Achieving Association for Strategic Planning (ASP) industry level certification signals you are a well-rounded and accomplished strategy professional. That said, passing an industry level professional certification exam can be stressful, expensive and time consuming; especially balancing work demands or looking for career opportunities. As you begin to prepare for your certification exam follow these tips to ensure success:
- Become a member of ASP. There are multiple benefits of joining ASP membership if you are applying for ASP certifications. The membership fee for an individual is $295 for the first year and $245 for annual renewal. If you are an undergraduate or graduate level student, or if you are enrolled in LBL Strategies’ “Mastering Strategy” course (see below), the membership fee is only $95 for you to join. With membership benefits, you will get the ASP Body Knowledge Guide 2.0 for free (originally at $50 value), you will also save $100 on the qualifying application and $150 on exam fee. Joining at either level saves you money. On top of that, ASP membership provides you numerous networking and learning opportunities which will aid you in certification exam prep.
- Determine your level of certification eligibility. ASP offers two levels of certifications. Level I is Strategic Planning Professional (SPP) and Level II is Strategic Management Professional (SMP). The fundamental difference between these two is your experience. The former requires 2 years of working experience, while the latter requires 5 years. ASP website provides a detailed Comparison Matrix between these two types of certification. If you are new to the strategy field or have been functioning as a junior role, our recommendation is to apply for the SPP certification. Both exams have 160 questions in a 3-hour window but in our experience, the SMP exam is much harder and you need to be prepared for scenario type questions that will draw upon experience.
- Schedule your exam preparation to test taking cycle. Unlike some other professional associations which offer certification exams all year round, ASP has two exam periods every year. Historically, one has been offered in May and the other in November. Please check ASP’s exam calendar for the currently posted exam periods. Be sure to note your application deadline date on your calendar.
- Submit your application. ASP has a two-part application process that includes a review of a Qualifying Application followed by processing of a Professional Testing Corporation (PTC) Test Center application. Please note, the application deadlines are usually several months before the exam period to allow for a thorough review and approval process. You will need to fill out an application form, submit a case study, gather your professional references and attach your career bio. Start the process early to give it the due diligence it requires. Don’t get caught in the middle of your exam preparation having to redo your application package.
- Review all the SPP/SMP preparation material listed on the ASP website. ASP recommends a variety of Workbooks and Study Aids for your exam preparation. Download the Self-Assessment for your desired level of certification to identify what you need to learn and where to focus your study efforts. Review the Sample Exam Questions on the website to gain familiarity with the kinds of questions for which to prepare. Most importantly, build a specific study plan which includes what, when, where are how you will study for the exam.
- Review the BOK Framework. ASP Body of Knowledge Guide 2.0 is THE most important handbook you need to deliberately study for several times. ASP adopts Lead-Think-Plan-Act (L-T-P-A) as its mantra and the framework organizes all the key theories, models, tools and processes around these four building blocks. It is a thorough handbook. However, for people who are fairly new to the strategy field, you might get overwhelmed by the intensity of information you will receive from the BOK guide. ASP also created Certification Terminology & Key Concepts Flashcards as a supplementary resource to help you memorize key concepts. We recommend you use them to assess your level of understanding with terminology and concepts likely to be covered on the exam, fill in the gaps and boost your exam readiness.
- Take our Mastering Strategy course. As an ASP Registered Education Provider (REP), LBL Strategies offers education programs and materials to help you prepare to sit for your ASP exam. Did you know that LBL Strategies, as one of the qualified REPs, offers the only online courses specifically designed to help you pass the ASP SPP and SMP certification exams? You may either take it online live with an instructor or study at your own pace. Our course instructors are all ASP certified SMPs. Currently, we are proud to boast a 100% pass rate for everyone who has successfully completed our Mastering Strategy course and sat for an ASP certification exam. Our program not only prepares you for the ASP exam, but also provides you practical processes, tools, and techniques that you may apply at work. Upon successful completion of the program, you will obtain a certification from George Washington University on our Mastering Strategy – Strategic Management Performance System framework. Another benefit of our program is you will be eligible for ASP membership at the “Student” rate ($95) while enrolled in the course. Click here to learn more about all our Mastering Strategy programs.
- Take our online sample SPP/SMP exam. If you are enrolled in our Mastering Strategy program, you will have access to two mock exams our team created to help you practice the certification exams. You will have 3 hours to complete 160 questions, as the real exam. Although the mock exams are much easier than the real one, they prepare you physically and mentally for the real challenge! Can you complete 160 questions within 3 hours? Can you keep focused during the entire 3 hours? How would you deal with stress when the clock is ticking down? … It is highly recommended that you score at least 85% of the mock exams before you go for the real exam.
Taking a certification exam does not have to be an intimidating experience…if you are committed to putting in the work to be prepared. If you believe in yourself and invest in yourself, then you are on the right path to becoming certified.