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Q&A With a New SMPS Seattle CPSM

SMPS Seattle President-Elect Erin Hatch recently passed the CPSM exam. Below she shares some tips and takeaways from the experience.


Why did you decide to pursue CPSM certification?

I have been at my firm for about five and half years now, and in that time I’ve grown into a role as a Senior Associate and Marketing Director. It’s very rare for my firm to promote non-billable staff, and one requirement for promotion is that you have obtained credentials of some kind. In my case, the promotion came before the credentials, but I was strongly encouraged to pursue certification. Being the most applicable certification for our industry, it was pretty clear I’d go for the CPSM program. On top of that, SMPS has a certification assistance scholarship program, so I applied, and was named a recipient! The award covers your study materials and exam fees, which is a great deal.

What advice do you have for other SMPS members interested in getting their CPSM?

Be realistic about the time it takes to study. I began studying half-heartedly, and toward the end I really kicked it into gear, spending all my free moments studying flash cards I had created during my reading. When you’re starting out, read the CPSM study guide, and fill out the study plan tool, or create something similar. If you don’t put in the time, you probably won’t pass. Turns out, the exam is HARD! The reason it’s hard is because you can’t look up the answer anywhere, you have to know the content really well to be able to answer the questions.

What was the best resource you found when preparing your exams?

My go-to tools were the study guide practice tests and Markendium. I spent lots of time assessing my level of knowledge by taking the practice tests and gauging my competency in the various domains. I had a really hard time using the self-assessment tools in the study guide, which ask you to rank yourself in different areas in order to determine what to study. For me, this was really difficult to do without the use of a practice exam. The old adage ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ rings particularly true – it’s pretty hard to gauge how well you know a topic without quizzing yourself on the knowledge area.

Do you have any study tips for other people interested in taking the exam?

Yes! Here are a few:
• Make the time to study, and block it out on your calendar.
• Tell other people you’re taking the exam, so they hold you accountable.
• Apply to take the exam, and then register for the date. For me, this was the most important piece of the puzzle – having an actual date (a.k.a deadline) on the calendar meant that I had no more excuses to put off studying, I had to switch into full-blown cram mode for the last few weeks prior to the test!
• Register for the CPSM Domains in a Day event coming up on July 11th – I almost thought about delaying my exam date until after that workshop, but I was too impatient to wait that long. If I had the time, that’s the number one thing I would have done to help kick-start the study process.
• Lastly, believe in yourself! The test truly is really hard – I’ll be honest, I passed by the skin of my teeth. But if you go into the test thinking you won’t do well, you probably won’t pass. Be confident in your knowledge, learn how to read the questions and look for the best answer, and stay positive! Before you know it, you’ll be a CPSM too.

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