APR Process: Calling for a mulligan

Thank you for the support all of you showed me last week in anticipation of my APR exam Sunday, 28 June. The unofficial results were instantaneous…did not pass again…and by the same number of percentage points as times past. It was not any area in particular where I came up short, but a mixed bag of scores and a total mental block when it comes to standardized tests.

Yesterday, my disappointment took hold and I vowed I would not take the exam again. Well, I can’t hold that vow. It is not who I am. I have never backed down from a challenge. I am extremely frustrated that I have been unable to pass the exam when I have always excelled in education, other certifications and challenging tasks. I have a tendency to over think the case/answers and don’t necessarily agree that the test best response is the best response in the real world. Well, I will need to get over that line of thought to pass this exam.

Now that I have taken and failed the test three times, I must start the APR process from the beginning. I do not regret the process nor will I talk badly about the exam. It is what it is. I am a better communicator for going through the process and by reestablishing self with the founding principles of public relations. I am a better educator. I will move on…and I will succeed. Just not today.

UPDATE: (6/30) PRSA National just called my mobile to tell me they became aware of this post after a UAB member brought it to their attention. They called to tell me, I do not have to start process over completely (i.e. Readiness Review). Once in “advanced” status, I remain there. However, I do have to pay $385 fee again and reschedule test. Wicked cool they called me.

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  • Kristen Turley

    Lauren, I’m sorry that the results were not better. It’s a let down when we get that dreaded answer. I have to agree with you on the statement about some answers not being the ones we would use in the real world. I stress that point with our candidates throughout the study process. You have to think of it from PRSA Nationals’ perspective rather than the one you use every day. That makes the test even more challenging.
    As I’ve said before and will continue to say, the process itself is more educational the whether or not you pass. I truly believe you are a better communicator having gone through the APR process and you will be able to better represent the PR profession to senior management, clients and colleagues because of your experience.
    Please let me know if there is anything I can do as you make the decision going forward about whether to attempt the APR again.
    Kristen

  • http://nextcommunications.blogspot.com/ Richie Escovedo

    Sorry to read of this unpleasant outcome. I am impressed and appreciate your openness and honesty here in this space.
    I am intrigued by the line: “I have a tendency to over think the case/answers and don’t necessarily agree that the test best response is the best response in the real world.”
    It leads me to wonder if there is a disconnect between the exam and real-world experience.
    Your tenacity (and perhaps slight stubbornness) no doubt has/will serve you well. I consider you to be a tremendous voice and thought-leader in our field. Good luck with what’s next.
    - @vedo

  • Kristen Turley

    Richie, There is a bit of disconnect with the scenarios on the test and how professionals in the real world will apply their knowledge. The exam is written from an ideal point of view and you have to keep that in mind as you take the test. Overthinking in those cases is extremely common, and the number one reason people stress about this exam. Lauren may disagree but I think the number area that this occurs is in the ethics section. Our recommendation to Tulsa candidates is to go through the case studies on the PRSA website and adjust your thinking to the way they present the code of ethics and its’ application in each situation.
    Kristen (@kristen_okla)

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Kristen,
    Must agree it is the ethics portion where this overthinking got me in trouble. Thank you for your kind words and support.
    Richie,
    You are so kind, thank you! Humiliating as it is, maybe me putting it all out there will help others succeed in the APR!

  • http://soloprpro.com Kellye Crane

    Lauren- I admire your tenacity and dedication toward meeting this goal. I think test results are often an indicator of who is good at taking tests! APR or no, you rock!

  • http://www.waxingunlyrical.com Shonali Burke, ABC

    I’m so sorry, Lauren. Take a break and you’ll get back to it – or it will come back to you – when the time is right. APR or no APR, you’re a stellar communicator, and that’s what matters.

  • Samra Jones Bufkins, MJ, APR

    Lauren–People who relate the test to the “real world” or to their individual practice of PR often get tripped up. And on a multiple choice test you really can’t overthink.
    In my day, (when the APR exam was an essay test and we took it with hammer and chisel on stone tablets) one had to be very careful to answer according to the study guide and to use the operational definitions agreed upon by our trainers, because the test was graded based on certain key words–which is how a multiple choice test is scored, when you think about it. We were also taught to not answer the way it’s done at work. That doesn’t mean the way we do PR in practice isn’t valid, just different.
    The beauty of PR–communications in general–is the flexibility. There’s no black or white in communications, but in a standardized, computer-based exam, there are no gray areas. Do not ever forget that when you prepare to take the exam again. The time to question is not during the exam. The Universal Accreditation Board is very receptive to comments on the test and comments about any inconsistencies found in the study materials, but you need to suck it up and get through the test, first.
    For my GRE I took a study course to bump up my math score. The teacher focused on basic principles and working the problems to the point of making an accurate educated guess so we could move on and complete the test. I ended up bringing my math score up even with my verbal score, which is amazing to me, since math is not my strong suit. The point is, on things like the ethics section and other problem areas, you may have to do what I did with the math problems–work it to the point of making the correct answer and move on.
    I applaud your bravery, first in not giving up (many people don’t repeat once, much less twice!) and second in being so public about it.
    I also applaud you for taking the high road. I know too many people who emphatically tell me they think APR (or ABC) is irrelevant, yada yada, and it eventually comes out that they were unable to pass the readiness review and/or exam. Rather than admit they don’t know as much as they think, they choose to bash the test, the process, and the value of Accreditation altogether.
    Hang in there.

  • http://www.kardconsulting.com Kristie Aylett, APR (@KrisTK)

    Lauren,
    Sorry to hear about the latest results. Your fan base is still cheering for you and glad to hear that you don’t have to start from the beginning. Have you thought about participating in one of the APR Boot Camps? Might be worth checking out.

  • Samra Jones Bufkins, MJ, APR

    Lauren–Kristie has a good suggestion. Also, consider the Online Course. Of people who complete it and take the exam within one year, the pass rate is around 96%. You have online cohort groups that meet regularly. It’s truly an interactive class.

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Lauren, I am sorry to hear that you didn’t pass the APR, but I know you’ll be an APR sooner than later! I’ll be cheering you on… as will all of your friends, fans and followers!
    Thanks for your candid honesty and sharing your experience with us all, I appreciate it because I know it’s not easy and it’s really, really hard to separate your experience from stock text book answers. Especially when they don’t seem ‘real world.’
    Your experience is making me rethink the APR, because I struggle with standardized tests too for a lot of the reasons you mention.
    I wish more people had your perseverance, tenacity and level of honesty. Like Kellye said…you rock Lauren!

  • http://www.quepr.com Linda Ld Jacobson, APR

    Lauren,
    I’m a little late to this post, but many kudos to you for sharing your experience. I commend you for your perseverance. Even without the APR, you model PR leadership for us all.