It goes without saying that I get bored easily. I’m a “whirling dervish” if you will. My schedule is always packed with a jammed calendar of client meetings, media activities, a million assignments and social events, and most have told me that they cannot keep up with me. Yet, I was at a point in my career where I wanted another challenge. Getting an MBA was not in my future – it’s just something I felt wasn’t in my path. Getting my APR (Accreditation in Public Relations), however, was right up my alley.
As an internationally recognized designation, the APR process enables a public relations and communications professional to hone in on the mastery of the discipline. The process prepares you with the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to pursue excellence in six areas: 1) Researching, planning, implementing and evaluating; 2) Leading the PR function; 3) Applying ethics and law; 4) Managing relationships; 5) Managing issues and crisis communications; and 6) Understanding communication models, theories and history of the profession.
In order to achieve the APR, candidates must be in good standing from a UAB (Universal Accreditation Board) organization, excel in a panel presentation and pass a computer-based examination (at a Prometric testing facility) that is nearly four hours in length.
From start to finish, it took me about eight months to prepare and pass. I allowed myself plenty of time to manage studying in-between my crazy work and travel schedule. Technically, I had a year once I submitted my application. Some people finish very expeditiously. Others extend their year out a bit, which is also possible. Some even attend boot camp where you can attempt completion in one fell swoop.
My approach to studying may not be applicable to everyone, as people have very different styles of learning. If you are in the process of getting your APR or thinking about it, here are some takeaways that may assist you:
- I really enjoyed the panel presentation. I presented a plan from one of our tourism clients and was very excited to share my work. Through the process, I learned how to apply RPIE (research, planning, implementing, evaluating) quite practically. I now approach all plan writing this way! I believe it has elevated my work for the benefit of our clients.
- The panel presentation was not an intense audition of my talents. I thought of it as an opportunity to share my work in front of my approachable industry peers. The panel provided me with great insights to help me succeed.
- I opted to do the online cohort and did not do study groups. This webinar series helped me hear from APRs across the country as well as APR candidates. This was the summer series that focused on just the RPIE section. As far as the computer-based exam, it truly helped me prep for how to read and understand the types of questions and scenarios provided in the test.
- My most valuable asset was my APR chair/mentor. Just meeting with her a few times enabled me to achieve my goals. Her mantras were things like:
- Words matter
- Read the questions
- What is the key word in that question?
- What is the first thing you would do?
- I actually wrote some of this down on my note sheet that the testing center provided me as a terrific reminder during my test.
- I took the mock tests within the online module as much as I could. I also reviewed many of the sample questions submitted by other candidates. I focused my efforts here to get the biggest bang.
- I did some flash cards but I did not do a ton. I reviewed them several times; and again, several times the night before my test.
- I read the APR study guide twice, feverishly highlighting areas with a highlighter. Especially the research section!
- I think the most important thing I did was I scheduled my computer-based exam during a rare week where my world wasn’t on fire (it was like playing a chess game trying to pick a test date). I had time to mentally prepare, I cleared my schedule to have most evenings off and I didn’t feel overly stressed. This was KEY.
- It took me nearly all of the 3 hours and 45 minutes to get through the computer exam. The first round took me about three hours to get through. I went back and reviewed the questions I marked, and that took another 30 minutes. By the time I was ready to submit (with one quick restroom break), I had nine minutes left on the clock.
It had been more than 20 years since I took any kind of test, let alone one of this magnitude. It felt awesome to pass the computer-based exam the first time. Most importantly, I believe my work will be even better moving forward. It has already helped me raise the bar for my agency and our clients!
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