I recently taught the RCRA portion of a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) exam prep course for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of CHMMs. After teaching, I sat in on the review session and was surprised at the difficulty of the questions. I think I could still pass the exam today without preparation, but I wondered if the questions were this hard when I took it?
I passed the exam and became a CHHM in 2007 and have successfully renewed and stayed current. My preparation for the exam involved reading “Managing Hazardous Materials” (which I learned has been replaced by 3 new manuals) and my work experience. I didn’t take a prep course. I just winged it. I thought that the exam was fair. If you had the work experience and didn’t study or prep you could probably pass it. If you didn’t have the work experience, but prepared you could probably pass it. Therefore, if you had the experience and studied you’d be in good shape. Conversely, you wouldn’t have a chance if you didn’t have the experience and didn’t study.
Has it changed? Is it harder now or am I out of touch with the deep technical requirements to pass the test? Have CHMMs submitted too many obscure questions to toughen up future members? One student in the prep course was stressing and worried he might fail. He also was getting several of the questions correct by using good test taking skills. He wondered to the group, “If I pass this exam by just guessing and using good test taking skills, am I a fraud CHMM?” Interesting question. My response to him is, no. To even take the exam you have to have your application approved. He’s passed that first step, which indicates the IHMM thinks he’s worthy to be a CHMM. Now he’s in a prep course and will soon take the exam. Even if it takes him a few tries to pass, once he passes, he’s a CHMM.
Good test taking skills can take you a long way. They’re even more useful when you have a basic understanding of the topic. For example, if you don’t know the technical requirements of Land Disposal Restrictions, but understand the concept and use good test taking, you’re in good shape. Of course, there is a story of a guy who passed the Certified Industrial Hygienist exam merely by using good test taking skills. I wonder. Could I do that?