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.

APR: Study Time!

Have you been following the #accredchat Twitter discussions each Friday at 1pm EST? Unfortunately, I was unable to attend last week’s chat about best study practices. I encourage you to go online and check out the fabulous tips offered by those who have been there and successfully passed the APR exam.

This Sunday, 28 June, I sit down to complete my APR exam. Here is to hoping that third time is the charm! What have I done differently to study this time around?

  • Enlisted the help of a Study Fairy (fancy phrase for Study Buddy). Thanks to Sherry Carr Smith (@prcarrs), who has quizzed me on elements of the Study Guide two-to-three times a week for the last two months.
  • Use flash cards! The black and white of the Study Guide blurs to gray after combing through the material for a long time. Your eyes skip the key points and you relax without digesting the study material because you feel you already know what is being highlighted. Stop the laziness and keep yourself on your toes! I used Cobocards because I could create my flash cards and share them with my Study Fairy. Subscribe to the RSS feed of my flash cards and use them to help you prepare. (I have some more decks to publish…getting around to that!)
  • Set a target. I set my test date, then working backwards from that date, created a Google Calendar of dedicated study days/times. I mapped out which sections I would study and when my Study Fairy would quiz me on competence of each topic.

Here are some great tips I selected from the #accredchat conversation 19 June:

  • @KrisTK: The more senses you use while studying helps get info into diff parts of brain — read it, speak it aloud, write it down.
  • @ljstarnes: My prep: APR study guide, supplemented by Cutlip textbook. Made copious notes, which helped engrain info into my brain.
  • @ljstarnes: When studying, focus on the KSAs that will be most of test-theory, ethics, research, crisis comm etc.
  • @vanhoosier: Concur it is helpful to review theoretical concepts. Talking through communication models w/peer is crucial.
  • @ljstarnes: re study groups, ask your APR chair to help start one. Chair has access to supplemental study mat’l thru PRSA.
  • @Samjb: Finding a study buddy and an accredited mentor are absolutely essential. Then set deadlines & a schedule and stick to it!
  • @Samjb: Spend time with people who have become accredited recently–they can give you a fresh and accurate perspective on the exam.
  • @Samjb: as Dallas APR Chair, I hear good things about the PRSA online course. Not a boring online thing, meaningful interaction w/peers.

The Golden Ticket

I was very lucky to have Samra (Sam) Jones Bufkins as a member of my Readiness Review panel. Sam was greatly encouraging and candid about areas I needed to improve. This year, she has lit the way for those contemplating an APR. In response to last week’s Dallas PRSA Communications Summit, Sam sent this email to perspective APR candidates. Sam has consented to post her message on this blog. Thank you!

Hi, y’all–it was great to see so many of you at Friday’s Communicators Summit. For those of you who couldn’t make it, attached are the handouts from the APR session.

Based on feedback from the group, the major theme I hear from APR prospects is "When will I have the time to do this?" So, in the spirit of blogging here are my thoughts.

If we are committed to something, we MAKE the time, whether it’s getting a master’s degree, redecorating the house, training for a triathlon, or getting our APR. I look at the things I want to do, and realize that the time spent procrastinating, avoiding, and making excuses for why I can’t do them would probably be enough time to lay out a plan and START doing them.

(How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!) When we have multiple commitments at work, we prioritize–isn’t that usually a box checked off in the performance appraisal? And Oprah and Dr. Phil and others tell us we should do it in our personal life, too–prioritize. Sometimes prioritizing means putting something on the back burner for the time being. So, I’ll ask you all to take a realistic look at your personal and professional life and see where getting your APR really does fit into your priorities. That should be the first step in your plan.

Plan–yes, we’re communicators, and we all work within the framework of plans every day. Set out a plan for your APR study. Try this–go to


, click on "Become an APR" and download the Readiness Review Questionnaire. Schedule some time alone to complete that questionnaire as if you were doing it for real. You might also download the KSAs/Competencies tested as a guide while completing the questionnaire. You can’t do this in an hour–block out some time each day for as many days as it can take to complete it. Set a deadline, and reward yourself, if necessary. When you’re done with the questionnaire, let it rest for at least 24 hours, then revisit it with the KSAs and possibly the Readiness Review Score Sheet at hand. Give yourself a really honest critique. Then give it (and the KSAs,

etc.) to a trusted APR to review and comment on. I don’t know anybody with their APR who isn’t willing to help–you can pick one you know, pick one at random from the membership directory, or let me know and I’ll find you a mentor. So many of you ask if this experience "counts" or worry that your past experience is appropriate. Worrying won’t change anything, so channel that worry into positive energy and self-assessment–completing the questionnaire will clear up a lot of your concerns, help you identify areas you need to work on, and guide you in your plan to become an APR.

After you’ve done this initial, personal assessment of your readiness, lay out your plan for the next steps.

That could be to pull together a portfolio that illustrates the questionnaire, send in your application fee to the Universal Accreditation Board, and schedule a readiness review with the chapter APR chair. You may also decide that you need more experience in a particular area and ask for more responsibility at work, or volunteer for a non-profit organization that needs your help. You could also sign up for the online course and take that to brush up on terminology and skills–some people do that before the readiness review, others find it more valuable after. Find a study buddy (I can help you there, too) and start an informal study group with one or more of the recommended texts. There are a lot of options at that point, but the advantage of doing this exercise NOW is that you’ll get past the first hurdle without eating into the one year time frame that starts with your application to the UAB. You’ll feel more confident in your readiness, and more focused on what you need to do next.

Reace said it best in her talk about recently taking the APR exam–it’s a big elephant, so pick a bite and go for it.

I’m here for you, so don’t hesitate to yell any time you have questions or concerns. I really, really want to see each of you an APR, hopefully by this time next year. I truly believe that is possible, too.