Monday, September 19, 2011

My, how time flies ...

It's been three years since I've passed the exam.

My certification expired on June 30th.

Fortunately there's a 6 month grace period.

I have all my information packet together, with letters of reference and I'll be mailing it in this week.

I'd like to keep the cert and I certainly don't want to re-take the exam.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Post Exam Thoughts

Well, it's been a little more than a month since I passed the exam.

I received my certificate, scanned my certificate so I always have an electronic copy, notified my employer and updated my resume (certainly can't forget that part!)

ASQ posts the names of all those who passed
in a .pdf on their website. Unfortunately, I could only identify about 11 of the 26 people in my class who made it. That's a pretty low percentage, about 43%.

A couple key tactics that were instrumental on pulling this off:

1) Come up with a study plan and work your plan. One chapter per week seems to be a pretty common tactic. Reserve time, minimally an hour per day for your CSQE activities. I was spending several hours per week on this. Be sure to take a day off during the week as well.

2) Form a study group. I had the class, and less formally Bruce and Jim to ask questions and generally discuss different topics. Most importantly, having this formal or informal mechanism kept me "on track" and focused on the material. Based on past experience with the PMP certification, I would start with good intentions and eventually drop off with the initiative.

3) Use a study guide such as the Quality Council of Indiana's (identified earlier in this blog). Research the information that doesn't make sense or is too vague to be of value.

A technique contributing to finishing this certification, for me anyways, was the use of audio recordings. The repetition of hearing this material over and over again, for 2 hours per day made a huge difference.

Don't rely on being able to look up answers during the exam. There's just not enough time and you may not have brought the right reference material. You need to know as much of this information as possible before walking into the exam.

There will be a new version of the exam beginning on December 6, 2008. Based on what I've seen posted on the ASQ site, much of the earlier material will still be in use.

I'm going to continue on with some other certifications, probably more technical in nature, such as linux or web. I think that Microsoft certs are horrible in that they become obsolete and useless every three years or so when a new version of the operating system comes out.

I'm pretty comfortable with this methodology for attaining a certification and will be repeating it. Who knows, maybe another blog will be appearing in the future ...

Monday, June 16, 2008


I passed.

I just received an email about an hour ago to log in to the ASQ site and check the results.

They formatted the acceptance in a press release format.

I guess I don't need to go to Maryland in September to re-take the exam.

This is what the email said:

Your Software Quality Engineer exam results are now available to view online. As a Registered Visitor, you will need to log in with your e-mail address and password.

View Exam Results

Please contact Customer Care at 800-248-1946 (USA and Canada) or +1-414-272-8575 for password assistance or to check your registration.

If the exam is listed under Current Certifications, you passed. You can expect to receive a certification card and certificate by postal mail. Feel free to click the Press Release button to create a personalized press release to print, save, or send to your local paper, colleagues, and friends. Please note ASQ does NOT release your score if you passed the exam.

If the exam is listed under Pending Certifications, unfortunately you did not pass. You can click the View Results link to view your score and an analysis of your results. You will receive a printed copy of this information by postal mail in approximately one week. International mail may take five weeks. You may click the Retake button if you wish to register to retake this exam.

If you have any questions about your results, our Customer Care staff is available to assist you. Send an e-mail to or call toll-free 800-248-1946 or +1-414-272-8575.


American Society for Quality
600 N Plankinton Ave.

The link above takes you to a page that has the following info:

Current Certifications
Description Number Cert. Date Recertify By
Certified Software Quality Engineer 9999 06/07/2008 06/30/2011

I'm done! Next ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

EXAM - What's done is done ...

Well, the exam date came. I'm pretty certain I didn't pass.

When I arrived at the location, a half hour early, there were signs that the room location had changed. Fortunately, it was easy to find. I tend to stress out over such things.

The exam started promptly at 8:00AM.

I read through and answered about half the questions in the first 2:15 hours. In this first pass, I circled probable answers and crossed out improbable answers. This really helped later as time was running out. If I didn't answer the question, I circled the entire question block for ease of finding it the next pass.

After this first pass, I took about a ten minute break to stretch my legs. I think four straight hours necessitates a quick "breather".

Then I went back and looked up (or tried to look up) about 20-30 more. It's funny that in the second pass, some questions became clearer and an obvious answer became apparent. Unfortunately, not in all cases.

Then with a half hour left, I just started to re-read questions and just pick the right answer, often taking my choice from the first pass. This is probably where I lost it.

With 15 minutes left, I had to select something, but in almost all cases I was able to rule out some answers or determine some reasonable answers to increase the 25% probability of selecting one out of four answers.

There were about 4 questions where I completely guessed at the answer. There were also about a dozen that had two correct answers.

It was way too hectic at the end. I feel I needed a better completion percentage on the first pass.

A couple observations:

- No questions on CMM, but 2-4 on CMMI
- No questions relating specifically to Deming, Juran, Crosby, etc.
- Only a few of the multi-level multiple choice questions. This was a nice surprise.
- There were a few questions on standards.

Cyclomatic complexity, PERT, histograms, pareto, defect rates, earned value were all addressed with 1-3 questions. The questions were "all over the board" as far as subject matter.

I created a grid to track my probability of right answers during the exam. It contained the question number and check boxes for 90%, 75%, 50%, and 25% probability. I don't think you can ever say you're 100% certain on this exam. I took a slightly pessimistic approach to determining probability. When I tallied up and multiplied by the probability at the end, I figure I scored about 50%. Yup. That's bad.

Prior to time running out (10-15 minute mark), count the answers you recorded on the answer sheet. Make sure there are 160.

Keeping the appendix and index separate was crucial to fast lookups. That really helped. The ASQ Glossary was useful but not critical. I referenced it a few times. It helped to reinforce knowledge.

Although I didn't do well, this is not an impossible exam. I think a couple more weeks could have made a difference. It was challenging, but do-able.

Now I just kick back and wait for the results.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

EXAM - My checklist

This is what I brought to the exam:


- a few pencils
- a portable pencil sharpener
- an eraser
- a calculator (solar/battery combo)
- a backup calculator
(know how to work these prior to the exam)
- reading glasses
- ear plugs
- a watch
- a sheet numbered 1-160 to mark probability of right answer (90%, 75%, 50%, 25%).
(I used this tactic in the PMP exam)
- A couple water bottles
- A blank spiral notebook to be used as scratch paper
- A printout of my exam acceptance email
- Picture ID / Drivers License
- Wear comfortable clothes.

Reference Material:

- CQI Primer
- Separate binder with CQI Primer appendix and index
- Separate binder with ASQ and ASTQB glossaries
- Separate binder with:
--- 7 historic quality tools
--- Standards keyword cross-reference
--- Quality guru cross-reference
--- Statistic calculations
--- CMM information
--- Jim made a reference sheet with several pages of notes that I also brought.

A couple other points:

- As mentioned earlier, we went to the exam site a couple days earlier just to make certain we knew where it was at.
- Know where road construction is at and make sure it won't impact your arrival time.
- I put all my stuff in a hand cart I picked up from Office Depot for $19.95. It looks like a milk crate with wheels and a long, collapsible handle. It folds up nicely to put out of the way. I didn't want to worry about dropping all my stuff on the way to the exam room.

Friday, June 6, 2008

EXAM - The Day Before

The day before the exam I took a vacation day from work.

I ran through the Practice Exam CD from CQI for about an hour. I was hitting 50-60% without looking up answers. This is too low a success rate at this point.

Bruce, Jim and I met for about three hours to compare notes, do a quick review and discuss a couple questions.

We met in an area that had a copy machine, hole punch and stapler. We shared a bunch of material. It was a beneficial review.

To conclude the day, I went through more of the practice exam. Then had a very large glass of pinot noir and relaxed for the last couple hours of the day.

Speaking of pinot noir, NOIR is an acronym for Nominal Ordinal Interval and Ratio. These are data measurement scales. I guess you need to think in these terms to prepare for the exam ...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

STUDY MATERIAL - Fishbone Diagram

I've been a TechRepublic member for several years. It's a *free* service and has been safe and low-maintenance from my perspective. I'm pretty sure you'll need to sign up to access the post below, but it's worth a try.

They have a brief article on using a fishbone diagram (or Ishikawa diagram) to attack complex problems.

here's the link: