Certifying as a Black Belt is a journey. Here I have explained in details that What it takes to be a certified ASQ Black Belt. For most it is a mystery on how to certify. In this article we try to shine some light on the subject with the goal of giving you the nudge you need to make the investment.
I grabbed coffee recently with a friend to nerd out about what it takes to become a Certified American Society for Quality Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. During our coffee session, I realized a handful of things. One, there is a lot of ways to go about certifying. The second thing I noticed is that not than many people talk about what it takes to become certified. So…. I decided to do my part and put my tips for how to certify out in the universe.
As I have shared in the past, I am an introvert. AND hitting record on a video of myself still gives me the willies. BUT, becoming a Black Belt was a major turning point in my career. Thus, I worked up the courage and got to work on creating some content. Here’s the result. I hope you enjoy!
First, congratulations. Second, thank you for trusting us to help you prepare for your certification exam.
We’ve been in your shoes. Preparing to become a certified Black Belt is a tremendous undertaking. The experience is surrounded with mixed emotions. Excitement about the leadership opportunities that will open up and the potential impact you can make. Nerves about, “Am I ready?”.
You have to visualize yourself passing the exam and making a difference.
The idea of being “ready” is entirely personal. It relies on your education, work experience, and learning style. It also relies on your beliefs and motivation. At least it did for us. During the journey to certify, you are bound to encounter challenges and barriers. You may even feel frustrated at times trying to understand parts of the Body of Knowledge. When this happens, take a moment and visualize yourself passing the exam and how your new knowledge will lead to making a difference to an organization, teams, and individuals. Remember why you embarked on the journey to begin with and why you want to become a belt. Take a moment to reflect on how much you already know, how strong your current skills are, and use that confidence in your own value to press on.
When it comes to certifying as a Black Belt, there are multiple paths that can be taken. Each person’s path is unique. Some individuals take a straight line to certifying as a Black Belt, while others progress through the different belts achieving one certification at a time – moving from White to Yellow, Yellow to Green, Green to Black. It all depends on the individual’s preference, driven by a person’s level of preparedness, confidence in the Body of Knowledge, and available time to study. Some may also have constraints around the financial investment to certify and feel pressure to pass on the first attempt.
When it comes to meeting the American Society for Quality’s standards, one of the key requirements is demonstration of experience. ASQ does not prescribe what formal training qualifies an individual. There is no minimum classroom hours required like there is for other certifications such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification through the Project Management Institute. Instead, ASQ wants to see relevant work and project experience.
For an individual to qualify they must submit their ASQ Black Belt application (which will require the individual to create an ASQ account or log in to an existing account). In addition to the application, the candidate will need to provide either one or two project affidavits based on their professional experience. If you have 3 years or more of relevant experience then only one affidavit is required. Anyone with less than 3 years of experience will be required to submit two affidavits.
ASQ’s application fee is listed on ASQ website. After the application and supporting affidavit(s) are approved, the candidate will need to select a testing date and pay their exam fee. Other expense include the purchase of training materials. All in, you can expect to spend about $1,000 to certify. This cost does not include any formalized course you may decide to take to learn the content in a formal way. When compared to other professional certifications this is very reasonable, especially since obtaining this high level certification can increase you earning potential. To learn more about earnings impact, be sure to check out ASQ’s Annual Salary Survey (if you want access the Salary Survey, you’ll need to become an ASQ member).
Enrolling as an ASQ Member is entirely up to the candidate and is not required to become certified. To incentivize joining, ASQ does offer exam and training material discounts. Also, members can gain access to ASQ’s Quality Progress publication and the Annual Salary Survey. If these perks make the invest worthwhile for you, then by all means join. In order to keep your certification active, there are continuing education requirements and as an ASQ member, you have access to those educational opportunities at a discount as well.
ASQ recommends a handful of resources to help individuals prepare for the exam. Our personal favorites are Kubiak’s Handbook and the Primer from the Indiana Quality Council. Outside of studying and indexing your training materials, ASQ recommends investing in lots of practice exams. ASQ offers a question bank, as does the Indiana Quality Council. And obviously, so do we. To enroll in our practice exams, which feature over 600 questions, please visit our Black Belt Prep Course.
When it comes to preparing for the exam it is important that each individual develop their own personal training plan and dedicate the appropriate amount of time and energy to prepare. In general, you will want to consider you previous experience, comfort with data, level of test anxiety, and confidence in the Body of Knowledge when designing your plan. Some professionals have had success linking with others who are on the same journey, setting up study group sessions, accountability check ins, and creating a small community of people supporting each other along the way.
Certifying as a Black Belt through ASQ requires passing ASQ’s multiple-choice exam. Their are two options for completing the exam: computer-based or pen and paper. Both exams are time-based, open book, and open notes. The purpose of the exam is to measure comprehension of the Black Belt Body of Knowledge.
The right answer exists, it is just a matter of managing your time and indexing your materials.
Let’s start with the computer-based exam. The exam is a timed-based exam, with a time allotment of 4 hours and 18 minutes. The computer-based exam consists of 165 questions, but 15 questions are unscored. The computer-based exam is only administered in English.
The paper exam is 150-questions and has a time allotment of 4 hours. Paper exams are offered in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.
To review ASQ Exam dates and application deadlines visit ASQ’s Testing page
If you’d like to test your knowledge, be sure to check out our Free Black Belt Practice Exam.
There are multiple events that can unfold that may prevent a candidate from performing well on the exam. One of those things is lack of preparation. But other factors can include test anxiety, confusion about the question, and poor time management. If you need to retake the exam, know that ASQ does not limit the number of times you can take the exam, To support those individuals that need to retake the exam, ASQ offers retakes at a discounted rate. In our experience, if you need to retake the exam, the best success occurs when you do it closely on the heels of your previous exam.
Are you ready to embark on this journey? Have more questions? We can connect you with real people who can give you insights into their journeys and provide support along the way. Just reach out through our Contact Form and let us know what we can do to help you succeed.
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