Certifiable

monkeyseal.gif…er… certified, that is. As in “Certified Usability Analyst” – I passed the CUA exam last week.

Overall impressions of the certification process:

  • HFI has done a marvelous job in making the certification process all about the industry, and not the company. Unlike other certifications, which measure how well one has memorized a given company’s way of doing things (*cough*Microsoft*cough*), HFI stays focused on training and evaluating a person’s overall usability analysis skills against industry measures. IMO, this puts the CUA in the same class as a CPA; maybe not as rigorous or impressive, of course, but just as objective.
  • The exam was a bit tougher than I had expected it to be… not necessarily because of the content, but rather the time constraints. The exam is fast paced – averaging one question every 90 seconds. I finished with less than a minute to spare.
  • HFI claims that it is not necessary to take the coursework to pass the exam, but I have a hard time believing that. For instance, one section had almost ten questions from online examples that were only shared during the “Science/Art of Web & App Design” seminar, none of which were available off-line or included in any of the official materials or study guides. Moral: take as many seminars as you can. If you must pick and choose, the “UCA/Concept Design” and “Sci/Art” seminars are the most important – covering information that represents about 70% of the exam questions. (Note: Every person is randomly assigned a slightly different set of questions, so the above example may not be applicable in your case.)
  • A tip for those planning to take the exam (there’s another round in November): It’s more important to know where to find information than to have volumes of information memorized. Know the study guides like the back of your hand, and make sure that you’re familiar enough with the materials to flip to a specific lesson quickly for reference. Again: you’ve only got an average of 90 seconds per question, and about 80% of the questions will require some referencing, so you don’t want to spend five minutes looking for the specific research done on “Optimization of readability vs. legibility from various type sizes and line leading in single-column line length,” for instance.
  • Speaking of seminars, just a reminder that CUAs are invited to take the “Research” seminar every year to stay current on modern academic research involving usability. To my knowledge, it is free to those who have already passed the exam.

UPDATE: The above information is incorrect. HFI offers a 10% discount to the “Research” seminar for CUAs (it’s not free).

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