My best CRE exam preparation tips
Over the past few years, we have been helping people from around the world prepare for and pass the ASQ CRE exam. Over this time, and from personal experience, I’ve learned a few things about what makes a difference.
Here are ten tips to help you prepare.
1. Know the material
This is fundamental. Even the criteria beyond passing the exam is work experience in the field of reliability engineering.
In your work and as you prepare, continue to learn and apply reliability engineering techniques to your day-to-day situation. Actually working through an accelerated life test or reliability prediction cements the activity details in your memory.
Work problems are good practice. Working to solve real problems adds value.
2. Work sample problems
Textbooks and primers have sample problems and example problems, similar to the questions you should expect on the exam. Work through the problems and check your approach against the examples.
While the correct answer is important, knowing how to recognize the problems topic, formula, or approach, plus how to narrow down the answer will significantly improve with practice.
The difference between good and great exam performance (or any sport or activity, btw) is to practice deliberately. Do not focus on just doing the problems, focus instead on learning from each problem you solve.
Understand how to get the right answer, and why the wrong answers are incorrect. When you make errors, step back and look at your process and identify, then practice better approaches.
If you take no other advice to pass the exam, do the homework. Work each problem you can find. This will help you master the material, know your references and build confidence.
Start with some sample problems here.
3. Create summary sheets
A major factor in the exam is time. You will not have enough time to carefully consider, research and solve each problem.
Sure, some you will just know, others you will be able to solve quickly by recalling the exponential distribution reliability function.
Others will cause you to look up a key piece of information.
Rather than crack open a textbook and search for the page with the Weibull distribution PDF formula – build a summary sheet.
As you work problems or review your references, write down the key definitions and formulas that you encounter and have to find in a reference. These are the ones you are likely to have to find again quickly during the exam.
Placing exponential, Weibull, lognormal distribution CDF, PDF, Reliability and hazard functions on one sheet will reduce your time looking for those details.
I find the summary sheet with practice provides a very quick way to find just what I need quickly. Those few minutes of time-saving will let you solve a few more problems.
4. Practice with your references
A common CRE exam question may require you to look up the F distribution value for a specific set of degrees of freedom. Different authors create F tables slightly different from one another.
Same for normal, Student-t, and other distribution tables. Practice and master how to use the resources in your references.
Know how to use your references- this includes the table of contents, index, appendix, and the added bookmarks or tabs you add. The tip here is to know where to find what you need to know.
In other words, do not practice solving sample problems with Wikipedia or other online references – you will not have them during the exam.
5. Practice with your calculator
Same advice for practicing with your calculator as with references. Avoid using Excel during preparation.
ASQ is very specific about what calculators are allowed for use during the exam. Be familiar, very familiar, with you exam approved calculator.
One example that might trip you up unless you know. Does your calculator determine the sample or population standard deviation by default?
6. Start early
One way to get ready for a marathon is to stay up all night running multiple marathons the night before.
No, not really.
While cramming in college may have worked for you, it is a sure way to not be ready for the CRE exam.
Supplement your previous education and work experience with practice, deliberate practice. Giving yourself a few months to prepare lets you master the material, your references, and you test taking skills.
Set a schedule and make it a habit. Even one hour per day of preparation will suffice if you start early enough.
I recommend a minimum of 40 to 60 hours of preparation over 2 to 3 months.
Build up your skills, knowledge, and confidence over time. Just as preparing for a marathon takes time, preparing for the CRE is not an overnight accomplishment.
7. Get help
You are not alone. Others have taken and passed the exam, and others are also preparing for the exam.
Working with others to master the material, hearing a better way to approach a problem, finding great references, and many other hints and tips accelerate your preparation.
Even a simple study group may provide the social pressure to do your homework and prepare to discuss the problems with your group. And, do not underestimate the support and encouragement that you receive and provide.
There are CRE Preparation classes offered by ASQ sections, community colleges, and private entities.
There is the LinkedIn CRE Preparation group. Great place to ask for help solving a problem with finding great reference recommendations.
8. Do self-assessments
Do it early in your preparation.
Use it to plan your study with a focus on you lowest scoring areas.
9. Stay healthy
Your brain is the muscle you’ll rely on during the exam. Keep it healthy by keeping your body healthy.
Eat, sleep, and exercise regularly leading up to the exam (and beyond – because it’s good for you).
As you exercise your brain doing practice nourish it by staying healthy.
You can defeat yourself before even starting the exam. With preparation and practice, you will build the skills to pass the exam.
You can do it!
Relax, get a good night’s sleep, organize your cheat sheets, references, pencils, and calculator – be ready to go. Arrive early and take a deep breath.
You will do fine.