, on the whole, at the Application level. This means that exams test your ability to not only know the material, but to apply it in a variety of situations. This is why APICS exams are perceived as difficult. Individual test questions may come from any of the six levels, but, on the whole, exam takers must be able to apply their knowledge. While your memory of facts will serve you well on the exam, on the whole, the exam does not target your ability to remember facts, which is in the lowest level of Knowledge. Knowing this means you need to target your study at least to the Analysis level to compensate for the questions in the lower levels. You are encouraged to view this list of verbs for each of the levels, which is on the Clemson University website.
The six levels of the cognitive domain ranked lowest to highest are:
- Knowledge (lowest level)
- Evaluation (highest level)