Friday, January 29, 2016

An ASQ Exam Chair Reveals All

What Did You Do Last Weekend?

Last month, I was indoors on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, surrounded by five open statistics textbooks, gripping my calculator as I performed yet another calculation for the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt exam. I wasn't missing out on my weekend with a group of like-minded quality professionals though. I wasn't even nervously watching the clock: I was sitting comfortably in my home office taking the Black Belt exam in preparation for an ASQ workshop.

We could argue about the sanity of an already certified Black Belt who voluntarily takes the 150-question, grueling exam every six months, but that's fodder for another post. The fact is, twice a year, ASQ randomly chooses 12 certified Black Belts to read through an exam, record answers and, most importantly, provide comments (mostly criticisms) on the questions.  After sending their feedback into ASQ, the 12 are flown to ASQ headquarters in Milwaukee to attend a two-day workshop. There, the group reviews the exam questions and their collective responses and comments, all the while being expertly led through the process by an ASQ test developer. At the end of those two days, the 12 -- by now a cohesive group firmly in the performing stage of team development -- have produced a new version of the exam that is robust, reliable and accurate. The new, vetted exam is then administered to Black Belt candidates on the next test date, either in March or October. It is an extraordinary process performed by ASQ members for ASQ members.

Comments Anyone?

When I sat for my Black Belt exam back in 2006, I had no idea about the amount of work, expertise and caring attention to detail that went into the exam. I was just interested in getting through the test and passing. A couple of the questions had me scratching my head, and one or two seemed just plain wrong. I wrote a few comments on the sheet provided during the test session. Have you commented on exam questions as well? I will tell you that each and every candidate comment is collated into a report and reviewed by the ASQ test developer and the exam chair. (Remember, there are generally 1500 people taking the Black Belt exam throughout the country on test day!)  As you might expect, a lot of the comments are just complaints from cranky test takers. Four hours of filling out a bubble sheet will do that to people. However, it has happened that a test question gets thrown out because candidates have discovered a problem that was missed in the review workshop.

A Way to Give Back

ASQ administers 17 certification exams, from the old stalwarts like the CQE and CQA to the newly created, like the CPGP, or Certified Pharmaceutical GMP Professional. The exams each have at least one review workshop each year, and ASQ is always looking for volunteers. If you are interested in being involved in an exam review, don't wait for the luck of a random draw. Send your resume to Mary Martin at stating which exam (or exams) you are interested in. Volunteers must hold a current certification and be an ASQ member. Participants get 2 REUs, a trip to Milwaukee and the chance to get nerdy with 11 other quality professionals!

© 2016 Mary McShane-Vaughn

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