I had promised Bob that I would take the CIPP/US exam “before the end of 2022” and pushed that to the limit. On December 27th, I took the exam and passed. Lots of people ask for advice on how to study, what to study, or tips for taking the test itself. I cannot share actual questions from the test or anything like that, since that is against the rules, but there are some general tips that will help you pass, or at least improve your studying habits as you prepare for the test.
Know what to study
The first document you want to reference when preparing for the exam is the exam blueprint. This document, provided publicly by the IAPP, is the breakdown of the exam by section and subject matter. This information is valuable to determining what areas to study. This document also tells you what the minimum and maximum number of questions for that section.
For example, on the US exam blueprint, the section labelled “civil litigation and privacy” only has 1 to 2 questions. That means out of the 90 questions on the test, only 2% of them could be on this subject. On the other hand, “Information management from a U.S. Perspective” has between 18 and 22 questions. That is just over 20% of the test on average. If you need to know where to focus your time, This should paint a rather vivid picture for you. I myself used this strategy. While I had a section below 50% on the test, it was a section with only 3 to 7 questions. I had over 80% though on the largest section, meaning I studied where it counted most, and it paid off.
I would also heavily encourage taking the corresponding course as well as reading the textbook to study. The textbook is the best source for the information on the test, so reading it at least once is an excellent idea. Privacy Ref also makes flash cards based on the exam blueprints which you can download for free on our site.
Taking the Test
The test itself is 90 questions and all of them are multiple choice. You can take the test either at a testing center where you are provided a computer to take the test on, or you can take it online. If taken online, you will need to provide proof that you are in a secluded space and that you are not hiding anything, such as a cheat sheet or phone. You will also be monitored throughout the test, so keep that in mind.
There are also a few scenario questions to be ready for. These questions will ask you to read a short scenario and answer a few questions about it. Take your time and read the whole scenario and maybe even take notes on a piece of scrap paper that is provided. Make sure that you also read the questions thoroughly, as well as the answers. Do not just click and submit the first answer that looks right. In some cases, answers may differ only slightly, and the omission or inclusion of a single word is enough to make the difference between correct or not.
Most importantly, make sure you take the time to prepare for the test. Have a good night’s sleep, eat a good meal beforehand, and try to relax and focus for the test. Best of luck when you decide to take the exam!
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