June 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: The Test - June 1998 Current Issue
June 1998
The Test

Read this if you are: (a) considering taking the CMP exam; (b) already signed up; (c) panic-stricken


Congratulations! You are among the special group of meeting professionals to be distinguished by the Certified Meeting Professional Designation. You are approved for certification by the Convention Liaison Council on the recommendation of the Certified Meeting Professional Board of CLC.

These are the words that every CMP test-taker hopes to read when the test results finally arrive. The letter can be a cathartic ending to months of late-night cram sessions and lugging stacks of study materials through airports on business trips.

And then, of course, there's your real job to fit in around the hours of study. The 150-question exam is a major commitment for a full-time meeting professional, confirms Mary Devar, CMP, research meetings planner for Wyeth-Ayerst Research, a pharmaceutical company in Radnor, Pa. "It never seemed like the right time," she says. Part of the December 1997 group of CMP examinees, Devar had put off taking the exam for years, and was finally encouraged by her new employer, a staunch supporter of adult education.

The commitment begins with filling out an 11-page application, which asks you to verify - in lots of detail - your industry experience. A point system is used to evaluate potential test-takers and their professional background. Once accepted, it's time to study. And study some more. Some planners choose to spend that time in a study group, where they receive both helpful information about the exam (most session leaders are CMPs) and emotional support from peers. Others decide to go it alone.

Is it worth it? CMPs say yes. "I wanted people to know that I have the credentials," says Jennie McNeill, CMP, president and owner of Jennie McNeill Enterprises, a destination management and meeting planning company in New Orleans. McNeill wanted the certification to set herself apart from her competition. In the end, she gained more than three letters after her name. "Even if I wasn't taking the test, I felt like I became a better planner because of it." Want to get started? With the help of CMP veterans and recent test-takers, M&C compiled answers to common questions about the Big Test.

Where do I begin? To qualify as a CMP test candidate, you must have at least three years of meetings management experience, be currently employed in the profession and be responsible for meetings. If you fit the bill, get in touch with the CLC. The Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based association, which comprises 26 member organizations from the meetings, trade show and hospitality industries, has certified more than 4,388 people since the program's inception in 1986. Contact the office by calling (303) 422-8522 or writing: Convention Liaison Council, 10200 W. 44th Ave., Suite 304, Wheat Ridge, Colo. 80033. Ask for an application form, which should be filled out and returned with a $25 handling fee.

What's on the application? The 11-page form is meant to verify you as a bona fide meeting professional. Questions ask about your specific meetings management responsibilities, educational background, industry memberships, published articles, awards, designations and teaching and speaking stints. An essay question asks the importance and impact of the CMP designation on your career. The application kit also explains what kind of knowledge the exam requires, and offers a reference book list and sample questions.

When will I know if I qualify? The application is reviewed by the CLC board within a few weeks. Those who are offered a seat on exam day have a month to send in the $290 exam fee. Procrastinators will be relieved to know they don't have to take the next scheduled test; an approved application is valid for two years.

When and where is the test? The exam is offered twice a year at about a dozen sites across the country. It usually coincides with a major industry conference. The next application deadline is Sept. 14 for the Jan. 23, 1999, exam. Most test sites are in major cities, but the CLC will schedule a new location for a minimum of 10 test-takers.

What is the test like? Take a look at the examination blueprint, found in the application kit. This test outline lists 27 "functions" that planners need to be versed in to pass. Topics include budgeting, meeting evaluation, food and beverage and technology. Each function has a number next to it, which estimates how many related questions will appear on the test. For example, test-takers can expect one to three questions on special programs. More important functions, such as goals and objectives, might have eight to 10 questions.

Questions are usually situational and ask you to solve a problem given certain parameters. Two of the multiple-choice options can almost always be eliminated right away. Here's a sample question: Your association is planning a regional meeting. Fifty attendees are anticipated, 10 of whom are complimentary guests. Total fixed costs to the association are $150 per person. The association must clear $5,000 after all expenses are paid. In order to achieve this goal, how should the minimum registration fee per person be calculated?

a. (50 X 150)/50 b. [(50 X 150) + 5,000]/40 c. [(40 X 150) - 5,000]/40 d. (50 X 150)/40

(Correct answer: b)

Should I join a study group? History shows it helps. "The overall outcome is slightly better if you join a study group than if you don't," according to Francine Butler, CMP, executive vice president of CLC. Study groups offered through Meeting Professionals International are typically led by one or two group leaders but taught by several industry veterans who are experts in various fields, such as technology or food and beverage. Those teachers are almost always CMP-certified.

One of the major advantages to joining a group is that it provides a regimen, along with a support system. "In Arkansas I was so isolated," says Jan Allen, CMP, event coordinator for Entergy Services, Inc., a utility company in Little Rock, Ark. Allen studied on her own and then attended a one-day course just a few weeks before the exam. "I thought [the test] would be about specifics, but I realized after talking with others that it was going to be more situational," recalls Allen. "The leader put me in the right frame of mind."

How do I find a study group? Call the CLC. The 40 CMP-led sessions offered by MPI are listed in the application kit. Several other CLC member organizations offer assistance, including group study sessions at national meetings. For example, the Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals runs an eight-hour study course at its annual November meeting.

Can't I just buy some books? For those who can't join a study group - or prefer not to - the CLC recommends 10 books, but most of the material is covered in two texts: The Convention Liaison Council Manual and Glossary, 6th Edition ($34.95) and Professional Meeting Management, Third Edition ($54.95) by the Professional Convention Management Association. To bone up on the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, buy Accessible Meetings and Conventions ($20) by Jane Jarrow and Ciritta Park.

Should I bother with glossaries? Absolutely. Study the CLC Manual's glossary, in particular. "Certain functions are found more in the glossary than in the text," says Chris Canning, CMP, national sales manager for The Event Team, a San Diego-based destination management company.

Even when the words seem simple, pay special attention to definitions, adds Colleen Rickenbacher, CMP, vice president of event planning for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and a former study group leader. "If you've been in the industry a long time, you may have your own lingo," she says. In other words, know the difference between a podium and a lectern.

What if I disagree with the books? Not to negate your professional expertise but, "If it's in the book, that's how it will be on the test," says Rickenbacher. The material is standardized. While the book's way of solving a meeting problem may not be your way, for the purposes of the test, it's the right way.

How many can I miss? You don't have to ace every question. In fact, the pass/fail exam only requires test-takers to get 60 percent of the answers correct. The three-hour exam is all multiple-choice and is graded by an independent testing organization.

How much will this cost? The grand total, which includes the $25 application handling fee, the $125 processing fee and the $290 charge for the exam, is $440. Books are extra, as is membership in a study group. Class prices vary. The Philadelphia area chapter of MPI, for example, charges $100 (for seven sessions) for MPI members and $200 for non-members.

When will I know if I passed? You should be notified by the CLC within 60 days of taking the test. Hopefully, the letter will begin: Congratulations!...

  1. If possible, find the exam room the night before the test. You'll quell some anxiety about where to go on test day.
  2. Don't cram! On the eve of the exam, just relax so you're fresh in the morning.
  3. When first handed the test, flip it over and write down any formulas you have memorized. No need to concentrate on remembering them for three hours.
  4. To pace yourself, put a mark at the 50th question before you begin. When you reach that question, look at the clock and see how long it took to finish the first third of the test. You have three hours: Are you working too fast or too slow?
C .B.
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