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How to Pick a CPHQ Exam Preparation Course

It’s that time of the year again when people look for a CPHQ exam preparation course. In past years, we have observed that candidates tend to leave planning for their exam till the final quarter of the year. This year is no different. We suspect many of these individuals intend to take their exam in late December or in the first few weeks of January.

Unfortunately, a large proportion of these candidates are going to be disappointed (if they haven’t been already).

Finding a CPHQ exam prep course to attend isn’t difficult; finding a good one is the real problem.

High-quality courses are conducted by a few respectable organizations each year. But there aren’t enough of them and their location and timing may not suit everyone’s schedule. It’s no wonder then that so many people face disappointment.

For sure, there are some parties that will offer a course/workshop at the drop of a hat. But do you really want to attend such an event? We could list all the dodgy organizers we know, but I prefer avoiding talking to lawyers and going to court if I can help it.

The next best thing I can do is to provide some things to look out for (in a checklist below) when selecting a good CPHQ exam prep course (or, if you like, when trying to avoid a bad one).

Purpose of a Course

Why attend a course? Isn’t reading a book enough? Can I still pass the exam if I don’t attend a course or workshop?

The answer, as with many things, is, “It depends.”

If you’re a seasoned healthcare quality professional who has done the background reading and attempted heaps of practice questions, you probably won’t get much value from participating at a preparatory course or workshop. But then again, you might.

However, if you are new to the game (i.e. healthcare quality in the US setting), have been away from the game for more than a couple of years, are uncertain whether you are ready for the exam, or simply want to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered (identifying and filling any gaps in knowledge), then you probably should consider attending a CPHQ exam preparation course/workshop. These criteria apply to anyone who is serious about becoming a CPHQ but are particularly applicable to non-US candidates due to their lack of understanding about the US healthcare system, healthcare quality as practiced in the US, and the type of questions that will be asked.

Candidates have their preferred learning styles. Some take a DIY approach but many appreciate some human interaction to reinforce their learning and understanding. In my case, for example, I tend to remember things much better when they are told to me in person than in writing. My most memorable lessons—in medicine, quality, sports, etc.—have all come from face-to-face communication, not from books, the Internet, or any other means. I can still “replay” in my mind those valuable lessons, both the content and the manner in which it was delivered. For me, there’s really no substitute to live instruction. (There is also evidence that shows I’m in good company as far as this preferred learning mode is concerned.) Feedback from many of my students (based in the US, Canada, the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia) suggest that learning is better facilitated in a workshop than by arduously reading a book. Provided the instructor is sufficiently skilled, key concepts are more easily assimilated and clarified. Retention (memory) of content delivered at (non-boring) live events is also much better.

Regardless of your prior skills and knowledge base, the general objectives of attending any CPHQ exam preparation course/workshop are:

  1. To review the salient points that are tested on the CPHQ exam
  2. To help identify and close any gaps in knowledge (if applicable)
  3. To improve the candidate’s chance of passing the exam

Many low-quality courses do not meet these objectives. Simply put, they are a series of sessions in which the presenter or presenters read (or less commonly, recite) text from slides, which in turn are filled with bullet points. This is wasteful. My own research indicates that reading from slides doesn’t promote learning and is boring. People don’t like it but many put up with it because they (think they) have no choice.

CPHQ Exam Preparation Workshop/Course Checklist

Below are some things that you may like to consider when choosing a CPHQ exam preparation/review course/workshop:

  • Is the presenter a CPHQ?
    As obvious as this may seem, some people still attend courses that are conducted by non-CPHQs. The latter might have qualifications related to quality but they have never passed the CPHQ exam. What is the likelihood that such characters will add value to your CPHQ exam preparation?
  • Does the presenter have a track record of helping people pass the CPHQ exam?
    There are several ways to determine whether the presenter/instructor has the skills to help improve your score and, most importantly, pass the exam. Are they considered experts in their field? Do they write about healthcare quality? Do they conduct frequent and regular live trainings? (Or do they do them only a few times a year?)
  • Is the presenter passionate about CPHQ certification?
    Do they do anything to promote CPHQ certification when they are not conducting a course/workshop? This matters because a person passionate about their work is much more likely to do everything they possibly can to help you achieve your goal (i.e. pass the exam).
  • Is there independent feedback from others who have attended the course/workshop in the past?
    Feedback from previous participants can be helpful. Notice how feedback is non-existent for the vast majority of advertised courses? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
  • What are the results?
    A good course/workshop need not be the most entertaining or even the most informative. The ultimate goal is to help attendees pass the exam. Based on the available information, what is the likelihood a course/workshop is going to deliver content that will eventually help the candidate earn the CPHQ credential?
  • Does the course offer a guarantee of passing the exam or suggest that I will definitely pass the exam?
    This is a red flag. The responsible (and respectable) organizations do not offer a guarantee of exam success because there is simply no way of deciding the exam readiness of the candidate without any assessment. Just as you would be extremely wary of a salesperson who makes outrageous and unlikely claims, you should probably exercise caution when offered promises of a pass for the CPHQ exam.

Conclusion

For the CPHQ candidate looking to attend an exam preparation course/workshop, there are many offerings in the marketplace today. However, only a select few have attributes that improve the candidate’s chance of passing the CPHQ exam.

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