I have a coworker who is currently studying for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam.  Every morning I walk in to work and find him studying.  He has been very focused and diligent in his preparation, and I have no doubt he will pass the exam.  Watching him brings back memories of studying I have done when preparing for the CHFM exam.  Seeing him jump in enthusiastically at first, then as time and study fatigue have set in, he’s gotten to the point where studying is not so much anticipated and enjoyed, but rather endured.  Now the end in sight is all that keeps him engaged in studying.  It’s why many of us after walking out of an exam say “I’m never going to take that exam again!” 

I’ve been thinking about the preferred timelines when studying for a professional certification.  There is definitely a sweet spot to begin that isn’t too far ahead of the exam, but not too late either.  Beginning too early, you lose focus and drive, resulting in not being prepared when the examination day arrives.  Beginning too late, and you risk not truly learning the material. I think the ideal timeline is below.
Greater than 6 months out- work and get experience in the field of study.  This is generally where you are presently at.  Become aware that the certification exists and is attainable and relevant to your career path. 
4-6 months out- determine that you actually want to begin studying for the certification. Search out others who have the certification and speak with them about their experiences.  While it’s unethical to ask for questions on the test, they can direct you to study materials they used and found helpful.  Collect study materials and begin studying.  Check on exam registration dates.  Some exams are only offered at limited times during the year.  If your exam is like this, take note of the booking window and plan accordingly.
2 months out- book the exam.  This will help lock you in and help you remain focused.  You now have a deadline to work toward.  
6 weeks out-  take practice exams.  This will help your confidence in testing situations, and will also help with recall.  Practice exams also help direct you to weaknesses in your knowledge so you can go back and study those areas.
1 week out- you should feel reasonably confident in your readiness.  Review all of the material at a high level, then at a deeper level of anything that you feel needs final polishing.  If there are any equations or calculations, take special note to understand each one and its application.  Continue taking practice exams.
1 day before- let up on your studying.  If you don’t know it by now, any studying you do will be too late.  Rather than study, take the time to relax and get in a good mental state.  This will help you more than cramming.
The day of the exam- lightly review your notes and major topics.  Plan to be at the testing center 30-45 minutes early.  This will allow you to not be stressed if traffic is bad.  Take a snack with you and enjoy the snack before you go in for the exam.  Any time you have after arriving but before the exam starts gives you one final opportunity to brush up and confirm that you know your stuff.  Walk in and be there five minutes early.  Sit down and enjoy your exam.  You’ve worked hard and you know your stuff!

Today I launched my Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) practice exam.  It’s been a lot of work up to this point, but it’s great to have it up and available.  

I thought it may be appropriate to add a little background information.  In 2015 when I was studying for the CHC exam, I looked and searched for resources available and found an extremely limited amount of information and study guides available.  The CHC credential had been launched only about 5 years earlier by ASHE, and was still in its infancy.  Ultimately, I pulled from a lot of CHFM study materials, but supplemented those with other information.  To help myself study, I wrote practice exam questions.  By the time I was ready to sit for the exam, I had about 100 questions or so drafted up, in addition to the free CHFM practice questions available at the time.  

In the past 3 years there’s starting to be more information available, including a page on ASHE’s CHC website with CHC preparation resources.  Unfortunately, much of the information can be costly to assemble.  After ASHE listed the preparation resources, I recalled my frustrations with finding suitable study materials, and immediately thought of the practice questions I had written.  I reviewed, updated, and expanded the selection so now there are 200 questions available to help round out your study efforts.  I will update them periodically as the codes update.  

I set my pricepoint under $100 so it’s economical for those who don’t want a whole course, but do want something to polish off their preparation before they take the real test.  Lets face it: you’ve been working in healthcare construction for several years before you even consider taking the certification test.  There’s a lot you know, and a few areas that you don’t work as regularly in.  You don’t want to take a few days off work to take a course.  This quiz will help you study.  I also made it available for 180 days.  This gives more value than options which cost more, but only allow you to take a practice exam one time. 


In early 2017, I sat down with my boss for a small discussion.  We were having my annual review, a time to look back over the past year’s performance, and also look forward to the upcoming year and set some performance goals.  The discussion was fairly brief: “Excellent across the board.  You’ve got a raise!  Have you considered another credential, such as CHFM or CFM?”  Have you had a similar discussion?  Odds are you likely have. 

To be honest, I’d considered it slightly, but wasn’t completely sold on it either.  I spent the next several months working on continuing education for another credential or two, getting ahead of the education requirements for the renewal cycle.  But the thought in the back of my mind was there.  One of the difficulties of juggling multiple credentials is staying on top of the professional development or continuing education requirements for each.  Credentials offer a benchmark of competence, shouting to peers and professionals “This man is competent.”, but also carry with them the burden of maintaining them, especially when one has multiple credentials.  This burden is felt through keeping track of renewal dates, managing education hours, and paying the renewal costs.  The biggest concern I had was the education hours.  Many credentials have a two or three year cycle, with about 15-20 hours per year of continuing education needed to maintain them.  For instance, the Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) requires 45 hours of education on a three-year cycle, making for about 15 hours annually of required education.

I continued to wrestle with the decision: CFM or CHFM?  Do I really want to do this?  Ultimately, I determined that I would prepare for the CHFM exam.  The determining factor came down to continuing education.  Because the CHC and CHFM are both credentials offered by ASHE, the maintenance requirements are largely congruent.  Ease of maintenance.  One stop shopping.  Done deal.    I began to study for the CHFM.  Right off the bat I noticed two huge differences between studying for the CHFM and CHC.  The first difference was the amount of available resources.  There are an abundance of resources available for one studying for the CHFM.  When I prepared several years ago for the CHC exam, there was relatively nothing available for CHC-centric studying.  The second difference was the breadth of material. To me, the CHC seemed to be a certification focused on well-rounded, depth based knowledge about healthcare construction.  The design of it was fairly fixed breadth, but with moderate depth, an understanding being that there are specialists and consultants out there to fill in the depth of certain knowledge areas such as med gas, commissioning, and sustainability.  CHFM was different.  As I studied, the emphasis seemed to be on breadth; reminding me of the saying “A mile wide and an inch deep.”  There literally seemed to be no end of items I could study or become familiar with.

I settled into a routine.  Wake up early, study for an hour or so, then get ready and go to work.  About mid-point in my routine of studying and exam prep, I started asking myself “Am I ready for this?”.  As I continued to study and prepare, my question evolved into another one.  “Is it the right time?”.  Some questions there is no answer for, just like some of the questions I read on the CHFM exam.  But “Is it the right time?” there is an answer for. 

I concluded that being prepared for the CHFM exam is like being ready to have children.  One is never “ready”, but there does reach a point that the time is right.  Just as with parenthood, you have a little more time for preparation to get ready once the “time is right.”  I felt the time was right to book my exam.        

On a cool day late in the year I made the drive to the testing center, walked in, and sat for the CHFM exam.  My wife asked the kids as I returned if they thought I passed or failed.  “Pass” chirped a response. My 6-year-old rained down invectives: “FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!”  I walked in with a swagger, sat down with a grin, and had a good laugh as she told her story.  I love answers to questions of timing.  Some things really do come down to the right time.