By Katherine Halloran, APR
Having earned my accreditation in Public Relations two years ago, I wanted to pass along some key steps to those who are considering becoming accredited. Before you go down my list of prep items, please realize that I am a bit of a nerd and tend to overprepare. WMPRSA's accreditation chair, Christine Hoek, APR, and the website PRSA.org can serve as great resources as you move through the process.
The entire process – from my attending an APR prep class until I sat down for the exam – took 14 months.
Online at PRSA.org, it states that the accreditation process is multi-faceted, yet straightforward. Let's demystify the process through the "Four Rs of APR Achievement":
1) Research the Process of Becoming Accredited – Is now a good time for you personally and professionally to become accredited?
- Talk to accredited professionals about the benefits they have received from becoming accredited.
- Does your employer support accreditation? Does your employer currently have a study group or other accredited members in its ranks?
- Participate in an APR Prep Camp to see what the entire process will entail. The local WMPRSA Chapter regularly hosts these classes. You have the chance to listen to speakers who have recently completed the process, or who have expertise under some of the competencies with which you are less familiar.
- Go to PRSA.org and find "Become an APR" under "Learning." From there, you will find all the helpful tools, guides and resources that will take you through the process, step-by-step.
2) Readiness Review Preparation:
- Write out your Readiness Review Questionnaire! This is a great time to think introspectively, philosophically and how things could be in an ideal world. Break the sections into chunks and give yourself false deadlines to complete each section. I began with the last few questions, as I found they were the easiest.
- Have someone proofread and edit your readiness review questionnaire. Like any document, you want a second set of eyes on it.
- Coordinate with the APR accreditation chair, Christine Hoek, APR, at email@example.com, who will assemble a panel for you for your Readiness Review Questionnaire.
- Coordinate with your panel on the date, time and location of your Readiness Review. Realize that although they are accredited, the panel will be simply composed of other professionals, eager to share, hear and learn. Their role is simply to assess your readiness for the computer exam portion. Your role is to share your understanding about public relations strategy and management.
- Prepare your portfolio. Collect items that best represent your work to demonstrate to your panel.
- Show up a little early, and get settled in before the panel discussion.
- After the panel discussion, you will hear from the accreditation chair on whether or not you can proceed to take the computer exam.
- Once you have finished your presentation and are approved, the clock starts ticking – you have one year to sit for your exam.
- Study for the test!
- Identify areas that you will need to become more familiar with, and focus on those areas.
- Familiarize yourself with key terms.
- Download the APR study guide if you have not done so already.
- Read through the study guide.
- Take notes, highlight key phrases, create flash cards of key terms, whatever will help you stay on task.
- Take practice tests found online at prsa.org.
- Join or form a study group or study partner.
- Seek out other reading materials, listed online or at the back of the APR study guide. Some books may be difficult to find on amazon or other online sources. I was able to borrow some books from a student at GVSU.
- Schedule your test. Go online and find out all the steps to do so. I even drove past the Prometric Testing Center a couple of days before my exam so I knew exactly where it was.
- As you prepare for test day, remember to relax and take deep breaths. It is just a test.
- Bring as few items with you as humanly possible. Everything has to go into a locker.
- The time you have to complete the computer exam is very long – three hours without water, so you will have to focus on the task at hand.
- You find out if you have passed or failed right after you hit "complete" on your exam.
Step 5 should be Rejoice for completing your exam! Congratulations on setting goals and achieving them! If you did not pass the exam, at least you have learned how to complete the process and the information you have obtained while studying is very valuable. You can always schedule the exam again.