November/December 2011

CAP exam content, preparation for test, final result

By Abdul Rauf

The CAP exam is offered either as a paper-based or computer-based format. The paper-based test is offered only on special occasions (e.g., after CAP review courses offered by ISA or after ISA Automation Week). Electronic testing is offered through test centers worldwide. The CAP exam consists of 175 multiple choice questions covering seven different domains as described in the CAP Body of Knowledge to be answered in four hours. Pacing yourself is the key to clearing the exam. If you are unable to solve a question, you can mark it and revert back to it later. Plan your time so as to answer at least 50 questions an hour and keep the last half hour to ponder any questions you had marked.

Here is a personal analysis on the exam content, which will help you better prepare your study plan.

Nature of questions

a. 85-90% of the questions were from "A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge"

b. 5-10% were related to NEC, NFPA, and ISA standards

c. 5% were randomly selected

Difficulty level (1 being least and 10 being most)

a. 30% were in between 1-4

b. 50% were in between 5-8

c. 10% were in between 9-10

Additional notes

a. What are standard documents in a project life cycle (URS, FDS, DDS, and UTPs)? What information does each one of these cover?

b. Practice questions to calculate project life-cycle cost and comparison of difference projects with different life-cycle costs.

ISA does not share any information about scores and marking criteria. At the end of the exam, you will be notified if you have passed or need to retake it.

CAP reference material

There are numerous CAP resources available at ISA's website (www.isa.org/link/cap_study). Some of the reference material includes:

  • Certified Automation Professional Study Guide, Second Edition: The Study Guide contains a list of the CAP domains and tasks, 75 review questions, and answers complete with justifications. References that were used for each study guide question are also provided.
  • A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge, Second Edition: Edited by Vernon L. Trevathan, father of the CAP program, with contributions from more than 35 leading experts. This book defines the most important automation concepts and processes, while also describing the technical skills professionals may require for implementation in today's industrial environment.
  • CAP Learning System: This tool includes a seven module printed textbook and 500 online sample questions. Online sample questions and answers explained with reasoning, help to carve your study plan and reinforce your knowledge base with a practice test.
  • CAP Exam Review Course (EC00): This is a three-day instructor-led course offered at different locations throughout the U.S. It provides a thorough review to areas included in the CAP Body of Knowledge like field devices, control and simulation, alarm management best practices, safety instrumented systems, maintenance management, workflow structures, and project management. After this review course, ISA offers the CAP test in paper and pencil format without any fee.
  • CAP Online Exam Review Course (EC00E): ISA's CyberU online instructor-assisted training course utilizes pre-recorded training modules, additional text materials, online evaluations, and e-mail discussions. Students will have access via e-mail to an instructor. This course runs for nine weeks. The course includes a copy of the CAP Learning System.

Sample questions

Sample questions are a must before attempting the actual exam. The sample questions will help you refine your study plan and focus on areas that need to be studied in detail. When your preparation is complete, you can revisit them to ensure your readiness for the exam. References for sample questions:

  • CAP Learning System comes with 500 online sample questions with reasoning for correct answers.
  • InTech publishes one CAP sample question in every issue. They are available online at www.isa.org/link/certification_main.

Getting a CAP Champion

CAP Champions are your personal guides to finding your way to success. These individuals have successfully passed their CAP and will assist you in refining your study plan, selecting study material that best fits your needs and share their own personal experiences. ISA maintains a list of active CAPs, and you can easily locate someone in your area at www.isa.org/link/CAP_people.

CAP products and renewal

Within 30 days of taking and passing your exam, you will receive a packet from ISA containing:

  • CAP certificate signed by the ISA president
  • CAP badge you can stick to your shirt
  • CAP pocket ID
  • CAP sticker for your safety helmet

If for some reason you are unable to pass your test, you can sit for a retest after 30 days with a fee of $170. You can take it twice within a nine-month eligibility period.

CAP certifications are valid for three years. Within four months of your certification expiration, you need to submit an application for renewal. You will be required to earn 135 Professional Development Hours (PDH). One year of relevant experience worth 30 PDHs, so three years of experience will gain you 90 PDHs. Remaining 45 PDHs can be earned using professional trainings, ISA web seminars, and courses.

Being CAP helped me grow more visible among my peers and enhanced my reach to new job opportunities. My professional networking has increased, and I am getting more invitations and views over LinkedIn profile. But the best part throughout the journey was rediscovering my passion in automation. Most of my previous experiences and exposures were limited to process automation, but now I have discovered others domains of automation like batch processing, MES, and SIS design. Looking ahead is fun now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abdul Rauf is an ISA Certified Automation Professional working at INTECH Process Automation as a design and application engineer.