Frequently Asked Questions about the APICS CSCP Exam

Frequently Asked QuestionsEarning your APICS CSCP Certification has many benefits for anyone working in supply chain, but the process also comes with many questions. I’ve put together a list of questions that friends and colleagues have asked me in the hopes of making the process a bit easier for everyone. You may also be interested in my Tips for the APICS CSCP Exam article, which tells my story of taking the test and my suggestions on how you can succeed as well.

Don’t see your question? Ask your own question in the form below and I’ll do my best to answer and add it to this list.

Do I Qualify to Take the APICS CSCP Exam?

In order to qualify to take the CSCP exam, you have to have meet one of three criteria. You have to either have (1) three years of supply chain related work experience, (2) a bachelor’s degree or international equivalent, or (3) CPIM, CFPIM, CIRM, SCOR-P, C.P.M., CSM or CPSM designations. You can find the detailed requirements on the APICS Eligibility Guidelines page.
What is the APICS CSCP Exam Qualification Process?

At least two weeks before you register for the exam, you have to complete an eligibility application. You can access the form by logging into the APICS site and visiting the CSCP Eligibility Application. The application is usually approved within a few business days, but it may take up to two weeks.

Should I Take APICS’s CSCP or CPIM exam?

To answer this, you need to first answer the question of where you are trying to go. The best thing you can do is look at potential employers and job listings to see what certifications will help you land those jobs. Some won’t care about certification, but many have a preference for one or the other.

Broadly speaking, the CSCP certification is great for those interested in a career in general, broad supply chain functions. The CPIM certification is more targeted toward those looking at careers in inventory management. Getting your CPIM qualifies you to take the CSCP if you don’t already qualify. One APICS chapter president told me he thinks of the CPIM as a supply chain bachelor’s degree, and the CSCP as a master’s degree. I disagree, but it shows what at least one high up supply chain executive thinks about each. I like the differing career path analogy much better.

Should I Look into Certification from Organizations Besides APICS?

Absolutely. APICS is a fairly well known professional organization, but there are many other good certifications available. If interested in procurement, definitely look into the CPSM certification from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Wikipedia’s page on supply chain certification has a great chart of the different certifications available. Do some searches for potential jobs to find out exactly what the market is currently looking for before you commit time and money to a certification.

Is the APICS CSCP Certification Worth It?

My total time commitment: Three to four months of studying, 1-2 hours per day, or about 100 hours total.

My total cost of materials: Around $2000 after materials and test fees.

Your time and costs may differ, but the benefits need to outweigh these costs. Below are some of the possible rewards of certification.

Some Possible Rewards from APICS CSCP Certification:

  • Financial Raise in Current Job
  • Promotion with current employer
  • Helps qualify you for better jobs
  • Credibility and knowledge in the supply chain field
  • Strengthens your MBA school application

 

How Long Does Studying for the APICS CSCP Exam Take?

It took me about 100 hours of studying – or about three months, 1-2 hours a day on most days. Individuals vary very widely, but planning on 100 hours will get you very close if not all the way ready.

How Big of a Role Does Memorization of the Vocabulary Play?

Memorization of the vocabulary is key to passing the test. There’s a lot of vocab to memorize – especially with the very specific definitions APICS uses, but knowing the vocab will help you nail the questions. Using the flashcards and knowing all the words will help you more than anything else.

Where Can I Get Discounted APICS CSCP Learning System Materials?

BuyUsedCSCP 2You can buy a used CSCP Learning System. A friend of mine has a network of people looking to sell their used CSCP Learning System sets for half the cost of a new set. You can contact her for more information through the inquiry form on this page: Used APICS CSCP Learning Systems For Sale.

Can I Buy Just the Online Portion of the Study Materials?

Two options on this issue:

  • Contact us about used CSCP Learning Systems available. We may be able to find you something.
  • Call APICS’s sales department a call – they are very easy to work with:

Call +1-888-266-9079 (US, toll-free) or +1-651-905-2664 (worldwide).
8am-5pm Central Time
Monday – Friday

You could also try emailing Bobby Quickstad of APICS at bobbyq@learncscp.com. He does corporate rates, but he could point you to the right person if he can’t help you.

Do I Have to Study Sources Beyond the APICS CSCP Learning System?

APICS sets up the test and the learning system independently. Essentially, one group uses all the external sources they list to write the test, and another group uses all those external sources to build the learning system. The two groups do not coordinate to preserve the integrity of the test.

That being said, most people’s experience combined with thorough study of the learning system should be more than enough to pass. If you read all the course material and master all the online quizzes, then you should be just fine during the test. The flashcards are definitely the most useful tool since it sets out exactly how APICS uses that set of vocabulary – which is sometimes different then how I learned some of the vocab.

If there’s something completely strange to you in the learning system material, it might be worth reading more about it (I’d start with Wikipedia before the external sources), but again, the learning system does a good job of covering everything fairly well. In the actual test, there were only one or two questions that were a little outside what I had been studying. Even then, they weren’t terribly difficult at all.

How Many Questions Do I Need to Get Right to Pass the CSCP Exam?

The test has 175 questions and a scaled scoring system. You can get a score of 200 to 350, with 300 being a passing score. The exact mechanics behind the weighting are explained on the APICS Understanding a Scaled Score page.

From taking the test, I felt like you had to get the majority right (perhaps 80% or more), but I didn’t see my results on each question. Having completed the learning system, I felt very confident on about 70% of the questions, fairly confident on 20%, and not very confident on 10%.

What Is Involved with Maintaining My CSCP Certification?

To maintain certification you need to earn 75 points every five years. The easiest way to earn points is to maintain your APICS memberships (6 points per year) and go to APICS events regularly (usually 1 point per event). That’s a decent monetary commitment ($200 per year for membership), but it could be worth it if you network well with people at the event and/or get your company to cover some of the cost.

However, there are other ways to maintain certification. Here’s a list of qualifying point-earning activities: APICS Professional Development Activities.

They emphasize continuing education, so if you go to conferences, listen to business speakers, or take classes on a somewhat regular basis, then you can definitely keep the certification up to date. APICS is very liberal in accepting most seminars or classes as continuing education. Most one-day seminars count for 8 points – so doing one a year gives you 40 points.

Another factor to consider is whether you need to keep the certification current. I know several people who get their APICS certification so that they can qualify for a particular job in supply chain. Once they have the job, they feel that their experience is more important for their resume than an APICS certification, so they let it lapse. However, it’s harder to renew certification once it’s lapsed, so I wouldn’t advise this unless you’re positive your work experience will be sufficient.

Why Would I Maintain my APICS CSCP Certification?

APICS now allows people to check whether certifications are up to date. If a potential employer checks, and your certification is not up to date, then that could be a problem. However, that ability is relatively new, so some employers may not be using it quite yet. Ten years in the future, however, checking certifications may be very common.

Another factor to consider is that once you’ve let your certification lapse, getting it current again becomes more difficult. It takes an additional 15 points per year you’ve let it lapse to renew. For example, if you have let it lapse for two years, then you need 30 additional points (for a total of 105 points) to renew you certification for another five years. If you let your certification lapse for five years, then you have to retake the test.

I Have Another Question…

If you don’t see the answer to your question, feel free to reach out to me via the question form below. I’ll get back to you with my thoughts (or point you in the right direction), and may even add the question to the list.

Your Name (required)

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Your APICS CSCP Exam Question


Also, be sure to check out my Tips for the APICS CSCP Exam article, which tells my story of taking the test and my suggestions on how you can succeed as well.
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    Stop Fighting Emergency Fires in Five Steps

    Whenever I find myself spending most of my day fighting fires, I try to step back and understand why. A great framework that I like to use comes from the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. The firefighting example takes a process through five steps, going from “emergency crisis mode” to “no problem mode.”

    The Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence program is a government sponsored award that focuses on promoting quality in US organizations. You can see the images below and other great resources on their graphics page.

    Step One – Running and Reacting

    1The first stage is where most of us start when we think of fighting fires. We react to emergencies that pop up by dropping everything and running to what’s urgent. If this only happens once or twice, then it might not be worth the effort to improve the response. However, the problems that occur frequently or have large impacts are the ones that need to move beyond step one. Focus on those problems for moving them through steps two through five.

    Step Two – Running Less and Reacting Quicker

    2If fires pop up in the same places frequently, then installing extra hoses in that area can really help. Likewise, if you repeatedly face the same emergency, making additional resources available in those areas can cut down the size or length of an emergency. Taking a few minutes to create simple, small countermeasures makes reacting easier.

    Step Three – Response Game Plan

    3Once countermeasures are in place, how can we get everyone on the same page? When the next emergency strikes, who contacts whom? Addressing these issues by making a game plan can make the response much more effective. More importantly, getting others involved makes the emergency less dependent on you. If you can’t ever leave the office because you’re the only one that knows how to handle certain problems, then this step can free you from that burden.

    Step Four – Automated Response System

    4Just like a sprinkler system automatically dousing flames, you can build a system that handles emergencies automatically. Basic computer automation or alerts can take care of many problems that frequently pop up. Emergencies that are more complex may require some IT investment, but many of those solutions are worth the price tag. Conversely, significant investment may not be necessary if a manual response system will work just as well.

    Step Five – Innovate Emergencies Away

    5This final step is not “brainstorm how this emergency doesn’t happen again.” That type of thought should happen at any stage. Instead, this is a systematic change in the design of work flows, products, and systems so that unexpected problems are less common and less damaging. A product’s cost can often be reduced by 70% when the designers’ goal is to make the product easier for manufacturing. Similarly, perhaps 70% of your emergencies could be avoided by focusing on internal customers and avoiding downstream emergencies. Of course, balancing the needs of internal customers with those of external customers is difficult. Nevertheless, keeping the needs of both customers in mind will help reduce emergencies for which you can’t plan.

    How to Use the Five Steps of Firefighting

    Whenever a problem arises, I look at where in the five steps my response to the emergency is. Based on the size and frequency of the problem, I can then look at options for moving the response to the next level. Few fires need all five steps; such investment would be overkill. However, simply knowing at what stage each of my problems is helps me prioritize my improvement efforts. Soon the categorization becomes second nature, and process improvement becomes easier, quicker, and more effective.

    Best of all, there’s less fires to fight. And the fires I still have to fight are easier to put out.

    At what stages are the recent emergency responses you’ve initiated?

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      Don’t Miss Out on These Three Ridiculously Simple Negotiating Tricks You Can Use Today

      Card Trick

      We negotiate agreements all the time, but many people like you still don’t feel comfortable making deals. While there are lots great books with detailed advice, I wouldn’t want you to miss out on these three tricks that behavioral scientists suggests could tip the scale in your favor. Best of all, this paragraph contains all three tricks! Take 1 to 2 minutes and find out exactly what they are.

      1. “Many people like you…”

      Humans are social animals, and we’re constantly looking to others for clues on how to act. Knowing what the majority of people do creates powerful motivation for people to act similarly. For example, if a waitress at a restaurant told you, “We have two specials today, but many people like you are loving the filet mignon,” you would likely give the fillet mignon much more consideration than the other options.

      In a business setting, this phrase can have significant impact with suppliers. For example, when negotiating payment terms, you can use a phrase such as, “Most of our suppliers like you offer us credit terms of Net 60.” This wording can give your supplier a strong inclination to offer you the same.

      One caution many people like you should consider is not overusing the phrase (see how it gets old rather quickly?). Also, be sure that you’re honest about what you’re recommending. If most people don’t really do what you’re suggesting, then consider another approach.

      2. “Take 1 to 2 minutes…”

      A recent Columbia Business School study suggest that you should always quote a range with your real value on bottom. Doing so will increase your chances of getting the quoted price you want.

      For example, let’s say you ask me how much I’ll charge for a small consulting project. If I was hoping to get $100, then quoting you a range of $100 to $120 not only increases the chances that you’ll be happy to agree at $100, but it also opens up the possibility that we settle at $110. The chart below details the bolstering strategy.

      Ames and Mason range offers graphic

      If you’re on the buying end, flip the strategy around. If you want to buy something for $20, offer 15-20 bucks, and the seller will likely be more willing to settle at $20.

      The best part about this technique is that it can be used right away with very little risk. The next time you quote a price, include a range with a higher number and you’re more likely to get what you quote.

      Read more about the details of the study from Columbia’s article: When It Comes to an Opening Number, Sometimes the Best Bargaining Move Is to Offer Two. The above chart is from the article as well.

      3. “I wouldn’t want you to miss out…”

      Another quirk about human behavior is loss aversion. We are disproportionately worried about losing  opportunities. Mentioning this aversion can trigger people to change their approach and be more willing to agree to a deal.

      For example, negotiating better payment terms with a supplier might sound like this, “we have a lot of great growth opportunities next year, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on extra orders from us because of tight credit terms.” Considering the possibility of missing out on future opportunities may be the key to getting the concession you need.

      This technique, and the “many people like you” phrase, are both explained further in an excellent Freakonomics podcast, The Maddest Men of All.

      Good luck in your future negotiations, and let me know if these tricks worked for you.

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        21 Vendor Metrics Your Supplier Scorecard Might be Missing


        Giving your vendors feedback through a supplier scorecard is one of the best ways to improve their performance. When you take factors beyond price into consideration, your total cost of ownership decreases, your customers are happier, and you improve relationships along your entire supply chain.

        But is your scorecard missing key metrics?

        The goal of a supplier scorecard is to measure things that are important to you and your customer. By measuring and keeping score, you can encourage your suppliers to improve.

        If you don’t have a supplier scorecard system yet, then check out my guide on Building an Awesome Vendor Scorecard Program in 4 Easy Steps. It includes a free Excel template that you can modify to match exactly what metrics you want to measure.

        While some of these metrics might not apply to your business model, there’s definitely a few to add if they measure something important to you and your customers.

        1. Communication

        Whether it’s email response time, conversation clarity, or even language skills, bad communication can be a huge drain on a relationship. Ask everyone who interacts with the supplier to rank communication on a ten-point scale and average the scores. Give specific feedback to your supplier on which aspect of communication would most improve the score: Do their emails need to provide more details? Should they look into hiring some translation help? Could they email less often?

        1. Lead Times

        Keep a running average of the lead times from order to receipt for each supplier. Compare against other suppliers or a standard you’re working to reach. Be sure not to penalize or reward suppliers based on your choice of shipping method. Overall lead times will of course go down if you start using express shipping. However, if the supplier chooses the shipping method, then including it might be a good idea.

        1. Payment Terms

        How long your supplier gives you interest-free loans can be very important, especially when cash is tight. Letting suppliers know what the ideal would be, or the most generous terms you have from another supplier could encourage them to upgrade your credit.

        1. Missed Shipments

        Dropping the ball on an order or stocking out can have big consequences to you and your customers. Measuring rare but high-impact failures helps both you and your vendor work on ways to avoid future problems.

        1. Financial Health

        Walmart periodically checks in on the Dun & Bradstreet credit scores of its suppliers. A supplier in poor financial health could disrupt your supply chain by entering bankruptcy. Measuring this can sometimes be tricky – but it may justify the extra effort.

        1. Number of Other Customers

        Similar to financial health, a diversified customer based is a sign of supplier strength. Walmart hopes its suppliers have other customers besides Walmart. In fact, many big-box retailers are uncomfortable being more than 30% of a supplier’s revenue base. On the flip side, you may not want some suppliers serving other customers.

        1. Ease of Doing Business

        Similar to communication, some suppliers are just easier to deal with. Being difficult can take up your team’s precious time, and those suppliers could benefit from knowing that they are a hassle. Of course, you’ll want to be courteous and professional with your feedback, but being open and honest with this metric can go a long way to solving problems between you.

        1. Audit Standards

        Many large companies such as Disney and Target have audits that every party in the supply chain must pass. Even if you don’t work with these companies, holding your suppliers to these standards can be a good idea. It usually involves bans on child or forced labor, a maximum of 60-hour workweeks, and basic safety standards. Putting this metric on your scorecard can show your vendors how important those standards are to you.

        1. Cost Reduction Suggestions

        The best vendors I’ve worked with have come to me with ideas on how to reduce costs. For example, if we tweaked a part slightly, then the supplier could offer me a lower price. I want to encourage this behavior, so my suppliers get a scorecard bonus when they make a plausible suggestion.
        Suggestion Box

        1. Product Suggestions

        I constantly worked with my suppliers to come up with great new products my customers wanted. Most of them pushed products at me, but only a handful of vendors presented good ideas. The difference was that those vendors spent time researching end users and gathered insights they could pass along to me. In your scorecard, you can rate the quality of product ideas (can you take what they offer and sell it to your customer right away), or the quantity ideas if they’re shy about presenting options to you.

        1. Relative Price

        Price likely factors heavily into your decision, but do your vendors know where they stand compared to others. While you may not want to tell any of your vendors, “you’re our cheapest option,” because they might raise prices, you may want everyone else knowing they’re more expensive. A qualitative gauge similar to, “you are more expensive than average on most products,” can help more expensive suppliers know where they stand and encourage them to quote lower prices in the future.

        1. Specific Quality Metrics

        Most vendor scorecards have “Quality” as a category, but do you have specific subcategories? What exactly are you looking for? Here are some possible options:

        • Color
        • Size
        • Error-free
        • Performance
        • Runtime
        • Neatness

        Identifying exactly what your customer is considering as she evaluates the product’s quality will help you decide exactly what specific quality metrics to include.

        1. Capacity

        When demand is high, does your supplier have the capacity to fill your orders? Letting vendors know where they stand in their ability to fulfill your peak ordering could encourage them to make more investment and increase capacity.

        1. Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs)

        On the other side, do vendors make you order more than you really need. If so, let them know. Most of my vendors wouldn’t budge on letting me order less than 2,000 units until I made the ‘A’ score under 500.

        1. Signed and Following Manufacturing Agreement

        This is usually a yes-no metric, but it rewards them for abiding by the terms of our agreement. Without including this on the scorecard, some vendors forget you ever signed anything – especially after staff turnover.

        1. Transportation Time and Cost

        A freight forwarder really impressed me when they set up a meeting to review a scorecard they built for me – which graded them. It showed the average time it took them to deliver containers and other data points 0—0-[telling me how they were doing. Most interesting was that it showed they weren’t perfect – but that they were trying. Consider tracking similar metrics with logistics providers.

        1. In-stock Percentage

        This one may be more unusual, but it’s the key metric of retailers. Essentially, the supplier is responsible for how often its products are in stock for its customer. For me as a supplier to Walmart, it measured how often my products were on shelves. If I saw it was below their target, then it was my responsibility to talk with them and come up with a solution. If your supplier has a similar responsibility to keep you in stock, or they provide products on consignment, then consider letting them know how they’re doing and ask them to step in when it’s below standard.

        1. Your Sell-through, Sales, and Margin on Their Product

        Similar to above, if your suppliers have a stake in your sales, then let them know how sales are doing. Be sure not to share anything confidential that may help them go straight to your customer if that’s a possibility.

        1. Inventory Levels

        Letting your suppliers know how much of their product you have sitting in your warehouse can help them know when to suggest further orders or delay orders to keep you inventory at target levels.

        1. Reliability of Service or Uptime

        If you deal with service providers, especially web-based, then uptime can be a key component to measure and discuss.

        1. After Sales Support and Warranties

        When your suppliers ship your order, is that the end of their responsibility? If not, how well do they handle after-sales support? Are they easy to work with and accept returns no questions asked? Or, are they so difficult that you don’t even bring the issues up?

        What other metrics do you measure your vendors on? Leave a comment below, and please be sure to check my full guide on how to Build an Awesome Vendor Scorecard Program in 4 Easy Steps. Finally, here’s a quote that always gets me excited about doing more with metrics:

        “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

        -Thomas S. Monson

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          When Semi- is Better than Fully Automatic

          semi-auto
          Christopher Hatcher published a great article over at 21st Century Supply Chain about when semi-automatic processes are better than automatic ones. As an example, he talks about the exciting day in army basic training when he switched his gun from semi- to fully automatic. His observation is important: accuracy often goes down dramatically. He says,

          “I can’t remember if I actually hit any targets that night, but it was so cool to try the automatic setting.”

          Many companies go through a similar exciting phase – especially young companies that are learning how to expand their operations. Instead of taking time and really thinking out each move, we often want to find an automatic process that will “just make everything work and not bother me anymore.” When making investment decisions, it’s tempting to buy the Ferrari solution with all the options when the less glamourous bicycle product might actually work better.

          In addition to spending too much on the automatic solution, we often create additional problems or miss valuable opportunities by letting processes run on autopilot. Many opportunities for improvement present themselves through deep understanding of how processes work. That understanding can only happen when we participate in the process.

          What processes in your business would benefit from switching to semi-auto for a trial period? Which might benefit from a permanent semi-auto setting? Could less automation make some of your processes more efficient in the long-run?

          For example, I often learn more from updating important metrics by hand than metrics that update automatically. That extra attention frequently brings me important insights.

          Hatcher’s article includes these wise words:

          “Running most operations in automatic mode is likely a wise choice, but it’s important to understand which parts of the process can trigger the responsible party to intervene when necessary. Automatic sometimes just scatters lots of bullets with a great deal of sound and fury, but semi-automatic usually hits the target every time.”

          Check out the full article here: Will that be automatic or semi-automatic to manage your supply chain?

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