If you have completed the session component of CTSM certification, you are ready for the Comprehensive Exam.
Be sure to check in with CTSM staff at the conference where you will be taking your exam. This will help the staff verify that everything is in order for the exam. The location and time for your exam will be posted in the CTSM office.
If you are completing any sessions at the same conference as the exam, the sessions must be completed, quizzes must be taken on them, and a printout of the results must be turned into the CTSM office before exam time.
NOTE: You must register to take the Comprehensive Exam at least one month prior to the Exam date.
- The Comprehensive Exam is a 2 ½ - 3 hour intensive evaluation taken on-site at EXHIBITOR or EXHIBITORFastTrak conferences. The exam consists of multiple choice and true-false questions from each of the Essential Learning Components (ELCs) of the required sessions.
- Exam questions are based on the current curriculum. If a new required course has replaced a course that you took, or if you took the course more than two years prior, the CTSM office will provide you with current handouts.
- In order to pass the Comprehensive Exam, you must score at least 75% on the entire exam. If you receive a cumulative score that is less than 75%, you will need to retake any failed sections. (Retakes must be completed at a future EXHIBITOR or EXHIBITORFastTrak conference.)
- A proctor at each exam location supplies all materials required for completing the exam. Please do not bring any resource materials such as dictionaries, textbooks, handouts or notes.
- Candidates will be notified of their Comprehensive Exam results within three weeks following the exam date.
Study and Preparation
Since this exam covers a wide range of materials from 23 different sessions, we highly recommend that you study early. Consistent study over many weeks is much more effective than cramming a day or two before the exam, as this is a rigorous and intensive exam. Approximately 80% of candidates pass on the first attempt.
Make sure you have all of the handouts and notes that you have collected during the sessions. For each course, look for the Essential Learning Components (ELCs) which are usually found near the front of the handout. All exam questions are derived from the ELCs. Be sure to understand the meaning and application of each component. This will require you to refer to more in-depth information and explanations in the body of the handout.
Please note: Session quizzes are NOT a good study source for the comprehensive exam. They may or may not be included among the exam questions, but the exam questions are much more in-depth than the 8-10 quiz questions.
Most people have some anxiety prior to taking a major test. This is completely normal. Consider these options to keep you focused:
- Join a study group. Because the exams are now based on current curriculum, the material to study will be the same. Past study group members have found this to be a highly effective way to study and to network. After receiving our exam confirmation letter, contact the CTSM program administrator if you would like to participate in a study group. Study group participants will be connected about one month prior to the exam. A special quiet room has been reserved for study groups to meet on-site for final preparations.
- Develop a system. When you take the exam, stick to a pre-planned system for taking the test. Try to break it down into smaller, more manageable sections to make it less overwhelming.
- Finally, and most importantly, RELAX. While this is not an easy exam, test anxiety will only hinder your efforts. Rely on your knowledge base and experience. This is where thorough study prior to the exam really pays off.
During the Exam
- Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam which is based on the required core curriculum. Questions are not arranged in order of difficulty; they are randomly selected by the computer, and there will be several different exam instances (with different questions selected) at each exam time.
- This is a timed exam. Be aware of how you are proceeding through the exam according to the time you have remaining. You will want to save some time towards the end of the exam to go back to questions you passed over earlier.
- Don't agonize over one question. If you are truly stumped, mark it with a question mark and move on. Come back to it when you have finished the rest of the exam. If time permits, double check all of your answers. You may catch errors.
- Take advantage of breaks. Stretch, clear your head, etc. Short breaks are not a waste of time.
- Go ahead and make marks on the exam if this helps you in figuring out the answers to the questions. Do not make any extra marks on your answer key, other than filling in the circles of your correct answers.
- If the answer isn't immediately apparent for multiple choice question, don't panic. Simply eliminate answers you know to be incorrect. Sometimes you will answer a question by using a process of elimination. If you are still left with two possible answers, make your best guess. Incorrect guesses are not penalized, so you are better off guessing instead of leaving it blank. It is a good idea to cross out any answers you know to be incorrect. This will help you when you double check your work. Also, be sure to read all the answers before making your choice.
- With true/false questions, look for words like "always" or "never". If you can think of even one exception, it is false. Never is not the same as almost never.
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