Slay The Certification Uncertainty Dragon

Passing the CIH, the ASP, the CSP, or the CHMM exam is a valiant quest filled with hardship and uncertainty.

You set out on the arduous journey to pass the exam. You know the exam will be tough, but with determination and persistence, you’re confident you will prevail over the examination beast.

You work hard.

You study every night for 2 hours after your kids go to bed.

You get up before your kids to study a couple more hours before heading off to work.

You memorize the TLV Guidebook, and you know the difference between organochlorine and organophosphate. You can even design a push-pull ventilation system with one hand tied behind your back using a crayon and a slide rule.

You run through all the practice questions you can find three, four, five times, and you are fearless. You head into the dragon’s lair, aka the exam center, ready to slay the beast, and......

It doesn’t quite work out the way you intend.

It starts out okay. The exam dragon blows radiation fire at you, and you parry with thermal resistant PPE. Next, he sends a volley of toxic smoke in your direction, and you counter with local exhaust ventilation placed two duct diameters from his nostrils.

Things are looking pretty good.

But then come the scenario questions about working at the lama pack manufacturing facility. You never even knew there were special hazards related to the assembly of lama packs.

Are there ergonomic hazards? What about chemical exposures? Do you need hearing protection when working next to a lama? Who knows?

After the lama pack manufacturing question, it seems to be getting hotter in the lair. It becomes difficult to recall even basic information about benzene and asbestos.

You fight back by correctly answering a basic statistics question, but the dragon disarms you with a confusing epidemiology query.

You barely make it out alive, and you’re not surprised when the dragon’s minion hands you the paper stating that preliminary results indicate you did not pass the exam.

You go home to mend your wounds, and contemplate the sanity of this quest.


What do you do next?

You were extremely prepared, but you were still defeated. Can it be done?

Do you have the stuff to slay the examination dragon?


However, defeating your enemy may not come through battle.

There is an old saying I picked up from Master Wu, the sensei of the cartoons “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu”. He advises, the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make them your friend.

Now, I know it’s crazy to think of a test as a friend, and who wants a friend that’s always testing you anyway.

Some friends are like that. Some friends constantly challenge us to better ourselves by asking the hard questions. They force us to continue thinking and look for solutions we may not have thought of before.

Just like a friend, the exam changes and grows and evolves. It is a moving target.

You didn’t pass the exam the first time, and the second attempt may not go well either. It doesn’t mean you’re not worthy.

Exam failure just means you need to take the exam again. Some of the best professionals I know had to take the exam multiple times before earning their certification.

It doesn’t mean you have to study harder or longer or more efficiently.

Exam failure just means you have to take it again.

Embrace the uncertainty of the exam. Treat each attempt as a learning experience which adds to your knowledge base helping you to develop your critical thinking skills.

Eventually, you will come to recognize the exam as an old friend who still likes to throw the occasional brain teaser at you.

Keep at it. Don’t give up. You’ll eventually turn the exam dragon into your friend.