Print Share Home

Developing Your C.P.M. Examination Study and Test Taking Skills


Dr. Michael A. McGinnis, C.P.M.
Dr. Michael A. McGinnis, C.P.M., Professor of Marketing, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama 36688, 205/460-7907.
Dr. Alvah E. Clark, Jr.
Dr. Alvah E. Clark, Jr., Director of University Counseling, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama 36688, 205/460-7051.

80th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1995 - Anaheim, California

This paper provides instruction on how to develop your study and test taking skills when preparing for the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) Examination. Time management, stress management, and test taking skills are emphasized. The use of NAPM study aids is discussed. Insights for those preparing for the C.P.M. Examination and for those who teach C.P.M. Examination Review Courses are provided.

In January of 1991 the we began preparations for a C.P.M. Review Course that was taught in Mobile, Alabama during April and May of 1992. Few of those taking the course would have studied or taken a major examination in years. As a result, the goals of this course included the development of study skills, the development of test taking skills, and the development of test taking confidence.

The paper is organized into three sections. They are study skills, test taking skills, and using NAPM study aids. The section on study skills includes a section on time management, a critical component of effective study. The section on test taking skills includes a discussion of techniques for managing examination stress. The section on the use of NAPM study aids focuses on the C.P.M. Study Guide and the C.P.M. Diagnostic Practice Exam as tools for developing study, test taking, and test confidence skills. 1

This section focuses on the basics of study and then provides guidance on time management as it relates to studying for the C.P.M. Examination.

The objectives of study are to develop an overview of the material to be learned, capture that material in your short-term memory and then move the material into your long-term memory, were it will serve you well during the C.P.M. Examination and beyond. These basics are referred to as S-Q-R-R-R, or S,Q,R-cubed. The following summarizes these five steps.

S: SURVEY or scan the material to get an overview of the concepts to be learned. This gives you a "map" of the material to be studied. For example, an overview of the C.P.M. Examination (see pages 18-21 of the C.P.M. Study Guide, sixth edition, Updated 1994) tells you that the examination is organized into four modules and that each module is divided into parts and tasks. The following paragraph summarizes this organization.

Module one, Purchasing is divided into five parts and twenty-five tasks. Module two, Administration is divided into two parts and thirteen tasks. The third module, Supply, is divided into three parts and fifteen tasks. Finally, Module four, Current Issues, is divided into three parts and twelve tasks. Notice that the C.P.M. Examination can be broken down into sixty-five relatively manageable tasks.

Q: QUESTION what are the main concepts? In the case of the C.P.M. Examination, your study of the tasks within each module provide a great deal of insights into the importance of the various concepts.

R: READ and re-read is not the most efficient method of study for most students. Developing outlines, highlighting key concepts, underlining important points, and making notes in page margins all help you to focus on the main concepts and begin to move these concepts into long term memory.

R: RECITE and/or write down the information, depending on your learning style. This helps you to better move information into long-term memory and then retrieve that information from long-term memory.

R: REVIEW the material. This phase of your study helps you practice and develop your skills at retrieving information from long-term memory.

This section provides guidance on when to study, where to study, and how to handle the rest of the world.

If you have not studied recently, studying will be difficult and/or boring at first. As time goes on and as you begin to recognize that you are learning new information the level of boredom and difficulty will decrease. It never disappears. Be aware of your best time of day to study. Consider using waiting time and other nonproductive times to study.

Find a regular study area where you will waste less time. Consider organizing your study materials into a briefcase, closet, or drawer where you can find them with a minimum of lost time. Find a study area where you will be alert and reasonably free from distractions. Some prefer a quiet location while others prefer background noise. Examples of places that have been useful to others include libraries, the office, the bedroom, the basement, restaurants, parks, and laundries.

The following are some helpful hints that help you manage your time more effectively.

  1. Pay attention to how you are using your time.
  2. Make an agreement with your living mates about study time.
  3. Get off the phone.
  4. Learn to say "no" to other people when you study.
  5. Hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door.
  6. Get ready the night before.
  7. Avoid noise distractions.
  8. Notice how others misuse your time.

This section focuses on the basics of taking multiple-choice examinations and provides insights into stress management as it relates to taking the C.P.M. Examination.

IF YOU ARE WELL STUDIED you have the knowledge base to pass all modules of the C.P.M. Examination that you have studied. Remember, you do not need to get all questions right. You only have to achieve a scaled score of fifty-five or better to pass a module. Examination of the diagnostic suggests that a raw score of approximately seventy percent or better on the examination will guarantee a scaled score of fifty-five or better.

The majority of questions in the C.P.M. Examination will be "cake" questions that you will be able to answer IF YOU ARE WELL STUDIED. A typical four item multiple choice question will have one correct answer, one distractor (to catch those not well studied or who misread the question), and two incorrect answers. IF YOU ARE WELL STUDIED you will usually find that your first inclination is your best inclination. Be careful about letting your self doubts talk you out of the correct answer.

The following techniques can help you manage the stress that comes with taking the C.P.M. Examination. Some stress is normal (A lack of stress is called "boredom"). Stress is part of the "fight or flight" response that results from challenges in our life. Without this response our ancestors would have become extinct thousands of years ago. Some suggestions for managing examination stress include:

  1. Beware of "classroom sabotage." The hurried question and answer sessions before an examination can undermine your confidence. Tune it out.
  2. Answer the easy questions then come back to the harder ones. This improves your performance and builds your self confidence. You may also gain insights or recall information as you answer the questions that you know.
  3. Remember to practice any one of several relaxation techniques to reduce tension during the test. They are listed below and discussed in Exhibit 1.
    1. deep breathing exercises
    2. tense-relax techniques
    3. mental imagery

In addition to the C.P.M. Study Guide and the C.P.M. Diagnostic Practice Exam, discussed earlier there is a wide range of useful study materials available from NAPM. They are C.P.M. Bibliographic Reference Key, 3rd edition, 1992; Information Kit - Module 4; C.P.M. Exam Specification and Instructor's Guide; NAPM International Conference Proceedings; Purchasing Management: A Fundamental Reference for Professionals; and Glossary of Key Purchasing Terms. Most articles in NAPM Insights are C.P.M. Examination module coded. Finally, many find one or more of the following purchasing text books to be useful study aids:

  1. Dobler, Donald W., David N. Burt, and Lamar Lee, Jr. Purchasing and Materials Management: Text and Cases, 5th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990. ISBN 0-07-037047-8
  2. Heinritz, Stuart, Paul V. Farrell, Larry C. Guinipero, and Michael G. Kolchin. Purchasing: Principles and Applications. 8th edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991. ISBN 0-13-742081-1.
  3. Leenders, Michiel R. and Harold E. Fearon. Purchasing and Materials Management, 10th edition. Homewood, IL: Irwin. ISBN 0-256-10334-8.

The array of study aids used by individuals studying for the C.P.M. Examination varies greatly. While the C.P.M. Study Guide and the C.P.M. Diagnostic Practice Exam provide an excellent framework for study and review, a knowledge base beyond those materials is critical to successfully taking the C.P.M. Examination. Many C.P.M. Review Course students later tell us that an understanding of the material is more important than being able to just recall facts, that memorization of questions from the Diagnostic Practice Exam provides a false sense of security, and that there is no substitute for thorough understanding of the subject matter covered in all sixty-five C.P.M. Examination tasks.

A review course can help the individual develop skills needed to prepare for the C.P.M. Examination. These preparation skills can then be used to develop the knowledge base necessary for passing the examination. While the amount of study time needed to prepare for the C.P.M. Examination varies greatly among individuals, the majority of those who pass all four modules spend approximately 100 - 200 hours over a period of several weeks. For this reason we plan our C.P.M. Examination Review courses so that they end approximately two months before the scheduled examinations (by early December for those taking the January exam and by early for those taking the June exam).

The individual must be careful not to confuse the learning of techniques for study and test taking with the learning of the subject matter needed to pass the C.P.M. Examination. For most individuals, mastery of the subject matter will require a substantial commitment of time and effort beyond the review course.

The individual study skills, test taking skills, and test taking confidence skills developed in a C.P.M. Examination Review Course can help the individual develop a systematic program of study, self-critique, and practice for the examination. Such a program can increase the individuals knowledge of purchasing, improve the individuals ability to successfully take the C.P.M. Examination, and improve the individuals professional self-confidence.

Exhibit 1
The three techniques described below can be used by nearly anyone at any time. It is easy to use these techniques so that you do not call attention to yourself when your are around others. You may choose to use one of these techniques or you may choose to use them in combination. All of these techniques can be used in any body position including sitting, standing, or reclining. If you need additional training in these techniques most counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists would be helpful sources of instruction.

  1. Deep Breathing Exercises
    Take a deep breath, hold it for several seconds, and then release it. You can repeat this technique as many times as necessary.
  2. Tense - Relax Exercises
    In this technique you tighten selected muscles and then relax them. For example, make tight fists and then relax them, tighten your leg muscles and then relax them, tighten your arm muscles and then relax them. Each of these techniques (fists, legs, arms) may be repeated several times or they can be used in combination (fists for several cycles, then legs for several cycles, then arms for several cycles, etc.).
  3. Mental Imagery
    In this technique you close your eyes and imagine that you have moved beyond the stressful event that is causing a memory block. For example, you are having trouble recalling facts during the C.P.M. Examination. You are well studied but you cannot retrieve the information from long-term memory. Now, close your eyes and picture yourself completing the examination, turning in the examination, leaving the building, enjoying the scenery as you approach your car, getting into your car, and driving home. At this point you may find that you have begun to relax from the test and the blocked information is emerging from long-term memory.

1 C.P.M. Study Guide, 6th edition, Updated 1994. Tempe, Arizona: National Association of Purchasing Management, 1994; C.P.M. Diagnostic Practice Exam, 3rd edition. Tempe, Arizona: National Association of Purchasing Management, 1992; and McGinnis, Michael A., and J. David Bostic. "Getting the Most From the C.P.M. Diagnostic Practice Exam." NAPM 79th Annual International Purchasing Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, May 1-4, 1994, 134-138.

Back to Top