The ASQ CRE exam is difficult. The individual elements of the body of knowledge are not in themselves difficult, it is just such a broad range of topics that mastering all the subjects is a challenge.
The CRE Body of Knowledge includes elements of leadership & management, testing & failure analysis, and basic & advanced & reliability statistics. Reliability engineers work across the spectrum of consumer product design to plant maintenance.
Depending on your experience you may have a wealth of experience with availability modeling and repairable system data analysis, and have little experience with design for reliability practices.
After determining if your education and experience qualify you for the certification and sitting for the exam, try the ASQ CRE Practice Exam. It is available in an online version (you will need to login in or register) and a downloadable PDF version.
The sample exam is 75 questions, so give yourself 2 hours and assess the results. If you score about 90% correct, you are ready and may only need a brush up on the body of knowledge topics. Or, the exam may reveal areas that you need to study and re-learn before sitting for the exam.
In most cases, you will run out of time. The test permits about 2 minutes per question and being able to find the definition or formula quickly is often the key to success.
CRE holders write the questions for the exam. It’s an interesting process and once you are certified you may receive an invitation to write exam questions. You may find writing questions suitable for the exam is more challenging than passing the exam.
Each question must cite a reference. The most common (and useful) references include:
Practical Reliability Engineering by Patrick O’Connor and Andre Kleyner, 5th Edition
The Quality Handbook by Joseph M. Juran and A. Blanton Godfrey
and, a good statistics book, preferably one that includes reliability statistics
While questions do not reference the CRE Primer by Robert Dovish & Bill Wortman (available from the Quality Council of Indiana) is by far the best single reference for use during the exam.
The CRE Primer includes sample exam questions, plus you can also purchase a CD with 1,000 additional sample exam questions.
In my experience, those that work the text examples and sample exam questions generally pass the exam. The practice of trying the questions and checking your work reinforces what you already know, plus helps you learn the material that you don’t.
The exercise of doing the questions includes finding the information you need to answer the question. Practice with the references and calculator you will use during the exam. Only resort to using the internet or asking someone to help learn the material, to provide additional insight or background. The practice with your references helps you learn where to find specific information quickly. It’s this practice that saves you valuable time during the exam.
Keep in mind that the exam is four hours and has 150 questions. It covers the entire body of knowledge. Therefore it is practically impossible to learn all of the material in a week or two. Many of the subjects are individual graduate level courses. Just the accelerated testing subject could fill an entire advanced degree program.
Thus, start your preparation early and work steadily toward mastery of the entire body of knowledge. Set aside some time every day to work a few problems and read a section or two of your references. Work, family, and life in general will find ways to interrupt your study time and finding 4 or8-hourr blocks on the weekend may not happen (besides short bursts may increase your retention).
Preparing for the CRE exam is like training for a marathon, slow steady progress tends to work well.
Classes & Guides
Working alone works for some students, and doesn’t for others. Attending a class, enlisting a guide, or forming a study group may provide a bit of structure and obligation to actually work the sample questions and do the reading. Plus, classes and groups provide a way for you to discuss, share, and learn.
If you need just a pointer for a couple of questions, check out the LinkedIn Group CRE Preparation. There are about 350 members that include those preparing for the exam and those already certified and will to help answer questions. Think of it as a life line for when you get stuck during your preparation.
Of course there is a website for those preparing for the CRE exam, too. Check out CREprep.wordpress.com for short tutorials, exam preparation advice and announcements. Sign up for the weekly email list to receive the latest posts to the site.
ASQ offers an online self pace course, the Certified Reliability Engineer Certification Preparation elearning course provides a mix of reading, presentations, and sample questions and allows you to focus on areas you need at your own pace.
A few ASQ Sections offer certification preparation courses regularly. I regularly teach an online course (32 hours in 16 two hour sessions using an online platform (so you can be anywhere and attend, plus the sessions are recorded so you can review or catch up as needed.) Attending a live in person or online class provides a direct means to discuss topics that you need to master directly with the instructor.
And, for those interested in access to a course instructor and not wanting to commit to a preparation course, you can use the Google Helpout “Prepare for the ASQ Certified Reliability Engineer exam” heliport for quick questions and discussion.
If you would like a bit more access and structure, I’m considering offering the recorded lectures from past courses, plus up to one hour per week live one-to-one discussion for 8 weeks, as a hybrid preparation method. Its like the live course except you study and view the lectures at your own pace, and have access to an instructor for those areas that remain unclear or you would like to discuss to better understand.
If there is enough interest I’ll put this hybrid course together starting January ’15 and offer it prior to each bi-annual exam offering. Let me know if you’re interested and we can discuss how to best setup the course to meet your needs.
The first step is deciding that you want to become an ASQ CRE. How you go about preparing is up to you. You have plenty of options and trust you will find the range of recourses available reliable and supportive.