One of the questions we get frequently here at Privacy Bootcamp is what students can expect on test day for their Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) or Certification Information Privacy Manager (CIPM) exams. In the article below, we attempt to set forth a comprehensive explanation so there are no surprises, and so you can rest easy as you prepare for the big day.
How Are the Exams Administered?
The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) administers its CIPP, CIPM, and CIPT exams through a third-party provider, Pearson Vue.
After purchasing an exam through the IAPP’s website, when you attempt to sign up for your exam, you will be redirected to Pearson Vue’s website. From there, you can choose the date, time, and testing site where you will take your exam. Alternatively, you can choose to take your exam at home through online proctoring.
Pearson Vue Test Centers
When you show up on test day at a Pearson Vue test center—we recommend showing up ten minutes prior to the time indicated—you will be asked to sit in a lobby area with many other people. Some, or even most, of the people you will be sitting with will be there to take an exam that is not administered by the IAPP. Pearson Vue provides exams for many different organizations, such as the medical college admissions test (MCAT).
While you are in the waiting area, Pearson Vue staff will be checking people in to the exam that they are there for. Each exam administered by Pearson Vue has different requirements for what is needed to “check in” to the exam. Some exams, by way of example, might require two forms of identification, while others only require one. For this reason, it is very important for students to follow the directions that they receive from Pearson Vue and IAPP about what is needed to be admitted into the exam room. These requirements occasionally change (especially in light of COVID-19 health requirements), which is why we are not listing them here. In short, follow directions closely.
Note that for large testing centers, the check in process can take a considerable amount of time, as there may be dozens of people waiting to be checked in to their exam. For smaller testing centers, there may be no wait at all.
After you provide your required documentation, you will be directed or escorted to your exam room. In the exam room, just as in the waiting area, there will be other people taking other exams. A proctor will sit you at a desk and set up your computer appropriately. And from there, you can begin . . .
The At Home Option
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IAPP started allowing students to take their CIPP, CIPM, and CIPT exams at home through online proctoring. We do not recommend students use this option, unless there is some extenuating circumstance that requires it. We have heard several horror stories from students that resulted from bad internet connections, to apparent misunderstandings with the online exam proctors, to other unexplained issues. In our view, why risk unexpected issues?
A Detailed Guide of the Exam Format
Once you start the exam, you will have two and a half hours—i.e., 150 minutes—to complete it.
The Code of Professional Conduct and the Candidate Application Statement
The first thing presented once starting your exam are two documents that you must read and sign. These documents, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Candidate Application Statement, can be found in the IAPP Privacy Certification Handbook.
The clock starts ticking the second you are presented with these documents. That is, if you spend three minutes reading and signing these documents, that is three less minutes you will have to spend on reading and answering the exam questions. For this reason, we recommend that you read these documents before test day, so you know what you are signing and do not need to spend your valuable time reading them on the spot.
The Exam Format and Environment
After signing these documents, you are then presented with 90 multiple choice exam questions. Of these 90 questions, 70 or 75 will be graded (depending on what exam you are taking).
As part of the exam software, you have the ability to “flag” questions so that you can easily return to them later. We recommend making use of this feature for questions for which you are unsure of the answer and want to later review.
Roughly halfway through answering these questions (though not necessarily exactly at question 45), you will be given the opportunity to take a 15-minute break. You are presented with a screen that allows you to review all of your flagged questions or to submit this first set of questions and start the break. It is important to note that at this breakpoint you must submit these first set of questions as final. In other words, after starting your break, you are not permitted to go back to the first set of questions. You cannot change your answers, nor can you even view these questions, regardless of whether you have flagged them to go back to later. Essentially, at this breakpoint you are submitting this first set of questions as your final submission of them.
Whether you get up from your computer to take a break is up to you. You can choose to skip the break and continue on to the second half of the exam immediately. If you do decide to take a break, follow the directions from your proctor.
Following the break, you can then complete the rest of your exam. At the end, you will be presented with a similar submission screen that lists your answers and allows you to return to questions (in the second half only). Once you click submit, the exam is done.
What Types of Questions Will You See?
All of the IAPP exams are in multiple choice format. There are, however, at least two primary forms of questions.
The first type of question asks about basic privacy-related knowledge. These questions can range from the superficial to the highly detailed. In other words, some questions will attempt to distill a huge body of knowledge into one multiple-choice question, while the next question may ask about seemingly irrelevant minutiae related to a specific statute.
The second type of question asks you to apply your privacy knowledge to a fact pattern. Some fact patterns will be relatively short and relate to only one question. You will be presented with several longer fact patterns—usually between 4 and 6, depending on the exam—that will pertain to multiple questions.
You will come across many questions that contain a qualitative component. That is, the question will be framed as asking you what is “least likely,” “most likely,” or what “best describes” a concept, or something similar. According to the IAPP, “Each question is worth 1 point and is scored as correct or incorrect.” This means that while qualitative-style questions may have several potentially right answers, the IAPP wants a specific answer—and only that answer will be considered correct.
Additionally, the IAPP has stated that “[u]nanswered questions are considered incorrect, and there is no additional penalty for incorrect answers.” The import of this is clear. NEVER LEAVE AN ANSWER BLANK. EVER.
- To learn more about how the exam is graded, visit our article exploring this topic: “Explainer: What is a Passing Score on IAPP Exams?”
What Happens When You Finish?
After you submit your exam, you are told immediately whether you passed. Several hours after you complete the exam, you will be sent a notification over email that your Score Report is available. This will tell you your score, as well as what percentage of questions you got right on each knowledge domain.
If you pass, you will receive official certification documentation in the coming weeks from IAPP. If not, the IAPP requires you to wait a full month before you are permitted to retake the exam.
Prepare With Privacy Bootcamp’s Live-Exam Training Environment
When you purchase a Privacy Bootcamp training course, you gain access to a comprehensive, all-in-one training platform. We have one feature, however, that you will not find on any other training platform: a live exam environment that mirrors that actual exam software.
As part of our course requirements, students are asked to complete 4 or 5 “knowledge reviews,” which are untimed 20-question practice exams that cover specific subject areas. Students are also required to complete two full-length, timed practice exams. Beyond this, students can create an unlimited number of unique, customized practice exams.
All exams created on our platform are unique, regardless of whether they are course required or custom created by the student. They draw questions from our bank of exam questions that contain hundreds of questions.
- CIPP/US Course – More than 500 practice questions
- CIPP/E Course – More than 650 practice questions
- CIPM Course – More than 450 practice questions
We constantly update our exam question banks by adding new questions and retiring outdated questions. Each exam is populated based upon parameters set by Privacy Bootcamp (for course required practice exams) or by the student (for customized exams). We also scramble the potential answers to help ensure that no two practice exams will be exactly alike.
Once a practice exam has been completed, we retain a record of it, along with the student’s answers. Students can then go back to review their previously completed exams to find what the right answer to each question is, along with an explanation of why that answer is correct.
Through our custom software that mirrors the actual exam software used by Pearson Vue, our students are always prepared for what they encounter on test day. You too can study the smart way with Privacy Bootcamp.