For the past couple of months I have been studying hard to earn a Supply Chain certification from APICS, the leading association for supply chain and operations management.
This morning I passed the exam on my first attempt! I am now Silvio Kusakawa, CSCP.
Before proceeding, visit my Professional Profile. It is important to know where the advice that follows is coming from. I hope what worked for me worked for you.
Despite the fact that it is the most widely recognized education program for supply chain professionals around the world, I could only find a two good blogs with tips and information.
One of them (from 2008) has sound advice and can be found here:
I am reluctant to link the second blog because I definitely did not follow any of the advice given there and the poster sounds like a joker. Let’s call him “Pat”.
Before I describe my study habits and give some advice on taking the actual test, let me address some questions:
How much money did you spend on this certification?
The fee to take the test is $830 US dollars for those who do not have a membership with APICS.
Pat suggested that all you need is an old version of the books and a Datachem CD. He claims he spent $215 dollars buying both on eBay so his total expense when he took the exam in 2011 was $1045 dollars. His advice, “Rewrite the books by hand.”
Since I did not want to buy old books (and rewrite them), and my goal was to actually understand the material and use it later in my professional life as reference, I set out to spare no expenses.
I purchased the APICS membership ($200) and bought the brand new 2014 modules in my local APICS chapter for $1600 dollars.
I ordered two books from the reference list and one small book that is referenced in the modules:
Supply Chain Logistics Management (Fourth Edition)
Donald Bowersox, David Closs, M. Bixby Cooper, $174 dollars
Designing and Managing the Supply Chain: Concepts, Strategies, and Case Studies (Third Edition)
David Simchi-Levi, Philip Kaminsky, and Edith Simchi-Levi, $136
Demand Management Best Practices: Process, Principles and Collaboration
Colleen Crum with George E. Palmatier, $60
In June I flew to Chicago for the Best of the Best S&OP Conference to have the pleasure of attending Salam Akhtar’s presentation, among others. $1395 + Flight and Hotel.
I also purchased a copy of the Datachem CD for $249 dollars plus shipping. I bought a little machine to cut the flashcards ($50) and spent $20 on highlighters and post-it notes.
All things considered, adding the cost of taking the exam itself I spent a little over $5,000 dollars for the certification.
How many hours did you study?
I signed up for the course and was present for ten of the 13 classes, for a total of 30 hours in class. I read and highlighted the material on the weekend before each class for about an hour to two hours.
*IMPORTANT* For about half hour EVERY DAY I looked at the flashcards. More details on that later.
30 hours in class + 20 hours at home + flashcards (45hours) + review (4 hours) = around 100 hours total.
How smart are you?
Very smart. However, that doesn’t mean that what worked for me is not going to work for you. If anything… if you believe I am smart then perhaps my study method may be ideal for this exam.
If you are taking the 2014 exam, here is a screenshot that you can use to make a comparison:
Back in April I took the pre-test and scored 36%. After going through my study routine (details to follow), I scored 84% yesterday.
How did you do in the module quizzes and online components?
Now here is the important thing and I wish I knew this from the beginning. The quizzes after each module and the online element are NO INDICATION of how well you are going to score in the exam. The quizzes are designed to heighten your level of understanding of the material.
When you get a question wrong in the quizzes, you have to go back and look it up to understand the correct answer. In the online component, don’t rush it. If you did not get the question, pause and look it up. It can be frustrating but the APICS CSCP Learning System is really meant to make sure you learn the material.
Any study tips?
Just one. May be worth a shot. Before you do anything else, get some card stock paper in at least three colours. Print the provided flashcards front and back, separating each module in a different colour. After that, place each stack in a different place. In my case I had:
Yellow: Module 1, Fundamentals of Supply Chain at work
Blue: Module 2, Supply Chain Strategy, Design and Compliance in the car.
Pink: Module 3, Implementation and Operations in the kitchen (keep dry).
Here is how to use them. Place the definition somewhere facing you. Read it out loud in the car, in the kitchen or at work (if nobody is around). Go about your business replying to work E-mails, driving around, cooking… read again after a while and flip the card.
After a month I was getting most of them right. Towards the end I could get them backwards. If you try this, it is important that you print them in different colours and keep them in separate locations. At least it worked for my brain.
How did you study?
I read the module on the weekends. I used a yellow highlighter for important parts, a pink highlighter whenever I saw a catchy phrase and blue highlighter whenever the text cited APICS Dictionary definitions. Then I flipped through the class slides, went back and read all lines I highlighted in pink. Did the quizz.
Went to class on Wednesdays. Great instructors here in Toronto!! I don’t know what your local chapters do overseas but here they are extremely organized!!! Here is one big tip that I probably did not follow in the beginning, “Don’t waste time in class asking/worrying about the exam. Go there to learn the material.”
Completed the online portion on Thursdays. My scores for the online components were all over the place, ranging from 30% to 90% on first tries. For some modules in Operations, I would get a perfect score in the textbook quiz and a low 50 online.
Whenever I saw a low score I did some extra reading from the additional text. In my case I was very intrigued by this S&OP process and it was actually fun reading it. I read Collen Crum’s book on the way to Chicago and back. Didn’t feel like studying.
Two days before the exam I did all the questions in the Datachem CD. All 700+ of them. I used the option to mark all that did not make sense to me at first. I mean anything that did not seem to have an obvious answer and re-answered them on my second run.
For the Datachem I scored high 80s for Module 1, low 70s for Module 2 and 90s for Module 3. I felt ready for the exam…
How is the exam? Tips?
Don’t panic. Like I said before, the online component is no indication of how well you are going to perform. If you understand the material and remember some definitions, you are going to pass.
I will not give specifics because we do sign a series of papers before taking the test. I remember a lot of the questions but putting them here serves no purpose and would land me in trouble.
Here is one thing that I am going to say… this exam really tests how deeply you understand the material. If you sort of know… or sort of remember… you are likely to choose the second best answer to every question.
Make sure you use the “flag”option to flag questions that you feel have two good answers.
The exam is 4 hours long. I reached the last question in 70 minutes then went back to the ones I flagged.
Here is a great tip: if you don’t know the answer, do not flag. SKIP. At the end of the exam you will have the option to click an icon and review all unanswered questions… in other worlds, it is a waste of time to flag questions you do not know. Instead flag questions that have two good answers.
After you reach the last question, work on the questions that you left blank. At this point, again if there are two good answers… flag it.
When you reach the end, go back and work on the questions you flagged. This time around, read the alternatives from D to A.
After you answer all questions, take a deep breath and submit.
Why do you think that is a good way to take the exam?
In my opinion, a lot of the questions have two really bad choices and two good ones. Sometimes you are lucky and get three bad choices so you can be 100% sure you know the right answer.
I can’t give an example from the test today, that would be unethical but it is like asking, “Who is the strongest super hero?”
D- The Hulk
The way I take tests… sometimes I fall in love with the answer. I am very decisive and that makes me a bad test taker because once I make a decision, I stick to it. So in my first run I read the choices from top to bottom and immediately click “Superman”. Then I see Hulk at the end and that means “flag”. When I get the question again, reading from the bottom up, I see The Hulk and I can measure that reaction to the first… and rationalize.
Do not contact me to buy my materials. Like I said, I intend to keep them and use as reference. If you have comments or questions about CSCP, feel free to contact me on Linkedin.
If you live around Toronto and you are considering taking the CSCP or want to review a module… we can schedule a meeting at Second Cup. Coffee is on me if you come to my area.
If you read this far, feel free to connect to me on LinkedIn. If this helped you in any way, feel free to type up a recommendation there.
Thanks so much for spending your time sharing valuable experience about CSCP course.
I am going to take an instructor-led course and planning to take the exam in Mar 2015.
By the way, I am Huy, working for Unilever Vietnam and live in Vietnam.
Thanks a lot for sharing such valuable information and tips. I am about to take CSCP exam next month. I really need to have a quick session with you before the final go and before the big day of course.
Please do contact or reply back. Many thanks in advance.
Sounds good. Let’s meet up next week. I am taking time off work to paint my guest room and catch up on some reading.
Many thanks for a great post – most informative! I have scheduled my exam for Dec. 20, 2014 and I’ve although I’m currently using many of your techniques, I will probably incorporate the colored flashcards as well. I would give you a call if I lived near Toronto, however, please let me know if you should happen to be visiting New Jersey at any stage in the next two months.
Hi Silvio and fellow bloggers:
I meant to respond to this blog earlier and let everyone know that I passed the CSCP exam last month. I originally was going to take the exam in December but didn’t feel adequately prepared and so I postponed it to the March window.
For all of you currently preparing for the exam, please know that the tips in this blog really got me through on my first attempt. Silvio’s flagging tip and completely skipping the question if you have no idea were invaluable. In addition, the various flashcard apps as well as working through practice questions were really helpful in consolidating the material.
Good luck to all those studying!
Thanks for taking your time to come back and contribute Naomi. I am currently helping two people in my area pass the exam. Your comment will certainly help calm their nerves.
My name is Shelly and I live in LA. I am planning to take CSCP exam later next year, and debating if I should buy 2014 learning system or wait for 2015 learning system. Do you know if content of books changes every year?
I trust there are small changes every year, but the only real risk is when they revamp and change the format of the test. Unless you find a GREAT deal on he 2014 version, wait for the new one. Keep in mind that APICS merged with the Supply Chain Council this year, so the test content for 2015 may change slightly. You should get your hands on the dictionary and flashcards ASAP. Better to spread knowledge of definitions over time.
Thank you very much for your quick reply. I found a GREAT deal on 2014, which was $300 for book (slightly used) + FULL online access. So i was just going to purchase it. But I guess I will rather wait for 2015 version with some changes this year.
Thanks again for your tips!
Ciao Silvio,…What a great Italian name..:)
I would sincerely like to thank you for such supporting information, i planned to take my exam next autumn as i’m only 5 years in the business, and unfortunately not much involved in the Supply chain decisional environment.
Would you be so kind to advise in which order you recommend read the five books for the CSPC course….I want play safe and spend 9 months studying about 2 hours a day starting from today.
I was thinking to use this order;
1. Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management
2. Designing and Managing the Supply Chain: Concepts, Strategies, and Case Studies
3. Supply Chain Logistics Management
4. Demand-management best practices
5. Principles of Supply Chain Management
6. Introduction to Supply Chain Management Technologies
Naturally doing some test in between and listen to video tutorial for about 2-3 hours 5 days a week.
How this sounds to you?? Please be as critical as you can as surely your criticism will be an opportunity for constructivism.
Thanks a lot again and I looK forward to hearing your precious feedback soon.
All the best
I came across your blog as I was looking for good advice and tips about the exam and study methodology, and it really helped me today during the exam taking and fortunately I passed.
The flag tip helped a lot as in the second pass I got the responses more clear and I think that was one of the reasons of getting a passing score of 310.
I would add that for those planning to take the exam in the coming months and currently in the study process that there is a good App in Android created by Apics named: “Apics learn it” that is an interactive app with flashcard definitions and a whole database with the most important definitions found in the CSCP course.
For those planning taking the exam I wish them good luck.
Please advise if they allow the use of calculators during the exam. I haven’t seen any reference to this in the exam preparation material.
I remember bringing a calculator in my bag for the test but it was not necessary. Here in Toronto the testing facility gave me one piece of scrap paper (that I was not allowed to bring home after the exam) and one small white board with erasable markers. The testing facility is going to E-Mail you exam instructions prior to the scheduled date. Here is the info I received on what not to bring:
– APICS Dictionary in any language;
– Books or papers of any kind;
– Protractors, compasses, rulers, stencils or digital assistants;
– Electronic devices of any kind, including mobile phones and electronic dictionaries;
– Food, drinks or tobacco.
Hey Silvio, thanks indeed for the awesome post, the study and exam tips. I am contemplating to attend the CSCP Jan 7, 2015 course at APICS Toronto Chapter.
I have to questions concerning the Toronto Chapter, how credible is the course? and can we collect the material in advance of Jan 7, 2015?
hi Silvio, Thanks for sharing the valuable experiences and it is very inspiring! I have a question though, where did you purchase the Datachem CD with 700 questions? I cannot find it on Ebay… Thanks.
I purchased directly from the supplier. On eBay you may end up with a disc image and those are not reliable. If you can afford the investment, Get it from the company that puts the questions together. Feel free to PM me if I can help in any way.
Hi Silvio, Thanks for your reply. Can you let me know which supplier is that and how I can purchase it. Sorry i didn’t find out how to PM you on the blog. Could you please kindly reply me via my mail. Thanks a lot! /Caroline
Thank you so much for the comments and your experience. I am planning on taking the test in April 2016. When I reported this to the APIC CSCP associate, he said why? We have an upcoming class in October 2015. I said mentally I need to be prepared and I do believe if I am mentally prepared and I study using most of the tools you mentioned, including the Data Chem practice questions. I may have a shot to pass on the first time around. I need to understand the material that I am studying on a higher level. Its like a ‘what if’ scenario without reading too much into it.
Were there many formula calculations? Any recommendations on learning the IT section? Planning to take exam next month.
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I suggest you try to find a newer version of the APICS materials. The exam changed formats a couple of years ago. There is no IT section. There are technology components but not a large part. Please look into it right away. You need to know formulas but the calculations are simple. Although a calculator is provided I dis not have to use it during the exam. They do not test your math skills in the exam.
Thanks for the speedy response! I should have clarified, I have the 2015 version and IT is only a section of book #4 in module #2, however I find this section to be the most challenging! I have a broad understanding but have not scored highly on that section’s quiz. I feel comfortable with most other sections and I’ve mastered the flash cards and most quizzes in the learning system. I am hoping to take the exam one time and pass.
Thank you for sharing your experience and advice.
I am planning to take the exam on Dec. now I have the 2015 version text book. However the test questions I bought from eBay, along with my text book are from 2013. I was bad luck being cheated. Now my question is should I buy 2015 test questions or I can use 2013?
You can use the 2013 test questions. I do not think the 2015 will be any different if you find and order it. Take the time to prepare flash cards. Learning all definitions will give you confidence to pass the exam.
I am planning to take the exam in 2 weeks. I have started the second round of all questions, with 75% score… Seems I have forgtton what I did before. Even I am more nervous about the real test would be different with all practiced questions. I can not stop thinking about what will be the real question is. Some notes from people have passed the exam saying that the real questions will just change another way of asking? But will be limited in topics and definitions of questions pool?
Please advise if you have time, appreciated!!
Focus on definitions from now on. Taking the practice questions a third time will test your memory and not your understanding of the material.
I am not sure you are getting information from people who passed recently but the question pool is massive!!
In my opinion, the exam questions are VERY different from the practice questions. Finish the second round and go back to your notes to review. Spend the last days on flashcards and definitions.
Dont forget to come back and let us know how it went.
i finished my exam yesterday & i’m now A CSCP….thank you for your exam tips…it helped me passing the exam.
I am planning to take the exam next week. Is the Datachem CD really useful? I didn’t buy it, do you think I should buy and practice it before going to the exam?
Thanks and regards,
If you have zero work experience in supply chain and you are not very experienced writing long exams, I would say buy the datachem. If you are confident for the exam my advice is to focus on definitions for the next couple of days.
Flash cards worked well for me.
As far as I can tell nome of the exam questions are exactly like the datachem. Running through the hundreds of questions on the datachem is good practice to keep your mind focused on exam day.
The CSCP exam feels really long. If you are taking the computer based exam, make sure you understand the “flag system” I outlined in the post. Any further questions, feel free to reach out to me.
We can skype and I can ask you sample questions from my datachem.
Thisi is Dora again. Appreciate for all your reponse which means a lot for us preparing the exam.
I will take the exam next week. I took your advice that i focused on books and practice questions. i finished one round of reading books and try to memorize all objectives,elements,steps,benefit & tradeoff, challenge… my score is over 90%…. i was planned to the following couples of days to take another round but just find a big problem!
i have the datachem and tonight it is the first time i took the exam and got failed. It makes me panic as i have only a week left for the exam. The quesitons on datachem are totally different with the books and practices. Although you have claimed that the reall exam are different. i am getting even confused.
Could you please advise for the next few days what should i focus? Do the datachem or books?
Focus on the books. Please send me an E-Mail with two sample questions from the datachem. I am surprised you failed. My datachem was not difficult.
1. These systems automate the procedure by which document info, and tasks are passed along other use?
Answers: task; work flow;administration;document.
2. The term used to reflect the fact that customer expect the market to come to them rather than for them to go to the market.
Answers: deliverable ;advertising; marketing;customerization.
The questions style are not much related to definition in the book, rather I feel they are testing my English.
I passed the CSCP exam today. I prepared from the books given by APICs Learning system 2014. Thanks for your blog. Probably you may want to start a discussion in Linkedin
Thanks and regards
Thanks for so detailed observations about CSCP. I am an engineer with broad knowledge of operations and a little bit of supply chain. I want to switch my career in supply chain management. In this regard, would you recommend to take CSCP or Basics of Supply Chain Management (BSCM) which is one of the modules of CPIM. I hope you know better than me that BSCM is focused towards inside the boundaries of an organization while CSCP outwards. Will be thankful for your urgent response as deadline is very close to register for instructor lead course which I want to take.
Happy New Year Shawn! The BSCM exam is not difficult. You may be able to pass without the instructor led courses. It is the first of five exams for the CPIM designation. I have a feeling it is easy by design, so we are encouraged to pursue the full designation. After the CSCP preparation I wrote and passed the first exam for the CPIM and the first exam for the CPF (Certified Professional Forecaster) with very little preparation. I just bought the reference books. At any rate, knowing definitions was super important! Create a routine to learn definitions (flashcards) and best of luck!
Thanks for your valuable comments. What I understand that I should pursue first for CSCP and later on it will be convenient for me to avail any of the CPIM modules including BSCM. AM I right?
Depends on how much you set aside to pursue this. If you can afford to go for the CSCP now, that is my recommendation. Once in supply chain you can try to get your work to pay for the CPIM exams. Shoot me an E-Mail pr connect on LinkedIn if you have more questions.
Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and tips of how to pass the exam. I would also say that all blogs are formative.
I have started studying the CSCP books but I want your advise on what to focus in my reading. There is so much text in each topic, and I am afraid that I might loose focus if I read each and single word. It is also time consuming. So what is your advise on what to read and what not to waste my time on?
Hi Silvio, i visited your blog in last few months for the great tips and general approach towards CSCP. I am glad to share that i passed CSCP 2015 exam with 330+ score in May this year. i could not do flashcards and any reference books but i read all five CSCP books very thoroughly. I liked your idea of highlighter and used it a lot 🙂
today I pass my CSCP. I am so glad and happy that I can’t express my feelings. I have been waiting and wanted to get it done for a long time and finally I was able to spend 4-6 months of time on preparation and achieved it. I completely agree with Silvio that exam questions are like the one he mention and I really love the way he explain the difference between superhero and chair. I faced almost 15 questions where I was in same situation. but using some techniques I was able to filter out the options. specially between good answer and best answer.
Thanks Silvio again for nice tips and sharing your exam experience. my exam preparation was almost same as Silvio. I just used reading material which are 5 books and use an app called “Pocket Prep”. Now I can proudly write CSCP after my name…
Silvio….bombing the practice quizzes first time through. I know this doesn’t reflect my true cscp score, but how can i make a positive of this. It is really frustrating me.
I think you need to change your approach a little. You already know those quizzes are not going to be in the exam. However, completing them is important for your personal and professional development. In order to be an asset to your employers you need to understand the logic and be able to solve those difficult problems. I took the exam a couple of years ago, and now I am preparing for my logistics certification… but trust me. I was getting as low as 35% on those quizzes, and come exam time I was more than ready.
Feel free to message me if this does not calm some of your frustration. In the end it is better to be over prepared. Based on feedback from my readers and some people I am meeting, sounds like the difficulty of the exam increased a little last year.
Silvio, Hope you are fine & sending you this message for appreciation for your brilliant work than asking query.
I read you tips in detail & people’s comments as well.
I would be thankful, if you suggest me answers of all my confusions & queries;
1) Five Books From Apics & recommended books as you mentioned enough to clear the exam or online available protest & pretest are must ?
2) Definition are available on internet/learn IT app then why we should read all flashcard.
3) If somebody doesn’t have supply chain background or very weak if you talk about supply chain terms then any additional material you can suggest.
4) what is impact of Instructor- coaching classes as average time recommended is 6 months but maximum coaching classes available for week/10 days.
5) If I cannot access my online learning material & only have 5 boobs in pdf, what you will suggest me in this case ?
I would wait for your reply anxiously.
If you can afford the books, by all means buy them. To this day I go back to my textbooks to look things up when working on process analysis at work. The green one (I am at a coffee shop now) is the best one! When co workers borrow the green one, they take forever to return to me. The flash cards worked for me because I separated them in different colours and kept them in different places. This helped me “compartmentalize” the information. Google “mind palace technique” and it may help you understand. As for the third question, I suggest of course, “THE GOAL”. Super easy to read.
I think the best way to approach any instructor led classes is to read the material AHEAD OF TIME. I mean… really ahead of time. My classes for my Logistics certification start in the Fall but I already read half the book. Yesterday.
As for the last question… study hard and reach out to me. I can send you a quiz I made, then grade it and send it back to you. Reach out to me when you feel you are ready for it.
Hi Silvio. Thank you for this blog post. It was useful to me during my preparation for the CSCP exam. I took the exam last week and am happy to report that I passed (scored 321).
In case anybody else comes across this post, here are a couple of tips based on my personal experience:
1. Definitely the best piece of advice in this and other forums is, to me, this: take the time to UNDERSTAND the concepts, not just learn definitions. If you are using the online learning system (which I did), every time you get a wrong answer in one of the questions take the time to look it up in your materials and make sure that you UNDERSTAND why your answer was wrong and the other one was correct. It will take time, but it’s worth it. Many of the questions are not very well written and a lot of the answers are definitely debatable, so make this a priority in your studies;
2. Everyone makes a lot of emphasis on the flashcards, and I can say I did use them and they are a good study tool. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the definitions and the wording. However, I personally found the Learning Activities on the modules in the online Learning System a much more effective exercise. This, once again, because what counts is that you understand the concepts and how they are applied in the real world, and I found these activities to be more in sync with what the test is like than anything else;
3. I didn’t read any of the suggested bibliography, but I did read one article that I thought was good, relevant and useful in the test. The article is called “The Bullwhip Effect in Supply Chains”, by Hau Lee et al., and it was originally published in the 1997 spring edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review;
4. Before the test, make sure to review the entire content. Leave a good two weeks for this. I was I was reading the materials I highlighted a bunch of stuff and then made a summary of each chapter in a notebook based on the highlighted portions and some notes I’d taken on the margins. I later used this summary to review all of the content. I also retook all the quizzes in which I had scored less than 80%;
5. Finally, this I didn’t do but in retrospect might have been useful: the online portion has two practice exams for practicing once you finish all the content. That is what I did, but it left me wondering if perhaps it would have been a better idea to take them before starting (and pay no attention to that initial score) so as to get a feel of the type of questions you’ll be asked in the test and what type of information to look for/highlight while you study. Please note that, at least in the 2017 version, the first practice exam is to “measure your readiness to take the APICS CSCP exam”, while the second one (retired exam questions) is to “gain familiarity with the types of questions” and to “explore the format and functionality of the Pearson VUE exam interface”. I scored 71 on this one and felt pretty bad because I hadn’t read that last part.
To anyone reading this: best of luck on your preparations and your test. You have chosen to invest in your professional growth and should be proud of yourself for it. Study hard, understand the concepts, take the practice exams, review, stay cool on test day (I was a nervous wreck before going in but managed to keep it together) and you’ll be fine. Best of luck!