I recently took the National Contract Management Association's (NCMA) Certified Professional Contracts Manager (CPCM) exam, so I figured I would pass along some lessons learned for anyone looking to take the test. Please feel free to email me if you need further advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
The test was about the same level of difficulty as the online practice tests available through NCMA's website. If you score around 80% on those tests, then you are ready to take the real exam. Give yourself around one month of focused study to prepare for the test. Spend the first two to three weeks reading and digesting content from the must have resources mentioned below. Spend the last week taking NCMA's online practice tests for each of the five modules.
If you have been out of business classes for a while, I highly recommend spending some time brushing up on basic marketing, management information technology, managerial economics, and financial accounting topics. I had just taken two MBA classes in Managerial Economics and Managerial Accounting, which helped me quite a bit in the business module. You do not need to be versed in every detail, but I highly suggest reviewing the basics. The CPCM flashcards were very helpful in this regard. For example, you need to remember the Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity equation from Financial Accounting. In addition, you need to know the basic format of a balance sheet, income statement, etc.
The CPCM exam is based on the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition, and follows its exact format in each of five modules: (1) Specialized Knowledge Areas, (2) Acquisition Planning, (3) Pre-Award, (4) Post-Award, and (5) Business. It's a standard 180-question multiple choice exam, but also includes six to eight scenarios (based on GAO rulings and various court cases) with follow-on multiple choices questions. You have 240 minutes to complete the exam, but it really only takes about 120 minutes so time is not really a factor. You have the option to "flag" questions for review before actually submitting the exam. I recommend doing this, but remember that your first guess is usually the correct answer. The content of the exam spans numerous concepts to include: Government contracting, commercial contracting, various legal terms, operations management, information technology, marketing, accounting, economics, general management, and leadership.
MUST HAVE RESOURCES:1. Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), 4th Edition
2. Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide, 3rd Edition
3. CPCM online flashcards, 43 sets
4. CPCM online practice exams
SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES:1. Desktop Guide to Basic Contracting Terms, 7th Edition
I did not purchase this guide because the CPCM flashcards covered 1,000+ definitions.
RECOMMENDED STUDY PLAN:
Week One: Read the CMBOK in its entirety. Two hours per night for five nights.
Week Two: Read the Certified Professional Contracts Manager Study Guide in its entirety. Take the mini-quizzes as the end of each section. Two hours per night for five to seven nights.
Week Three: Begin reviewing the CPCM online flashcards for each module (and sub module). There are 43 sets total. Two hours per night for five nights.
Week Four: Take each of the five CPCM online practice exams. Take one test each night for five nights. Each test will take you about 30 minutes. After you submit the tests, go back and copy all the questions/answers and paste them into a MS Word document. After doing this, I printed them out and went back to review weak areas.
Week Five: Take the real CPCM exam at an approved test location.