Meetings & Conventions: The Test - June 1998
Read this if you are: (a) considering taking the CMP exam;
(b) already signed up; (c) panic-stricken
BY CARLA BENINICongratulations!
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
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
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
[(50 X 150) + 5,000]/40
[(40 X 150) - 5,000]/40
(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
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!...FOUR SIMPLE SURVIVAL
- If possible, find the exam room the
night before the test. You'll quell some anxiety about where to go
on test day.
- Don't cram! On the eve of the exam,
just relax so you're fresh in the morning.
- 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
- 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?
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