The Certification Examination

Back to CEM Corner

By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

IAEM Headquarters staff often receive questions about the certification examination. These questions range from the complex (“What references should I study?”) to the simple (“How do I obtain a copy of a specific reference?”) and all manner of questions in-between.

The next series of articles will cover the certification examination and should answer many of your questions. If they do not answer your question, be sure to submit it to info@iaem.com, and I will cover it in a future article as others probably have the same question. To begin our discussion on the certification examination, we will review why it is a requirement for certification and some of its administrative procedures.

Why the CEM® Exam Is Important

The examination is one of two parts to certification. The first part is the credential application. The second part is the examination. A new candidate must pass both parts to earn initial certification as an AEM or CEM. The credential application verifies a candidate’s qualifications for certification, while the examination verifies a candidate’s broad knowledge of comprehensive emergency management principles and practices, as well as the candidate’s ability to apply that knowledge to solving various issues faced by emergency managers.

Exam Criteria

The written examination consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. Each question has four possible responses, with one response being the correct one. The candidate must choose the best answer among those provided and answer 75 or more questions correctly.

The examination topics come from NFPA 1600. You do not need to know or study NFPA 1600 to pass the examination. The questions themselves come from the FEMA Independent Study (IS) courses, so candidates do not have to buy study references. FEMA IS courses are free for download by anyone with Internet access. Additional questions are country-specific. They come from other readily available Internet references.

Candidates do not have to download or study all of the available IS courses. Download a copy of the Exam Study Guide for a list of recommended references to study. Future articles will provide additional discussion and details on the examination topic areas and questions.

Types of Examinations

There are two types of examinations.

  • The first is a country-specific examination. This type is available for candidates from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
  • The second type is an international examination. This type is available for candidates from countries other than those listed above for the country-specific examination. The difference is that the country-specific examinations include legal issues and EM practices specific to a particular country.

Taking the examination is an individual effort. That means no collaboration with others, including other candidates taking the exam. A candidate may not refer to notes, references or the Internet to select a response.

The examination has a time limit. The candidate must complete it in no more than two hours. Most candidates complete the exam within 60 minutes, so this has never been an issue.

Should a candidate correctly answer less than 75 questions, he or she has one more opportunity to take the exam at no additional cost. Coordinate with IAEM Headquarters to take a make-up examination. This make-up examination will be similar to the first examination, but will consist of different questions in the same topic areas.

When to Take the Exam

A candidate may choose to take the examination before or after submitting his or her credential application packet for review by the CEM Commission. The restriction is that no more than 12 months may pass between the dates the two parts earn a passing score. Once a candidate earns the AEM or CEM, he or she does not have to take the examination again to earn recertification.

Where to Take the Exam

Candidates may arrange to take the examination at the IAEM Annual Conference, the IAEM-USA Mid-Year Meeting, any regional conference, or IAEM Headquarters. If these aren’t viable options, candidates may individually arrange their own test administration through a variety of secured testing methods and locations, which includes the education office at a local high school, college or university.

A representative from the education department may conduct the exam onsite. Military personnel may arrange to take the examination at a military education center. CEM Commissioners and IAEM Board members also may administer the examination. Whatever option is chosen, coordinate it with IAEM Headquarters staff at least 14 days in advance of the requested examination date, so staff may provide the proper documentation and instructions to the examination proctor.

In the Next CEM® Corner

Next month we will describe how the examinations are constructed.

IAEM Bulletin, September 2013

AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Back to CEM Corner