About ASQ Certification
ASQ: The Global Voice of
ASQ is a
global community of people passionate about quality, who use the tools, their ideas and expertise to make our world
certification is a formal recognition by ASQ that an individual has demonstrated a proficiency within, and
comprehension of, a specific body of knowledge. Nearly 150,000 certifications have been issued to dedicated
Introduction to ASQ Certification
Since 1968, when the first ASQ certification exam was given,
more than 150,000 individuals have become certified through ASQ, including many who have attained more than
one designation. In addition, an increasing number of companies, 125 at last count, have formally recognized
ASQ’s certifications as verification of an individual’s knowledge of quality theory and techniques. A recent
search on monster.com, an Internet job listings site, resulted in more than 300 job postings either requiring
an ASQ certification or listing it as a preferred quality of a prospective employee. These statistics
demonstrate the increasing value of ASQ certification as perceived in the
It is important to understand that ASQ certification is not a
license or registration. It is peer recognition that an individual has demonstrated proficiency in, and
comprehension of, a particular quality area at a specific point in time. ASQ certification is awarded to
those who meet three criteria: Candidates must
1) have a specified level of education and/or experience,
2) provide proof of professionalism, and
3) pass a standardized exam in the certification area.
For many, the certification process remains something of a mystery. Frequently asked questions come up about how
the exams are created, how they are scored, and how best to prepare for taking a test. We will address these issues
in this handbook.
The Exams and the Questions
ASQ certification exam development relies heavily on the efforts of ASQ certified members. During the course of a
year, approximately 300 subject-matter experts are involved in some phase of exam development. Volunteers travel to
ASQ headquarters in Milwaukee, WI, for two-day workshops to engage in exam-development related activities. These
are intense sessions with considerable discussion and interaction and, during this time, the volunteers put in
fast-paced days that may keep them occupied for up to 10 hours in a day.
Workshop activities include development of a body of knowledge (BOK) or writing exam questions, and otherwise
ensuring the validity of an exam through a variety of review processes. In return, the volunteers broaden their
knowledge and skills through networking with peers from a variety of services and industries. They also come away
with the knowledge that they have contributed to the development of many areas of the quality field.
The ASQ Certification Board has oversight responsibility for the exams, and its top priority is to ensure the
integrity of the exam development process. Toward that end, the board has mandated that anyone involved in the
development of an exam must refrain from helping certification candidates prepare for a test, either formally or
informally, for a period of two years after their last involvement in the process.
The Many Phases of Exam
To ensure that ASQ certification retains its status as a hallmark of excellence, the
Certification Board uses continuous improvement processes and formally reexamines each certification program on a
five-year cycle. This ensures the continued relevance of the exams in the global
Job Analysis and Survey − Creates the foundation for an
Whether a program is new or has been available for many years, the starting point for
the exam development process is with a job analysis. This tool is developed as a survey and is used to identify the
skills and knowledge areas currently being used in the field to be tested.
Advisory Committee − Identifies job responsibilities and knowledge of the
To create an appropriate survey instrument, an advisory committee is appointed by the
sponsoring ASQ division. This committee, and all of the subsequent exam development committees, is composed of ASQ
members who are already certified and who work in the area to be tested. In the case of brand-new certification
exams, ASQ volunteers who serve on the committee are subject-matter experts in the field to be
The volunteers for the advisory committee meet for two days, and their primary goal is
to identify typical job responsibilities (what people do on the job), and the knowledge required (what people need
to know to perform their job). The result of
this meeting is a questionnaire that asks respondents to rate each item in the survey in terms of criticality (How
important is this task or knowledge?) and frequency (How often is this task performed or knowledge used?).
Member Input − Decides what will be in the BOK
Once the survey instrument has been approved by the advisory committee, it is sent to a sample of certified or
otherwise qualified ASQ members who either work in the area to be tested (as identified by job title) or supervise
employees who perform the tasks identified in the survey. Except for the deliberate job-title selection, the 2,000
plus certified ASQ members who receive the survey are randomly selected across geographic locations and industry
types to ensure that no one industry or region skews the results of the survey. The data from the survey are
analyzed and a set of recommended tasks and knowledge areas are presented to the sponsoring division for approval.
This same report is then submitted to the Certification Board for final approval.
Although the sponsoring division and the Certification Board approve the results of the job analysis, the ASQ
members who answer the survey determine what should be in the BOK and, ultimately, the material that will be
covered in the exam.
Body of Knowledge Committee − Organizes the content
After the approval process of the survey report, a BOK committee is formed. This committee includes some members of
the advisory committee and other qualified subject-matter experts, who together represent a wide demographic of the
industry and service spectrum.
The BOK committee meets for two days, and its primary task is to translate the job analysis results into meaningful
categories that can be tested. As part of this process, the committee determines how many test questions will be
tested in each area of the BOK, basing this on the importance of the topic as indicated in the job analysis, and
the depth of testable material for each subtopic.
Question-Writing Committee − Writes the exam
The next step is the actual writing of the exam questions. This task is accomplished by a group of 16 certified
volunteers during a two-day question-writing workshop. The volunteers are given extensive training in a variety of
exam development issues, including how to avoid writing trick questions and how to develop thought-provoking
questions and answers.
The processes used in this and other exam development workshops are driven by standards that are internationally
recognized for the development of assessments. In keeping with these standards and as a means of ensuring the
validity of the exam, each question must be linked to a book from a list of references for that certification. The
reference list for each exam can be viewed by visiting http://www.asq.org/certification/
Click on the exam you are researching and then scroll down the page to click “Books”.
This required link means that the question writers must document support for the correct answer, down to the
specific page number, in the reference data provided for each question. Once a question writer or team has finished
writing a complete test question, other members of the team review it for completeness, accuracy, and
appropriateness. The item is then reviewed by ASQ Test Development staff.
After approval by multiple reviewers at the question-writing workshop, the information is data-entered into the
exam bank as a “raw” test question.
Question Review Committee − Verifies and reviews each question
The next stage in the exam development process is to convene a panel of 12 subject-matter experts/volunteers who
meet for two days to review those raw questions, verify the references and the BOK classifications, and, most
important, agree that there is only one answer to a question.
The additional, intensive processes of review, revision, and rework are designed to ensure that all language
ambiguities have been eliminated and that all questions have been phrased and presented as clearly as possible. The
questions are also reviewed to ensure that they are not biased in favor of any particular industry. A question can
be selected for use in a test only after passing through these two initial phases of development.
Exam Review Committee − Takes the test − The last question
check before the exam
The next phase in the process is the exam review meeting in which another 12 subject-matter experts are asked to
participate by actually taking the exam, and then submitting their answers to Test Development personnel, along
with comments about the questions and answers.
They then come to the meeting to discuss the test and their work on it, reviewing each question for clarity and
correctness after having actually taken the exam.
At the end of this exam review process, each question on the test has been reviewed and approved by dozens of
Post-exam question verification
Despite the best efforts of all of these individuals, there are questions on a test that do not perform well. These
problem items are identified through a statistical analysis that is conducted after each administration of a test.
Also, written comments from examinees who took the test and from the proctors at the test sites are used to
identify any problematic questions (i.e., confusing terms used, questions with more than one correct answer, etc.).
These problem items are reviewed by the exam program’s Certification Board chair and other subject-matter experts,
in conjunction with Certification Offerings Test Development staff members. If a question is determined to be
unfair or inaccurate, all examinees are given credit for that question on the exam.
Grading Process − ASQ’s exam grading process
Just as great care is taken in developing an exam, ASQ goes to great lengths to ensure that the grading process
provides an accurate assessment of a candidate’s proficiency.
ASQ uses procedures that meet the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing that were developed jointly
by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the
National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME).