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My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:51 am
by bjwestner
Hello Everyone,

I posted a few times several months back looking for advice/opinions regarding the CPCU program from the Institutes. I wanted to post an update for those that are interested or considering beginning this great program.

I started the program in February of 2011 by ordering the first book, CPCU 500. At first it was very different as I was used to taking other exams and this was my first experience with the Institutes so the materials were different as well as the exams too. Prior to beginning the CPCU program, I had obtained my FLMI designation years ago which I found to be fairly easy. I then moved on to the American College where I obtained my CLU and RHU designations. I was used to and enjoyed the classes with the American College. One item I found very valuable in my studies with the American College was the tapes and later on the cd's that came with the course materials (when I finished my CLU in 2002/2003 they did not have cd's yet and were still sending out tapes that summarized each chapter). Since I drove a lot I liked this as it reinforced what I was reading. I was disappointed to find out that the Institutes did not have tapes or cd's for any courses in the CPCU program.

So I got my books in February of 2011 and intended to get my CPCU done with a year. People thought I was crazy but I was/am motivated to do it and wanted to learn as much as I could. I took the first exam (CPCU 500) on March 5, 2011 and passed. The exam was quite different from the American College exams, both of which can be taken at Prometric. The biggest difference that I noticed was how the questions were written. I found out early on by the way the questions were worded on the exams for CPCU that reading and actually understanding the question was very important as the Institutes liked to word them in a way where if you did not read it slowly and carefully, you were definitely punished. I passed the first CPCU exam on the first try. In fairness, the exam was not that difficult and since I had been in the business ten years and had several other designations, many of the items in the first exam were not completely foreign to me so it was not too bad.

I immediately ordered my books for CPCU 520 and went to work. This course was more difficult than the first one but I passed the second exam on April 23, 2011. Once again I used the materials directly from the Institutes. I had heard about other materials however decided to play it safe and just order the books/materials from the Institutes.

I decided to jump around and skip CPCU 530 for the time being and go right to CPCU 540. I had originally scheduled the exam to be just before June 15, however due to personal issues (my father was dying and I had to take care of him), I did not even sit for this exam. When he passed away on August 11, I had not picked up the 540 book for at least a month at that point and had no motivation at all. It took a long while but finally in October of 2011, I got the itch again. I knew just from reading the book and going through the study guides that 540 was going to be hard. It was the hardest exam that I have taken to date so far. I sat for the exam on November 11, 2011 and passed the exam, although I did not get the usually A or B that I had gotten in the first to exams and had to settle for a C. I did not and do not care because I got through it and that was all that mattered. I've talked to other people that have just taken that exam and I've heard the same thing, that CPCU 540 was very rough.

This left me in a odd situation because it was November 11 and the testing window ends/ended on December 15, 2011. I decided that I would try to "squeeze" one more exam in before the testing window closed. I ordered books immediately and got to work right away on CPCU 555. I took the exam on December 6, 2011 and passed. It was quite easy I found despite being advertised as an "advanced" level course by the Institutes. Thus I was half done and falling behind my goal of finishing within a year from starting, however, due the circumstances at least I was back taking exams again.

I then submitted my waiver forms for two exams (because I had my CLU and FLMI designations, this would waive two classes). I paid my $300 ($150 per waiver) and the Institutes did this right away within a week. Thus I was now down to two left. I had arranged for my books for CPCU 530 to arrive the night I took my 555 exam so I've been working on that and have my next exam for CPCU 530 scheduled on January 16, 2011. IF, I say IF I'm able to pass this will leave just one left after this and I think that I can hopefully get it in before March 5, 2012 so that I can finish within one year.

Here are some of the things I've noticed in taking the exams so far.....

First, although I have gotten through many exams fairly quickly, this is hard and time consuming. I have no family, no kids, no wife. Before it was just my sick father and me and I've spent a lot of time studying my tail off all year long. I've read certain blogs/websites where people have made comments like "I did not even have to read the book to pass the exam". When I was starting off one of my most importan questions for anyone out there that had already gone through the program was how they studied. If you do not read the book at least once, you have no business passing. I've found the actual text book to be the best study tool at all. I do use the course guide and the practice exams online, however, I've found that reading the book at least once and usually twice is the best. The first time I will take some time reading it so I understand everything (I'll get through it quickly but I will highlight what I believe is important and then read the book at least once more making sure to reinforce the important items). How can you tell what is important? If you are using the course guide this tells you. I do not use the course guide the first time I read it but as I'm reading the text the second time I go through the course guide to reinforce the material which I've found is very helpful. Two items that I order but never use are the flash cards and the review notes. I just never got in to using them. I'm sure they are helpful but everyone is different in their preparations for the exam and I've just never used these two items for any of the exams I've passed so far.

Secondly, I've found that for me by scheduling my exam before I start studying that this is the best because it automatically gives myself a date to know that I have to get everything done by. If you do not schedule a date and just wait and study at your own pace, I've found that with me anyway that this is slower and drags the exams out. By scheduling this date ahead of time you can create a study schedule and maintain it. Absolute worst case scenario, if a few days before the exam you know you are not ready (the practice exams are a good indicator of how you can do I've found) then you can just reschedule the exam.

Another tip that I found useful is using my lunch hour to study. It's a great break as I'll find somewhere quiet and read for an hour and come back feeling great because I know that I got an hour of reading/studying in and I did not even have to use my personal time after work hours.

I'll continue to update this thread as I continue to take exams. I wish everyone the best of luck and encourage anyone thinking about starting the program to do it. It's so much fun and I've learned so much. Yes it's challenging and hard work, however, I cannot wait until September of 2012 when I'm at the conferment ceremony in DC and can look at some of the biggest people in the industry, from CEO's of companies to some state insurance commisioners and know that I have a common bond with that person - that they went through the same thing that I did.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:43 am
by ForumReader1
I earned my CPCU in 1995 under the old 10 part system. Back then all the exams were a 3 hour essay format and were offered only twice per year. January and June were exam months. I truly believe all I learned helped me tremendously in my career, and that the CPCU designation carries weight. I enjoyed reading about your journey and your successful technique. Like you, I immersed myself in study including studying on my lunch hour. Best of luck and post again when you pass that last one!

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:21 pm
by Dave Medvidofsky
Thanks for sharing and best of luck meeting your goal. When you are done, please consider some type of service either with your local chapter or at the national level. Getting the designation is an impressive accomplishment that only 3-5% of the P&C industry obtains - there is even more to gain once you put those initials after your name!

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:12 am
by KD_Institutes
Thank you for sharing your CPCU journey. I work for The Institutes and look forward to meeting you at the 2012 CPCU conferment in DC! Each year we select two class spokespeople to share their journey during the conferment ceremony. You should consider submitting your story when the time comes!

-Kara Davis
The Institutes

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:51 am
by gregsmith5
Don't make that big of a deal out of CPCU, the tests are easy - just read the books and answer the questions. A lot of folks tend to over think the exams - I have taught all 10 parts, my students who had the hardest time passing were the ones who read too much into the questions.
The CPCU isn't that valuable to worry this much over.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:41 pm
by bjwestner
Thanks KD, I may consider submitting my story when the time comes.

I have an update - I'm now just one class away from being done. I took and passed the CPCU 530 exam yesterday. This means I only have 557 left.

CPCU 530 was of average difficulty I'd say. It was not the hardest exam that I had to take so far and it was not the easiest. I continued with my same study habits for this exam just like all the rest of them - that is, I read the book several times and went through the course guide and took the practice exams

I have my final exam scheduled for one month from today for CPCU 557. Hopefully I'll be able to post good news after the exam.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:43 am
by AnMarieB
I am starting this month with CPCU 530 and wasn't sure if I should get the flash cards, etc. After reading this post, I'm going to stick with just the course guide and text book. Very much appreciate reading your story. Great info - thanks!

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:50 am
by bjwestner
Update - Well, I guess my CPCU journey is done. I took my final exam (CPCU 557) yesterday afternoon. I originally had it scheduled for today but had to move it up one day due to a scheduling conflict. I passed 557 and found it to be fairly easy compared to the other exams. I'd venture to say that it was probably the easiest of all exams for me. I used the same study habits that I have used throughout this journey.....Read the textbook several times, go over the course guide, etc......The issue was that I immediately ordered the materials from the Institutes right after my prior exam on Jan 16, 2012. The Institutes had the text BACKORDERED!?!?!?!

I got the textbook finally but more than a week later. Thus I had about three weeks to go through it before the exam.

There is not much more I can add in addition to what I've already wrote. Taking each exam just kind of turned into a rhythm and once I figured out what worked best for me studying wise and all, I just kept as consistent as I could. I started the journey on March 5, 2011 and passed the final exam on February 16, 2012, so just under one year. I think I remember reading somewhere how some lady took all of them in 4 months. I pushed pretty hard to get this done in under a year so for her to get this done in four months, she must be superhuman.

Good luck to all and I'll see y'all in DC in September of 2012

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:29 pm
by alx730
Congratulations on a job well done. Thank you for keeping us posted. Nice work.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:08 pm
by Robert742
Congratulations! I think the CPCU program is a good program. I got halfway through the program earlier in my career. For me. completing the program was not worth the time & cost, but the courses I completed gave me a good basis for understanding the P&C insurance industry.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:06 pm
by armanis500
Hello. I am currently looking to take the CPCU 530 Business Law Exam and was wondering if anyone knows of an AUDIO book/ study guide which I can use to study? I would be very much grateful if anyone has any suggestions. Thank you!

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:05 am
by margo
I am in the process of reentering the Commercial Insurance world being away for about 15 years. I was thinking of working toward my CPCU. I already have an AU designation and I currently hold my Property & Casualty Insurance licenses. I believe My AU designation waives one class requirement. Does anyone know if my Property and Casualty lincences would waive any classes or where I can go to find the answer?

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:36 am
by bjwestner
Margo - check out the Institutes website. They have a chart that shows what designations will give you credit. I know that by having my CLU and FLMI, each of those gave me credit for one course.

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:21 am
by brookemarker
Two courses were waved in the CPCU with my ARM and AINS.
AINS 21 and 23 waived a commericial course requirement, and ARM 56 risk financing waived another course.
So I have 6 courses remaining to earn the CPCU.
This is a great incentive to continue on to earn your CPCU.
I have now passed CPCU 500. If anyone would like advice on the course feel free to contact me.
Brooke Marker
I am in underwriting

Re: My CPCU journey - almost finished.....

Posted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 7:25 am
by AssociatePI
Margo - Here's a list of designations and college credits that can be used to waive a CPCU exam and reduce the CPCU cost.

Also another tip is to review the CPCU 500 difficulty and CPCU 520 difficulty prior to taking your first exams. Often the hardest part about these exams is just understanding the format and question structure. The material is not TOO tough, especially if you've worked in the industry. As mentioned above it's best to find the study method that works for you and then just keep cranking!