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A First Timer Prepares for (and Passes) the IAPP Foundation Exam

Studying for any exam is nerve racking. Students always have questions, such as the following:

  • What is the format of the test?
  • How many questions?
  • What will be covered?
  • What should I study?

I asked all of these when I began preparing for the IAPP Foundation exam.

The first 3 were very easy to answer. The exam is multiple choice; there are 90 questions, plus 15 unscored “test” questions that will cover anything and everything in the textbook. The big question, the final question, was what should I study?

The “First Timer” series of blog posts is written by Ben Siegel, a relative newcomer to the privacy field. In this series Ben will be sharing his observations,  learnings, and experiences  to assist other newcomers.

What would be in the test?

Do not get me wrong, understanding everything in the text is important, but I didn’t know what level of detail was expected? Did I need to know what states and political parties the creators of GLBA came from? Luckily no, but there is still a great deal of information I had to learn. I had to study US, EU, Asian, Canadian, and many other privacy perspectives and laws. I also had to know some of the modern history of privacy.

I probably should have focused more on international jurisdictions than I did. When I took the test some questions about other multinational jurisdictions caught me off guard; it was information in the text, I just did not focus sufficiently on the information. I plan to focus on the US specialization for my CIPP, so smaller sections, covering these jurisdictions did not get as much attention from me as they should have.

The best advice I can give anyone taking the Foundation exam is to know the basics of privacy and as many jurisdictions as possible. If you know the basics, including the most important laws in each jurisdiction, you will be able to minimize the number of questions that stump you.

What tools can help?

I wanted to be sure I was completely prepared. Everyone advised me to read the text, which I did. I was doubtful about using the sample test, but I became convinced finding this very useful for getting a feel for how the questions were presented as well as understanding how deep I would need to delve into any subject. The practice test is worth the investment.

I did not take the Foundation class, but spent a lot of time talking to one of the instructors for clarifications. In preparation for the US exam I did take the prep class offered by the IAPP. It was definately worth the time.

I felt good throughout the test

Overall, the questions are all worded in very specific ways as to assure there is only one right answer. I never had a single question where I could debate in my head which of two answers was right, it was always clear to me. Just keep calm, read carefully, and double check answers when you can. You have a lot of time to take the test, so use it.