Getting the Most from the C.P.M. Examination Diagnostic Kit


Dr. Michael A. McGinnis
Dr. Michael A. McGinnis, Professor of Marketing and Logistics, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688, 205/460-7907.
J. David Bostic, C.P.M.
J. David Bostic, C.P.M., Buyer, Courtaulds Fibers, Inc., Axis, AL 36505, 205/679-2472.

79th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1994 - Atlanta, GA

This paper provides an in-depth discussion of how to use the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) Diagnostic Kit to evaluate your knowledge of purchasing, develop study strategies to improve your knowledge of purchasing, and prepare for the C.P.M. Examination.

In December of 1991 the authors of this paper began preparing for the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) Examination Review Course that they were going to teach in the spring of 1992. it was recognized that those taking the course would be heterogenous in terms of age, sex, race, amount of experience in purchasing, and level of education. A common denominator of those taking the course was that none of them had studied or taken a major examination in recent years. As a result, the primary goals of this C.P.M. Examination Review Course became the development of study and test taking skills, the development of study and test taking confidence, and increasing the individuals knowledge of purchasing.

The C.P.M. Examination Review Course that was developed consists of five sessions. Session lengths of two and a half hours, including a break, seems to work well. The first session focuses on the development of the C.P.M. Examination and related study materials, study skills, test taking skills, and stress reducing techniques. The second, third, fourth, and fifth sessions focus on C.P.M. Examination modules one, two, three, and four respectively. Study skills, test taking skills, and stress reducing techniques are reviewed in the second and fourth sessions.

While instruction regarding the use of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit' had been provided in session one, attempts to cover all tasks in each module in later sessions resulted in too much time being spent on tasks that students understood and too little time being spent on tasks that students did not understand. Instruction in sessions two, three, four, and five was then revised to emphasize use of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit as the focal point for teaching each module. It was also felt that greater emphasis on the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit would increase student confidence in the diagnostic kit, improve study skills, improve learning, and develop greater test taking confidence. The balance of this paper discusses the goals and techniques of getting the most out of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit.

Developing an ability to effectively use the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit should help you achieve five goals. They are:

  1. Evaluate your knowledge of the four C.P.M. Examination Modules.
  2. Identify modules and tasks where you are strong.
  3. Identify modules and tasks were you need improvement.
  4. Develop study strategies that accelerate learning.
  5. Improve your performance on the C.P.M. Examination.

The following section presents a process for systematically using the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit to help you achieve your goals.

The diagnostic kit is divided into five sections (introduction, overview of the test, how to use the test, the diagnostic test, and a section that helps you interpret and evaluate your performance). You should take the time to familiarize yourself with these sections before using the diagnostic kit.

The process for using the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit can be described in six steps. They are:

  1. Take the test
  2. Score the test
  3. Evaluate your overall performance on each module
  4. Critique each task
  5. Focus your study efforts
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5

When taking the test try to find a place that will be free of noise and other distractions. Schedule approximately 105 minutes for each module. This is the amount of time you will have per module during the C.P.M. Examination. If at all possible during the period you are studying for the C.P.M. Examination, schedule two or three all day testing sessions consisting of four 105 minute periods. This will get you used to taking all four modules on the same day.

Before taking the test, make several photocopies of the scoring tables that appear on pages 85-88 of the diagnostic kit. This avoids the need to write in the book and enables you to repeat the test as many times as needed.

Module 1 has five parts, twenty-five tasks, and eighty questions. Please also note that each question is keyed into a specific task. For example, questions one and two test your understanding of task one of Module 1.

A pattern of right and wrong answers for a hypothetical test taker is shown.

The raw score of 48 on Module 1 converts into a scaled score of 53 that is needed to pass. See Conversion Table C on page 89 of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit.

For purposes of this paper 70% or more correct responses per task are interpreted as satisfactory. Inspection of the responses in Exhibit 1 indicate that eight tasks (103, 104, 105, 109, 111, 112, 120, and 124) had satisfactory raw scores of 70% or more, ten tasks (101, 102, 106, 107, 110, 115, 118, 119, 121, and 125) had raw scores below 50%, and seven tasks (108 113, 114, 116, 117, 122, and 123) had raw scores between 50% and 70%. The authors' interpretation is that the ten tasks with raw scores below 50% need heavy study, the seven tasks with raw scores between 50% and 70% need additional study, and the eight tasks with satisfactory scores need only review.

As a general guideline, your study efforts should focus on the tasks that need the most improvement. A rule of thumb that the tasks with raw scores below 50% should receive about three times the study effort of tasks with raw scores above 70%. Tasks with scores between 50% and 70% should receive about twice the study effort. While less time is spent reviewing tasks whose raw scores were above 70%, this review is essential for maintaining your current knowledge.

There are several approaches to studying and reviewing the tasks. First, you may use the C.P.M. Study Guide Second, you may use section D, "Explanations for Answers," pages 93-124 of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit. Third, you may study the sources listed for further reading at the end of each task in the C. P.M. Study Guide. Finally, you may use a combination of these approaches. The authors' experience is that the C.P.M. Study Guide and the "Explanations for Answers" work very well. Occasionally, the student may want to read additional materials.

Several students in the authors' C.P.M. Examination review courses have expressed confusion between what the C.P.M. Examination study materials say and the on-the-job practices at work. our advice is "When studying for the C.P.M. Examination follow suit with what the study materials say." We explain that there are different good faith points of view regarding purchasing practice. As a result the purchasing professional needs to recognize that these differences will occur from time to time.

After you have completed your study and review, repeat the examination. A gap of three weeks or more should reduce the chances that you will have become conditioned to that diagnostic examination. If you have studied effectively you should see your overall scores improve. Here the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit can be used to further refine your knowledge base and increase your chances for doing well on the C.P.M. Examination. The following paragraphs discuss using the diagnostic kit to improve an already strong performance.

However, further examination reveals that Parts A and E are weak and Parts B, C, and D are strong. Further study and review should focus on the two weak parts.

This very weak performance on Part E could leave the individual vulnerable if his/her performance on some of the other modules slips on the C.P.M. Examination.

The study strategy suggested is to focus on the tasks that have raw scores below 70% while continuing to review the tasks with raw scores of 70% or higher.

The authors have found that the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit has been a valuable tool in teaching a C.P.M. Examination review course. In addition, many of our students have found the diagnostic kit to be an important part of their study program. However, most students do not learn to maximize the diagnostic kit as an effective tool for self-critique and the focusing of their study efforts without some coaching. We hope the instruction provided in this paper helps others realize the potential of the C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit. We also hope that the insights provided in this paper are useful to those teaching C.P.M. Examination review courses.

*Edited for consistent content


These issues are discussed in Michael A. McGinnis, D.B.A., C.P.M. and Alvan E. Clark, Jr., Ph.D. "The Basics to Studying for Your C.P.M. Exam." NAPM Insights, August 1993, 53.

C.P.M. Diagnostic Kit, 3rd edition. Tempe, Arizona: National Association of Purchasing Management, 1992.

C.P.M. Study Guide, 6th edition. Tempe, Arizona: National Association of Purchasing Management, 1992.

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