Taking the Prep Course for the Tech Comm Foundation Certification

Enjoy reading the answers Tricia Spayer provides below about how she took the prep course (on August 15) to prepare for the Tech Comm Foundation Certification.

How did you sign up to take the course?

I saw the STC email that promotes the courses. The schedule originally had the Practitioner Prep Course before the Foundation Prep Course at the time I looked for the courses. (Most likely, the Foundation Course occurred before I paid full attention to the courses.)

You can also take Certification Prep courses through other sources, as shown on the STC site: Accredited Trainers and Upcoming Training Courses (stc.org)

When I saw the one-day course offered and the timing – the Foundation Course prior to the Practitioner Course – I signed up right away through the STC website. To sign up, go to stc.org and look under Education.

Note that this course was the first virtual one-day prep course hosted by STC. There have been one-day on site courses at Summit. Most of the prep courses take place over several weeks.

What did you think of the course – and what is it like?

I thought it was fantastic! The course was scheduled for seven hours, with 15-minute breaks every 60-90 minutes. The time flew by. The pacing was great, and our instructor left plenty of time for questions.

We had eight students. I thought it was great that one company’s Tech Pubs manager was there with three of her five team members, who are all pursuing certification. What a great idea to have your whole team certified! This shows a commitment to quality for the company, and to me it also shows a commitment to the associates by investing in their skills.

Our instructor, Dr. Craig Baehr, past STC President and CPTC* Chief Examiner, went through all the steps that we need to do to become certified, and explained what we needed to know for each of the nine core competencies on which we would be examined. He covered:

  • Why to become certified
  • Tips on interpreting the six different types of questions you may encounter in the exam (examples: true-false, multiple choice, how they are worded, etc.)
  • Tips for figuring out the answers on the exam
  • Information to study
  • Resources, including practice exams, study guides, the text book, Intercom magazine articles, and more

After each section’s explanation, Dr. Baehr gave us practice questions as knowledge checks. We kept track of how many questions we got correct to see if we would pass in the actual exam. I got 17 out of 18 correct! We also took a practice exam of 20 questions at the end, where Craig timed us, as you would be by the Certification organization. This time, I passed with 15/20 questions correct. You need to pass the actual exam with 70% or greater correct answers out of 50 (so 35/50).

What are some of the reasons someone would want to get the Tech Comm Foundation Certification?

There are many reasons, some of which include professional advancement and personal achievement. Certification can also help companies validate potential hires’ knowledge and skills. When someone seeks certification, this demonstrates a greater commitment and engagement in their profession, as well as commitment to producing quality publications. Certified individuals may be tapped as leaders in their organizations.

I have been thinking about certification since STC began offering it in 2011, when I served on STC’s Board of Directors. At that time, the only certification available was Expert Certification. Though I started working through some of the materials to prepare, I did not have the time to complete them.

The certification program has evolved over the years. Now there are three levels of certification: Foundation, Practitioner, and Expert. You need to earn the Foundation level before Practitioner, and so on.

It took me several years, but I felt that I finally had the time to pursue this certification.

Even though I have been a Technical Communicator for 27 years, and have received STC’s Fellow honor, I want to prove (mostly to myself) that I am an expert in the field. My company was recently bought by a conglomerate, and we now have sister companies. I am currently working with a sister company whose technical writer left their company. I can see myself becoming the director of technical publications amongst our sister companies, and I believe that Certification will show our parent company that I am the obvious choice.

What is the Tech Comm Foundation Certification?

There are three levels of certification, the first of which is Foundation. You need to earn each certification level in order (that means you cannot sign up immediately to take the Expert exam without having earned Foundation and Practitioner).

The Foundation level is designed for entry-level professionals and has no prerequisites, but STC recommends that you have at least two years of professional study and/or work experience.

The Foundation level validates that you have a good understanding of the nine core competencies of technical communication:

  1. Project Planning
  2. Project Analysis
  3. Content Development
  4. Organizational Design
  5. Written Communication
  6. Visual Communication
  7. Reviewing and Editing
  8. Content Management
  9. Production and Delivery

What else can you share with us about your experiences taking the prep course?

Note that you do not need to take a course prior to taking the Certification exam. But through the course and in our practice exams, I learned that I have a lot to learn. I entered Tech Writing from an engineering background. I did not take Technical Communication in college. There are parts to the exam and certification that I was not familiar with – some terminology, the specific order of processes mentioned in some questions, and more.

I paid for this course myself. Instead of spending money on a vacation, for example, I am gaining something that will benefit me for a lifetime. I believe that when you invest in yourself, you are more motivated to succeed.

By taking this prep course and by studying the materials to prepare for my certification exam, I know that I will become an even better Technical Communicator!

The STC website has a study guide, where you can determine which areas you are already strong in, as well as those areas that need attention.

You will sign up for the exam separately from the prep course. The exam is hosted by APMG International, an organization that certifies hundreds of professions, and is recognized by myriad industries. From the APMG web site, you can take a timed practice exam.

The actual exam is derived from hundreds of possible questions. The examining organization randomizes the questions, so your exam will likely be different from anyone else’s exam. They also offer a proctoring service, so that you will be timed and observed while taking the exam, which is closed-book if you were wondering!

*CPTC = Certified Professional Technical Communicator. When you pass your exam, you will be able to download a badge that you can use in your email signature, social media, and more. You will also be recognized as a certified professional on stc.org!

To learn more about Certification, check out the STC website: Become a Certified Professional Technical Communicator (stc.org)

Next steps

I took the prep course. Now I need to study!

When I pass my exam and become certified in the Foundation Level, I want to take a Practitioner prep course and prepare for the next level exam. So, tune in again in the future for my next adventures!