Earning a safety certification is a milestone for many in our profession. But to get certified, you first must pass your certification exam. Here are five tips to help you prepare.
1. Build Good Study Habits
The first step toward a successful exam is taking the time to study. Safety certification exams cover a broad range of topics, so taking the time to develop good study habits is crucial. Even if it’s been a while since you studied for a test, think back to the prep methods that worked best for you.
Patrick Karol, CSP, SMS, CIT, notes that when he took his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) exam, he had been out of college for almost 10 years and had to relearn how to study.
“Building good study habits means finding a good place to study, and for me that place was the library because there were no distractions for me there,” he says. “Different things work for different people. Find out what works for you.”
Karol recommends paying attention to your mindset and physical needs as you study. Are you retaining what you’re learning and taking breaks when you need them? You could even use a timer to remind yourself to pause on a regular basis.
He also encourages you to get your exam scheduled so you’re more likely to start studying and keep that momentum going. This is particularly important if you’re taking the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) exam and want to take the CSP exam in the near future.
2. Have an Accountability Partner
It’s smart to ask for help staying on track. Having an accountability partner will give you the encouragement you need to stay focused. This person could be a family member, a friend or even a coworker.
For Karol, it was a fellow safety professional who helped him prepare for his certification exams.
“As I look back on my certifications and my career, the one thing that helped me the most was having an accountability partner,” he says. “When I went through the ASP and CSP, I went through with a colleague, and it worked great.”
He and his accountability partner helped each other through the certification process by exchanging study questions. They also stayed in touch, sharing important milestones — like when they each scheduled their safety certification exams.
3. Make a Plan
Certification exams are lengthy tests that cover several different topics.
“They are a reflection of the broad nature of the profession” Karol says. “Go into your exam with a plan that includes some good test-taking techniques.”
One technique is to go through the exam and complete the questions you can answer quickly, and then go back to the questions that are more involved. Certification preparation courses, study guides and practice exams can give you a preview of what to expect.
“The key is identifying your gaps in knowledge and researching those topics to fill those gaps,” he explains. “There’s no shortage of resources out there to help you do that.”
4. Brush Up on Your Arithmetic
Along with safety- and health-related questions, the ASP and CSP exams also include a math portion. Familiarizing yourself with formulas and conversions will help ensure that you are prepared to solve the equations on your safety certification exam.
These could include equations such as the one calculating the volume of a tank on a tank farm or the one determining the pressure at the bottom of a standpipe. Karol notes that many of these formulas are simple to recall and the challenge is applying them in different ways.
“Study the math, but don’t let it scare you away,” he says. “You’re often given formulas on your exam, and it’s a matter of understanding the formula and plugging in the information.”
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
As with so many things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. By the time you sit for your exam, you should feel comfortable with the material and prepared to demonstrate your knowledge.
“Study all the topics, understand the philosophy behind those topics, and at the end of the day you’ll come out with a certification and a higher level of confidence in yourself,” Karol says. “Those two things will propel your career.”
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