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APA President ponders low AICP Pass rate in 2002

NHPlanner

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The latest from APA on the '02 Exam:

The AICP Exam and 2002 Results

By Paul Farmer, AICP
Executive Director, APA and AICP

For more than 20 years, the American Institute of Certified Planners has been certifying planners through a process that includes education and practice requirements, as well as a written examination. Employers are showing their confidence in the "AICP" credentials by increasingly requiring certification or otherwise giving special consideration to those who are certified. Planners are showing their interest by taking the exam in numbers that are regularly in the 1,000-1,500 range. AICP membership, which has been growing at approximately 1,000 per year, now stands at about 13,300. Of course, the purpose of certification is both to assist planners in their practice of sound, ethical planning and to assure the public that planners with such credentials have the expected expertise and that that expertise will be utilized in accordance with our code of ethics.

This year, the Institute experienced a lower pass rate for its certifying exam than it had experienced in recent years, which understandably resulted in a number of concerns expressed by both unsuccessful examinees and chapter Professional Development Officers. However, it should also be noted that this year's pass rate was more in keeping with the rates of many of the first 20 years of the exam than with the higher rates of the last half dozen years. From 1980 through 1992, the range had been from a low of 50 percent to a high of 63 percent, a rate that was achieved only once. In eight of the last nine years, the range had been 71-76 percent. Only in 1999, with an all-time high pass rate of 79 percent, was it outside that range.

Several phenomena may explain why this year's pass rate dropped back to rates more common during the first 13 years of the written exam. None explains the entire change.

For example, pass rates vary widely according to such factors as an applicant's years of experience or degree program (planning versus a related degree; an accredited planning degree versus a non-accredited degree). For an entire applicant pool, these vary from year to year.

In 1999, the AICP Commission commissioned a study of the certifying process. The Commission selected James Spencer, FAICP, a member of the University of Tennessee faculty, to perform the study. Dr. Spencer had completed a similar study approximately 15 years earlier. The Spencer Report suggested a number of procedural and substantive changes to the exam process. One of the recurring themes that Dr. Spencer identified in his report was a strong desire by AICP members for the certifying exam to be more oriented to testing the application of planning knowledge and experience and a reduced emphasis on rote memorization of facts and figures. Since the report's publication in 2000, the exam committee of AICP has been slowly and deliberately shifting the focus of the exam to testing the application of planning knowledge and experience.

The change in focus of the exam became evident to the exam committee members who certified the exam for administration in 2002. Many of the exam committee members remarked that the draft exam seemed to be calling for more decision making on the part of examinees than did previous exams. The exam is beginning to meet the desire of AICP members as expressed through the Spencer Report: to have an exam that is testing the application of planning knowledge and experience. This continued shift of emphasis in the exam may also have contributed to a lower overall pass rate.

Standardized exams require a periodic process to establish a "cut score," which establishes the number of questions that need to be successfully answered to pass the exam. The cut score is reviewed approximately every five to seven years; 2002 happened to be one of those years. The Select AICP Exam Cut-Score Committee that was convened in late May for this purpose consisted of recent exam takers, those who had taken the exam years before, a member of the last cut score committee, members of the exam committee, and current and former PDOs. A representative of the Chauncey Group, the professional administrators of the AICP certifying exam, led this effort. Most of the committee's time over two days was spent on two tasks. The first task was to develop a profile of an exam candidate who would marginally pass the exam. The second task was to evaluate questions from the 2002 exam and collectively agree on how well this marginal candidate would perform on each question. Using these data, the Chauncey Group developed a draft cut score for my review and certification as the AICP Executive Director.

After reviewing the recommendations of the Committee, I had further conversations with staff of the Chauncey Group and with the Chair of the Committee. I certified a cut score that raised the pass rate slightly from that initially recommended by the Committee. Although the change between the cut score from the past several years to this year was slight, it apparently has contributed to a lowering of the pass rate in 2002. However, the change in the cut score does not entirely explain the total change in the pass rate experienced this year. But, as with the background of the 2002 applicant pool and the implementation of the Spencer Report, it isn't the sole reason for lowered pass rate in 2002.

We should all be careful about relying on previous pass rates as a predictor of the pass rate in any given year. An applicant understandably asks for the history of pass rates. A rate is frequently stated in exam preparation courses. In fact, it is not uncommon for faculty of such courses to state the pass rates of "their graduates."

Another expectation relates directly to the preparation courses and materials. Too many exam takers assume that the practice exams provided as part of the review sessions offered by state chapters and private individuals somehow replicate what is on the actual exam. Those who conduct the review sessions emphasize that the practice exams are just that. But a number of applicants who called the chair of the exam committee expressed amazement that the questions on the practice exam(s) were not on the certifying exam. Practice exams should never be viewed as a shortcut to completely studying the exam subjects.

AICP certifies planners. It has an interest in having every practicing planner become certified and be a member of the Institute. It is not the intent of the AICP Commission or its Exam Committee to artificially raise or artificially lower the pass rate for the certifying exam. But an exam score must be set that numerically identifies those that qualify for membership in the Institute. We hope that the exam itself will be viewed as simply a part of a valuable learning process for those who seek to become certified planners. We will work with APA's Chapters so that continuing education programs can continue to be improved so that planners build on their knowledge and skills through the focused learning processes leading up to the exam. Those who become certified will then have both the satisfaction of earning their "AICP" credentials and the satisfaction that their knowledge and skills have improved through the process.
 

sal95

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pass rate

The pass rate was 57%. Massachusetts had the best pass rate of 77% with 33 out of 43 passing.

No clue how I passed that thing, but I am soooooooooo happy that I don't have to take it again! I think the pass rate was so low because APA sold/sponsered a bogus preparation cd program. The ads in 'Planning' magazine talked about how it was going to prepare the candidate and "help them take that important step in enhancing their career." Whatever. The program was absolutely no help and had NO resemblance of the actual exam. I thought that the PDO information from the state offices were a lot more beneficial.
 

Jeff

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Another reason: That test has practically nothing to do with the job we do, and the municipalities we do it for.

State licensing....I keep saying it. That is the way to go. To hell with this National crap.
 

el Guapo

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Re: wrong thread

sal95 said:
Hey NH Planner. . . I meant this to be a reply to your thread about the APA prez pondering the pass rate. Any chance I can get it moved over???

Thanks!
I merged them. But I killed NHP's original thread in the process. Sorry.
 

sal95

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Thank you!

Thanks EG. . .sorry that I'm a troublemaker. ::oops:

I also agree with Mike. The exam is NOT a reflection of what planners do everyday.
 

NHPlanner

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Re: Re: wrong thread

El Guapo said:


I merged them. But I killed NHP's original thread in the process. Sorry.
No problem Guap.....I do it all the time when I merge the threads. :) I'll just modify the thread title.
 

Dan

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I didn't have any problem with the AICP exam, being a first time passer. :) However, I got the feeling that it was a bit "retro" ... that is, there's a disproportionatey large amount of planners working on "War on Poverty" - type projects.

Taking the test, I could literally hear the funk music and picture myself driving down Something-Mile Road in 1973 Detroit. There seemed to have a lot of questions about community health clinics, HUD programs, urban renewal, and similar items. The exam just seemed to have an old, gritty urban flavor about it.

http://lists.village.virginia.edu/sixties/Graphics/Track16/attica.gif
 
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I'm a two-timer.....I studied my patoot off the first time and was killed by the heavy concentration of transportation and environmental questions. The second time, I refused to crack open a book or even look at the AICP CD's that I burned from a friend, and can't honestly pinpoint the one area that stumped me like the year before. Ironically enough, I got the same score. What does it mean? It means that I don't know if I'm willing to shell out almost $350 (fee increase pending) to take this test again when it's highly unlikely that my averages will improve. An essay exam would work in my favor.
 

Repo Man

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I like how he tries to tie the low pass rate with the "shift of emphasis" of the exam. What a joke. The low pass rate is because of the stupid questions about unknown authors of unread books, vague ethics questions that rarely apply to real world situations, irrelvant questions about Planning Magazine articles, and lack of questions that have any relevance whatsoever to the planning profession. He is making excuses to try and legitimize their useless test. I agree with Mike DeVuono on the state licensing. Passing that test does not make anybody a better planner.

That being said, I am so glad I passed beacuse another year of worrying/studying would drive me nuts!
 

Chet

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Ummm... Did you just admit to an ethical violation???

Planderella said:
The second time, I refused to crack open a book or even look at the AICP CD's that I burned from a friend
I'm so ashamed of you! ;)
 

Zoning Goddess

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It floored me that out of the 5 planners (and I use the term loosely) in our office who took the test this year, the two most competent didn't pass, and the two who are totally clueless did pass. Actually, I was first floored when those two actually qualified to take the test, having no planning education and only vaguely related planning work experience. I agree that there is little relevance to the actual planning profession because I see so many very good planners who don't pass the exam.
 

mugbub

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Mugbub, AICP (first time passer)

You probably won't like it (and El Guano may even crack into my account again and change my text color and avatar) but I'll say it.

The pass rate is reflective of the work ethic of the applicant pool. Honest to god. GRITS said it herself- she didn't even crack a book. Look in the mirror.

People, if you ain't prepared then you ain't gonna pass. You don't hear any psuedo engineers whining if they don't get their PE. Study study study, and that bullshit cd won't guarantee anything.

If anything, the pass rate makes Paul Farmer look bad- not all you failures (and repeat failures). No more whining.

Mod censors: feel free to get to pissy and erase my post.
 

giff57

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Since everyone is always talk about how irrelevant the questions were, what would be a relevant question? The profession is so varied that what is relevant for one probably isn't for someone else.

What content should be on the exam?
 

Repo Man

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Re: Mugbub, AICP (first time passer)

mugbub1 said:


People, if you ain't prepared then you ain't gonna pass. You don't hear any psuedo engineers whining if they don't get their PE.

That is because their exam is relevant to what they do as a professional engineer. Whether or not someone knows who wrote some useless book on environmantal planning doesn't mean squat about a person's planning abilities.
 
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Blargh. I've decided to not take the AICP. The civil service exam is stressing me out enough. Under "qualified applicants" for the Senior Planning Assistant: "Civil Engineers, Architects or Landscape Architects". Planners, apparantly are not qualified, but i fall in under "related fields". from what i've been told, the test is questions stolen from the CE's and surveyor's exam with a couple chain of command questions. again, blargh.
 

nerudite

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I was a first time passer (2000), and I did study a little. I basically read and memorized the big green book. I don't even remember the title anymore... but its ubiquitous location on all planning department shelves seems to mean something. I remember memorizing the various Housing Acts, Federal Highway acts and thinking "like I'm ever going to use this!" I'm glad I did memorize that stuff though, as they did end up on the exam. However, I forgot all of it as soon as I walked out of the room.

I'm going to writing the CIP exam sometime this fall. It's an essay test and I already know the question, so it gives me time to prepare. They also have an oral interview/exam on ethics instead of throwing it into the written test mix, which I think is very interesting.
 

Chet

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KMateja said:
Blargh. I've decided to not take the AICP.
I'm leaning in that direction too. I've been accepted to sit for it the last 3 years but never signed up due to time constraints. I've made it to a Director's job on my abilities and not on 4 letters after my name. At this point, the little extra $ I'll get from my employer isn't an incentive.
 

nerudite

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bturk said:


I'm leaning in that direction too. I've been accepted to sit for it the last 3 years but never signed up due to time constraints.
I did this too... I mean I was accepted for three years and never got around to it. The sad thing is that after three years you need to reapply. So not only did I qualify for a long time, but I let my qualification lapse and then had to go through the application process all over again. Just thought I'd warn ya...
 

Chet

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nerudite said:

Just thought I'd warn ya...
Yeah, after the first year (when I actually paid and then dropped early enough to get a full refund) I talked with their membership person in DC and he warned me.
 

el Guapo

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AICP Pride!

I'm going for it this year if I can get over the pain caused by Mugbub's harsh reality checks.

PROUD to be a cyburbia troll worker.
 

Chet

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Re: AICP Pride!

Oh G*d El Guapo - there's an idea for new Cyburbia merchandise: AICP Pride muscle tees! LOL
 

donk

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I'm going to writing the CIP exam sometime this fall. It's an essay test and I already know the question, so it gives me time to prepare. They also have an oral interview/exam on ethics instead of throwing it into the written test mix, which I think is very interesting.
nerudite

I did not have to write the CIP test, as my chapter does not require it. The interview was pretty easy, just look at the code of conduct before you go in. The other thing is to be able to reply relatively quickly to how your work experience fits into the spheres and scales of planning required.

The other hint, if you can go drinking with the people who do the exam. With our area being so small everyone knows everyone and unless you are a total goof off the oral is not that difficult.

Good Luck

Donk, MCIP since 2000
 

Dan

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NHPlanner said:
Nice attempt, but it looks like something that would be worn by a late middle-aged housewife from Long Island. "I picked this up in Atlantic City ..."

Stylish. Creative. Hip. Sensitive. The new AICP.
 

el Guapo

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Dan said:


Nice attempt, but it looks like something that would be worn by a late middle-aged housewife from Long Island. "I picked this up in Atlantic City ..."

Stylish. Creative. Hip. Sensitive. The new AICP.
Is this another Where in the World is bTurk?
 
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bturk said:


I'm leaning in that direction too. I've been accepted to sit for it the last 3 years but never signed up due to time constraints. I've made it to a Director's job on my abilities and not on 4 letters after my name. At this point, the little extra $ I'll get from my employer isn't an incentive.
Extra bling for AICP is not even on the table here. If getting your AICP really meant anything, personally or professionally, that's a different story.
 

sal95

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HA! The only $$$ I got from my employer was a reimbursement of my application and exam fees. I guess beggers shouldn't be choosers.
 

ajacks13

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ditto

jtfortin said:
I like how he tries to tie the low pass rate with the "shift of emphasis" of the exam. What a joke. The low pass rate is because of the stupid questions about unknown authors of unread books, vague ethics questions that rarely apply to real world situations, irrelvant questions about Planning Magazine articles, and lack of questions that have any relevance whatsoever to the planning profession. He is making excuses to try and legitimize their useless test. I agree with Mike DeVuono on the state licensing. Passing that test does not make anybody a better planner.

That being said, I am so glad I passed beacuse another year of worrying/studying would drive me nuts!
I know I'm late but I totally agree. I studied for two years but only took it once - my former employer neglected to send in my payment the first time - and I'm so glad it's over with.

It was the most frustrating test I ever took. I left feeling like "I had no idea how I did". There was absolutely no incentive to take it, financial or otherwise, except my own desire to feel like I've accomplished something. But now that it's over, I can't remember a thing I studied for and don't feel all that accomplished. Thank goodnes I didn't have to pay for it.

If there were a continuing education component (which I think is in the works) or something that made it more practical and relevant (especially for planners in private practice), I'd have more faith in the process.

I just don't think it's an accurate measure of a person's capacity to work in the field. A suggestion for improvement: lessen the public-sector-mid-size-city- focus - a planning consultant in a large city would answer a lot those questions differently in practice.
 

Cardinal

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I am not one to believe in initials as a guarantor of competency, but I often see them used as a screening tool. I am a very capable planner, but most of my career has been in economic development. ED is really a branch of planning, and I have done plenty of current and even more long-range planning. My ED experience also gives me a better perspective - I understand development and can see the market feasibility of plans. Yet when I talk to people about jobs, they do not see me as a planner. For me to pregress in my career in the direction I want, I will need to get those initials. Silly, but that is the way it is.
 

Big Daddy

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AICP exam

Hey dudes
If you study from a number of different sources - you might actually learn something. Having a hammer over your head isn't a whole lot of fun, but a little pressure forces you to STUDY. Learning is what it's all about anyway. Big Daddy 2001 AICP
 
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