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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.

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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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Tips for the APICS CSCP Exam

Tips for the APICS CSCP ExamA while back, I took and passed the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) exam. Since then, I’ve had a quite a few people ask me what it’s like and what advice I have. I’ve consolidated and summarized my experience in the article below.

Is the APICS CSCP Exam Right for Me?

Which Certification Should I Pursue?

The first thing you need to do is determine whether the CSCP exam is the right certification for you. Certification is definitely a plus in the supply chain profession. There are quite a few different options, most of which are summarized in this excellent chart on Wikipedia. To begin my journey, I spent a lot of time looking at these different options.

For me, it really came down to which organization I wanted my certification from. In my opinion, the two strongest options are APICS and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

APICS offers two certifications. The CSCP is an overall look at supply chain management. The CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management) is more focused on inventory and production at a detailed level. ISM offers one main certification, the Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM). The CPM is primarily geared toward procurement.

Certification Job Search

Next, I began searching Monster.com and other job sites to see what types of opportunities these certifications might unlock. I was quickly surprised how many jobs said “APICS certification preferred” or “CSCP preferred” – especially jobs that appealed to me. From this, I decided to go for the CSCP. If I were more interested in just buying, then ISM’s Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM) would make sense.

APICS vs. ISM

Is Certification Worth It?

The cost of the study materials and test made me pause for a moment. Some employers are happy to help out with the $1,000 to $2,000 total cost. Mine wasn’t, but the investment made sense. I was also looking at business school programs at this time, and I was surprised to learn how strongly some MBA programs promote this same certification, sometimes even for their current students. While I didn’t want to take on extra studying as a MBA student, the fact that the schools were recommending these certifications sealed the deal for me.

What Materials Should I Use to Study?

Only two roads made sense to me if you’re serious about earning your CSCP: self-study or a class.

About the APICS CSCP Learning System (and How to Get It for Less)

The APICS CSCP Learning System is definitely the way to go for self-study. While they can’t claim that the system teaches everything that’s on the test – it gets pretty darn close. Unfortunately, it has a steep price tag of $1275. To reduce that, purchase an APICS membership. Student memberships are free, and professional memberships are $200 per year. Being a member gives you an instant $330 discount on the Learning System. If you have friends who also want to study, you can get a discount when you purchase more than one set at the same time. For instance, I saved $100 by purchasing my study materials at the same time as a friend. Search online forums and try to find someone to go in together with – it could save you a few hundred dollars.

Buy A Used APICS CSCP Learning System

BuyUsedCSCP 2Another option is to 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.

Local or Online Class

The other option is to prepare for the test through a class that essentially walks you through the APICS Learning System as a group. Local APICS chapters will sporadically offer certification classes for a variety of prices. If you can, find one that doesn’t charge more than the books. Classes are very helpful for people that need an outside motivator that will help them study the materials. If you know you won’t be able to read 1,000 pages of text without having to attend a weekly class – then this is the route you should go. In addition, you’ll meet others studying the same material – so if you’re a social learner, this may be the key to your success.

Getting Through the Material

The textbooks are incredibly dry (at least the 2013 versions were). They just spit out facts with no stories and hardly any diagrams. At first, this was very frustrating and horribly boring. However, after a few hundred pages, I began to appreciate this style. The books cover a vast amount of materials in close to 1,000 pages. If they had more fluff, then that number would obvious increase dramatically.

Applying the concepts to my current job also helped. Whether it’s writing in the margins or discussing the concepts with your team, applying what you learn is the best way to really remember it. I help make quite a few changes in our department while studying the CSCP concepts.

For the most part, I had to sit down and force myself to read an entire textbook section in one sitting. Otherwise, I found it very difficult to find the motivation to come back to the section. Luckily, the textbook is broken up into fairly short sections. Each section has an online review quiz. This is where the Learning System really shines.

The online portion of the APICS Learning System is what saved me. The quizzes help me remember the key points from the chapter. I was often frustrated by the quiz questions – some are very poorly written and the correct answers are often debatable. They hopefully fixed those questions, but be warned that some may still be ambiguous. I was very worried that the test questions would be just as ambiguous. Don’t worry though – I thought all the test questions were very straightforward.

The online tools are accessible by smartphone, tablet, or desktop. However, I found that my smartphone was the least frustrating method of taking the tests. The tests seem to be much slower and harder to navigate on my desktop. So even when my laptop was available, I usually used my phone instead.

As great as the online quizzes are, the absolute best help are the flashcards. So much of the test depends on whether you know the vocabulary. I printed out flashcards and used them regularly. A friend of mine stumbled on another method if you find paper flashcards less motivating:

A Free Online APICS Flashcard Game

Screenshot of APICS Flashcards Game

While it’s not quite as awesome as Call of Duty or Little Big Planet, it’s a more fun way to learn the vocabulary quickly.

How Long Does Studying for the APICS CSCP Exam Take?

It took me three months to complete the APICS Learning System. Now to be fair, my first child was born during this time, so that slowed me down a bit. However, if you read for an average of an hour each day, you can finish in three months or less.

Looking back, I probably studied a bit too much. If you can pass all the online quizzes with 80% or more, then I would feel pretty confident that you’ll pass the exam. I actually thought the real test was a bit easier than the review quizzes in the CSCP Learning System.

I’ve heard rumors that most of the people that fail the exam do not speak English as their primary language. So if you are not a native English speaker, you may want to study a bit more and understand all the words in all the online quizzes.

What was Your Method of Studying for the APICS CSCP Exam?

This was my detailed routine of study for the exam:

  • Take the pretest to see what the questions would be like
  • Read one section (1A or 1B for example)
  • Take the quiz for that section (Quiz 1A)
  • If I didn’t get over 80% on the quiz, then I retook the quiz and read up on the questions I missed
  • Once I got over 80% and understood the questions I had missed, I’d move onto the next section
  • After I finished all the sections in the three modules, I’d take the test for the entire module. I’d review the questions I missed until I felt comfortable moving on.
  • Once a week, I’d run through all the flashcards – even if I hadn’t reached those words in the book yet. After a few weeks, I knew all the words very well.
  • After finishing all three modules, I took the post-test
  • Right before the test, I took a day off work and reviewed all of the books again. This was probably overkill, but I really didn’t want to shell out the extra money to retake the test.

I had a friend studying at the same time, so we would compare notes every few days. Mostly, having someone else kept me on track – and complaining about poorly written quiz questions together made it more fun. I brought the current book I was reading with me everywhere and sometimes had  my wife read the text aloud to me when we had a few extra minutes (like waiting at the doctor’s office). I’m happy to report that I didn’t study at all in the hospital when my daughter was born.

What’s the APICS CSCP Test Like?

Save the Date

The test itself is straightforward. It’s given in the same facility as GMAT and other standardized tests. Since the CSCP exam isn’t a wildly popular test, scheduling is often quite limited in some locations. I scheduled my test about two months in advance. This was good because the deadline motivated me to push through the texts. My friend didn’t schedule the test for some time and ended up dragging out her study period to eight months. If this might be a possibility, I recommend reserving early in your study process.

Test Day

My advice is to just stay cool on test day. Honestly, if you’ve read all the text, know the flashcards, and have received an 80% on the post-test, then you’ll pass. Don’t overthink the questions – there weren’t any trick questions that I remember. Eat a good breakfast, go to the testing center, and take care of business. You’ll do just fine.

Still have questions? Check out my article on Frequently Asked Questions about the APICS CSCP Exam to find more information about the exam process.