CAE Exam Prep Tips from 14 Certified Professionals

Membership Audra Hopkins

So, you’ve decided to go for gold and get your Certified Association Executive (CAE) certification. Amazing!

But do you know what it take to prepare for and ultimately pass the CAE exam?

Let’s face it, studying for any exam can be challenging. You never know what to expect, you’re most likely nervous, and you just wish there were a better way to prepare yourself.

Well, now there is.

Here at Web Scribble, we’ve collected advice from some of the best CAE certified association professionals out there. They’re got tips on how to study, what to expect, and where to best focus your energy in order to take the CAE exam by storm.

If you’re an association professional looking to make the commitment and become CAE certified, this advice is for you:

 

14 CAE Exam Tips

make sure you are committed of 6 months of test preparation. The material goes beyond facts & figures. If you have time to participate in a study group, read the text and take practice tests, you will succeed. Carving out the time is not as easy these days, but it is vital before taking the exam.”  – Tom Greer, Director of Communications at the Texas Association of School Business Officials

“Preparing for the CAE exam, taking the exam and waiting for the results were some of the most stressful times in my career. Passing the exam, the most exhilarating and emotionally gratifying.” – Paul Markowski, CEO at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

“My one bit of advice to anyone thinking of or preparing to take the CAE exam is to pad your schedule with time to really dive into the content; the books, the conferences, the webinars and the articles. The best part about being a CAE is the journey you take to get there. What you learn and the people you meet along the way will stay with you and help you on your personal journey of professional development. If you work in the association world, preparing for the CAE is a must. It shouldn’t even be an option.” – John Torres, Director of Government and Industry Affairs at the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association

Preparing for the CAE can be overwhelming so here are just a few pearls of wisdom from my own experience…Really commit to the reading outlined in the study guide. That is really dedicate the time to read the chapters and absorb the material. Get excited about the learning. I actually learned so much in the process…[Last,] Stop cramming a few days before the test and make sure you get your rest If you can take a day off before and after-even better.” – Silvia Quevedo, Director of Practice Guidance at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

“My advice to those seeking to take the CAE exam is to pace your preparation – do not cram; there is a lot to review. Consider enrolling in a CAE-specific planning course, such as ASAE’s CAE Kick Off. I also suggest you recognize the learning environments that suit you best and leverage them…Best of luck to you along this journey.” – Tom Quash, Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publications at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

“The CAE designation is a mark of distinction that tells your peers and clients you mean business. It sets you apart as a holistic thinker who understands how your area of expertise drives the business mission. To prepare for the CAE exam I highly recommend the ASAE prep course and participation in a study group—both will expose you to a variety of governance scenarios. Understand your weaknesses—we all have them and can learn to compensate if we work at it.” – Tracy Cullen, Senior Director of Communications & Marketing at the National Electrical Manufacturers Association

“In many respects studying for the CAE [exam] is more closely aligned with a journey than a single event… I was required to go beyond the book into practicing concepts learned each and every day at work. These practices reinforced over the three-month study-period led to the adoption of new perspectives required to not only pass the examination but more importantly to better serve the membership.” – Bryan Harrison, Director of the Specialty Equipment Market Association

“I would advise people preparing to take the CAE exam not to overthink it. You will not know everything, so don’t try. Concentrate on those areas in ASAE’s Handbook of Professional Practices and the Law Handbook for which you are unfamiliar. Your job within an association prepares you for many aspect of the exam. So breathe. And you’ll be fine.”  – Matthew Helms , Executive Director of the Pediatric Pharmacy Association

“Reading through the recommended books and participating in a study group highlighted the complexity of association management. While some things are the same between associations, many situations are unique. Studying for the CAE underscored the need to be flexible in addressing various challenges and elevated my thinking beyond merely getting things done to imaging new possibilities. I would highly recommend working toward then CAE designation for anyone serious about association management as a career.” – Greg Wilson, Director of Operations at the California District Attorneys Association

“Schedule time to study several times a week and stick to it. I studied a little most mornings and dedicated several hours at a stretch on weekends. You won’t pass this exam if you try to cram. See if your state SAE has a study group, if not, find one elsewhere. Ideally, go through the cycle twice with your study group. The first time is for practice and the second time is for real. Doing it twice will embed the knowledge even deeper. Enjoy the CAE journey—it’s the best part. Although, holding the “congratulations” letter in your hands is pretty sweet too.” – Deirdre Reid, Freelance Writer and Content Marketer at Deirdre Reid LLC

“I think the best advice that I have for somebody looking to get the CAE certificate is to approach the test the same way you would run an association…The best way to study for the exam, and benefit yourself, is to work with a group to get multiple perspectives from different aspects of associations. What you think is your greatest strength professionally might actually be your greatest weakness on the test.” Jeff Keller, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs at the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association

“for me the three most valuable things I did that enabled me to pass the exam were: 1) to thoroughly read and ensure I understood all five of the titles listed as “CAE Core Resources“; 2) to review and be able to extrapolate on each of the sections of the CAE Exam Content Outline; and 3) to attend one or more ASAE Annual Meeting & Expositions, where one can take classes on a variety of nonprofit management topics over the course of three energetic and intellectually fulfilling days.” – Meredith Bower, freelance marketing professional

“Preparing for the CAE exam was a turning point in my career. Pass or fail, merely studying best practices and case studies equipped me with the knowledge to be a stronger association management professional.” – Donte Shannon, Executive Director at the Specialty Advertising Association of California

“I found that having a group of peers to prepare for the exam with to be the most useful resource while studying for my CAE. I strongly recommend finding a study group, such as the one that Association Forum provides. (Check out Association Forum’s CAE study group here!)” – Michael Vega, Digital Content Strategist at Association Forum

 

Well, there you have it. Incredible advice, right from the mouths of CAE certified professionals.

Take this advice with you in your studies and hopefully you can use it to pass the CAE exam with flying colors.