Tips for Preparing and Taking the ASQ Certification Exams


Preparing to take the ASQ Certification Exam

Step 1:  Determine which ASQ Certification best fits you.

For help in understanding the various certifications and which is the best fit for you and your career goals, review the Right ASQ Certification for you

Step 2: Determine when you want to obtain the ASQ Certification.

Often times in our classes we observe people who do not have a clear timeframe in mind.  They approach the exam with the perspective of "I will take it when I'm ready".  We recommend an established date to work toward and if at that time you feel not prepared then adjust the date.  Our experience is if there is no defined date, the effort toward learning is dramatically reduced.

Step 3:  Obtain and Review the Body of Knowledge for the specific ASQ Exam 

Get a copy of the Body of Knowledge for whatever ASQ exam you are preparing for.  Before you begin studying it is important to become very familiar with it.  Know it well, it is guideline ASQ uses in structuring the exam and spells out the information you will be tested on.  Pay close attention to the cognitive level of various areas of the body of knowledge.  You don't have to know everything equally well.  Some information you could rely on searching for in reference material and certain areas of the body of knowledge require cognitive levels you better be very proficient in.

Step 4:  Collect your study and reference materials

Obtain a good reference book.  You can get them from ASQ or Quality Council of Indiana.  For our classes we use the primer from QCI.  If you are using the QCI primer, here's the study progression we recommend for the following ASQ Certificaiton exams:

CQA : Begin in section VII, the statistics is the most challenging and you want to allow plenty of time to learn.  From there progress to section II and move in order through the primer ending with the case studies.

CQT:  Start in Section IV and progress to the end then come back and finish II and III.

CMQ/OE:  Progress in order through the primer and then hit the essay questions.

CQE:  Start in section VIII and progress through X.  From there move to section IV and work to VII.  Next hit section I and II and finish with section XI.

CSSGB:  Start with section VII and progress through XI.  After that move to section II and work through VI.

CSSBB:  Start with section VII and work through XI.  Then move to section IV and work through VI.  Finish up with section II and III.

CRE:  Start in section IV and move through section IX.  Then finish up with section II and III.

Step 5:  Develop your study Plan

Develop your study plan.  The best approach is to allocate time every day at the same time of day to make it a habit.  Obviously adjustments will be made throughout the study period, but the more routine you make the more effective your study will be.   Based on the body of knowledge you should be able to make a pretty accurate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.  A good approach would be to progress through the body of knowledge and rank from 1 to 4 each area outlined.  A level 1 indicates you are very confident in your understanding of that material whereas a level 4 indicates you need a lot of work.  This prioritization helps to develop your plan.  With this approach, you are focused on the 4's first, then the 3's, 2's and 1's.  Your study plan should contain dates and subjects to be reviewed.  Here are some guidelines for the various ASQ Certification exams:

   CQA - 10 weeks preparation

   CQT - 16 weeks preparation

   CMQ/OE - 14 weeks preparation

   CQE - 24 weeks preparation

   CSSGB - 16 weeks preparation

   CSSBB - 24 weeks preparation

   CRE - 24 weeks preparation 

As you are moving through the material it is important you continually quiz yourself.  Make certain to take timed quizzes based on what ASQ certification exams allow.  Don't treat the quizzes as homework and get mentally prepared before you take them.  Get accustomed to the mental preparation and the ability to get yourself to performing at a high level mentally.

Keep going back to material you previously studied.  Once you have studied and reviewed some material don't let it sit, you will lose it.

When you miss questions or get them wrong differentiate between you didn't know the material or you made a mistake.  Two entirely different causes that require separate actions to remedy.

Tips for Right Before the ASQ Exam

Pre Test Action Items:

Verify your calculator is allowed by ASQ for testing purposes. Programmable and certain types of displays are not, contact ASQ to verify. It’s a good idea to secure a back-up calculator if you can.

Remove all of the questions (blue pages) from your primer and do not bring in any other questions, tests or quizzes. The proctor can go through your materials and if you have them you could be denied the ability to sit for the exam.

Develop a time management plan and your plan of attack for the test. Your time management plan should be your method to monitor your progress throughout the exam so you know if you should speed up or you are on pace. For example for the multiple choice portion of the CMQ/OE exam you have 195 minutes to complete 150 questions or 1.3 minutes/question. I would allow 1.2 minutes / question to provide for variation. Therefore after 30 minutes you should be through 25 questions and 50 after an hour and so on. 

Take your appendix out of the primer and place it in a narrow three ring binder. It is much quicker to review and find locations when separate for the bulky primer. Keep your glossaries in the narrow, three ring binder also. It is recommended to have a dictionary with you on exam day.

Just as if you were going to give a speech or a presentation, prepare and practice. You wouldn’t give an important presentation without proper preparation and mental focus. Treat this the same way. Don’t treat it like any other day.


Visualize the test: Play the test through in your mind prior to taking it. Do some scenario planning and give yourself different situations during the exam and see how you should respond. You would be surprised to see how many of them occur and when they do, you are prepared. Visualize you reading the question and underlining the key words and progressing through the answers, ruling out the weak ones and selecting the strongest relative to the question. (I keep harping on this for a reason). Do not partially read the question and think you know what they are asking, READ IT THOROUGHLY.

Tips for During the ASQ Exam

Tips to Pass the ASQ Exam

During the Exam

1.  Use time management. Have a system where you are monitoring your progress every 30 minutes or so. This will let you know if you are on pace or you need to pick it up a little.

2. Categorize questions into three areas, type I you know and can answer, type II , you are familiar with but may have to look up information and type III, not sure definitely must look up. FOCUS on type I and type II first. Do not spend 15 minutes on a type III question and agonize over it while sacrificing 5 type I questions you could have selected correct.

3. Independent of the type question you have, read the questions first. Read it thoroughly and slowly. Review the answers. Go back and read the question again and underline the KEY words or phrases that define the problem. Is the question asking for the best planning tools or the best analytical tools? One word changes everything. The question could be asking for which one is NOT indicative of a TQM environment. If the question is focused or asking about customer focus, the answers better address customer focus and not a broad statement of management support (which is strong but does not answer the question)

4. Try to rule out the weakest answers. These are the ones you are confident are NOT correct. Do not try and select the correct answer, you want to rule out the one incorrect ones. Look for three very specific answers and one general or three very general and one specific.

5. Once you have it down to two possible answers, go back, read the questions and ask yourself, “relative to the question, which answer is the STRONGEST”. For example one answer could be “categorize quality costs” and the other could be “implement a cost of quality program”. A cost of quality program includes categorizing quality costs.

6. If you cannot make a decision, move on. Often, when you come back to the question, your mind and thought process will be in a different place and you will read it again the correct answer becomes more evident.

7. If there is a question regarding a term or definition you are NOT ABSOLUTELY sure about, LOOK IT UP. Do not go on your interpretation use ASQ’s.


Read the question thoroughly.  Sounds easy but make sure you understand what is being asked.  Are they asking what you would do or would not do?  Is the question asking what would be the most or least effective or which would be less likely or most likely to happen?  There will be some trick answers that are catered to a misunderstanding of the question, so understand what is being asked.  Focus on what is being asked, for example:

Which of the following methods is best for generating and organizing improvement ideas?

(a) brainstorming

(b) cause and effect diagram

(c) affinity diagram

(d) tree diagram

The key words here are "generating, organizing, ideas",  The answer is (c).  If you remove "organizing", the answer is (a).  If you change "improvement ideas" to "potential causes", the answer is (b).

In responding to the questions make sure you select the best response.  You may have a question where you believe multiple responses are correct, but they are asking for only one. Select the best or most important one. 

The exams are multiple choice (except for the couple of essay questions for the Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence).  Go through the test on your first time and categorize them into three areas.  Category one is, you know the answer. Category two questions are you think you know the answer and category three is you don’t know the answer.   As you’re going through, answer all category one and two questions.  Don’t hit the panic button if you have a lot of category two and three questions.  When you’re done go back to the category two questions. Review the answers you selected. Would you make the same selection? Which response is the best one based on what is being asked?   Now move to the category three questions, the ones you don’t know the answer to. Chances are you can eliminate one response. It doesn’t belong or it makes no sense based on the question. Now you have three options. If you still have no idea, guess. You do not get penalized for wrong answers, you are only rewarded for correct ones. So, guess.  With any time left go over and review all of your responses. 

Here is a couple of sample questions:

Which of the following is most critical when determining process capability?

(a) Management Support

(b) Trained Quality Engineers

(c)  Process in Control

(d) Understand CpK

(a) is a strong answer but it doesn't answer the question, (b) trained in what?   

(c) definitely important, you can't rule it out,  (d) who understands CpK?  the VP, the operator?

clearly c is the correct answer

In the early stages of root cause analysis, it is most important to:

(a)  verify the corrective action

(b)  implement the solution

(c)  quarantine defective product

(d)  clearly define the problem

(a)  not done in the early stages, (b)  same as (a), (c)  should be done, but not part of root cause analysis, (d)  bingo!