Potential Client (PC) Russ Bowen (RB):
PC: Should I take your review course to prepare for the CSP exam?
RB: I don't know. What is your background and education? Are you comfortable studying on your own?
PC: What difference does that make?
RB: Well, if you've earned a degree in the health and safety field or have taken the CIH exam, it is likely you already have the knowledge. If you can study on your own, you can save a lot of money.
RB: Yes, look at the cost of one review course, you can take the exam two or three times for the same price. Just study on your own and then sit for the exam. If you pass the first time, "Wooo hooo! You're a CSP" and you've saved a lot of money. If you don't pass, you'll have a good idea on which subjects where you need to improve your knowledge base. Concentrate on those areas and I'm sure you'll do better the next time.
PC: That makes sense, but I am very risk averse, and I want to maximize my chances of passing the first time.
RB: Well, a review course will likely improve your chances of passing the first time, but from a financial risk management perspective it is probably not the best choice.
PC: Why is that?
RB: Well, the passing rate for the exam is about 70%. This means that approximately, 3 out of 10 test-takers are unsuccessful. The exam fee is $350, but the cost of a CSP review course can be between $700 and $2,000 depending where you take the course, how it is provided, and travel related costs.
Let's work a problem with some estimated numbers. We know they're not exact, but it can help us illustrate a point.
Let's say that taking a review course increases the probability of passing the exam the first time to 95% which means there is a 5% (0.05) of failing the exam.
The cost of the risk of taking the exam is equal to the probability of failure multiplied by the cost of the negative consequences (paying for a failed exam).
Cost of risk without taking review course = 0.30 x $350 = $105. The 0.30 is the probability of failing without taking the course.
Cost of risk with taking a review course = 0.05 x $350 = $17.50
This analysis shows that taking the review course will lower our cost of the risk by $87.50, but we've spent somewhere around $700.00 or more. From the financial point of view looking at only the cost of the exam and no other factors (such as value of time spent studying, value of potential salary increase, increased stress from uncertainty, and many others), we are getting a negative return on our money.
Of course, this is only a review of the financial considerations around taking a review course.
PC: Wow, I never thought of it that way. It definitely is a financial risk. Are there any other risks?
RB: Some other risks that may be important to consider when studying on your own are:
- Spending time studying the wrong material when you could be enjoying your family.
- Failure to meet a (self-imposed or external) deadline.
- Potential of delayed salary increase.
- Embarrassment that you weren't able to achieve success.
PC: There has to be benefits from taking a review course.
RB: Of course! The number one benefit is that it will increase your efficiency in studying, both what to study and how to study. You are on a set schedule with a live instructor and can ask questions right then and there. You also establish relationships with other professionals and can learn from their experiences.
A good review course will:
- Keep you on schedule
- Make you accountable for studying
- Provide additional support even after the course is over
- Make you aware of changes to the certification exams
- Keep you focused on the things you really need to know to pass
It is a risk and only you can determine if you are willing to take that risk. You may be able to study and pass on your own or you may need a review course to keep you on track. We cannot make that decision for you. You know yourself best! Just remember, we at Bowen EHS, will be here if and when you need us.