For years, CPHQ candidates have asked for a simple yet effective way of preparing for the CPHQ exam. In 2022, CPHQ Tutor delivers on this need through its modular approach.
What is the CPHQ Tutor Modular Approach?
In a nutshell, our modular approach breaks down CPHQ exam preparation content into small and discrete units which are independent and non-sequential – we call such units “modules” and “sub-modules” on the CPHQ Tutor website.
Some providers of CPHQ exam preparation products (courses, workshop, seminar, etc. – for simplicity, let’s call them “courses”) divide their offering into, say, four “sections” – one section for each of the four content categories in the CPHQ exam content outline (i.e. Organizational Leadership, Health Data Analytics, Performance and Process Improvement, and Patient Safety). This categorization of content only serves the purpose of organizing their course – these providers still sell their product in its entirety. Due to the multiple and diverse items in each content category, the conventional division of exam prep content according to content category has limited utility. On the other hand, it might be fine for, say, defining the type of questions in a category-specific quiz or the topics to be discussed in a content-specific live streaming session. If they have four sections in their course, you will have no choice as to what sections or which parts of individual sections you really need – rather, you will be forced to purchase the entire course and receive all the content the provider included in that course. How customer-centric is that? (Not very, in our opinion.)
Instead of the “single-course” approach, our modules and submodules address individual items, or “tasks” (as the HQCC calls them) in the content categories. Beginning in 2022, we have moved away from packaging our premium CPHQ exam preparation materials as a bundled product in favor of a modular approach.
For example, CPHQ Tutor subscribers can now select from different modules or submodules, e.g.
- Articles on specific topics, e.g. improvement teams, statistical process control, root cause analysis, failure mode and effects analysis (each topic will have a discrete module or submodule)
- Instructional videos on specific topics – examples as above
- Articles and videos (combined in a single module) – examples of topics as above
- Quizzes on content delivered in POSTS – see above
- Level of difficulty: Low
- Level of difficulty: Intermediate (separate submodule to the above)
- Level of difficulty: High (separate submodule to the above)
- Quizzes on each of the content categories (for variety, to condition test takers for actual exam conditions and to identify skills/knowledge gaps in tasks listed in a category)
- Quizzes that simulate an actual test (in addition to identifying knowledge gaps, some candidates like to predict their performance on the actual exam – the right type of quiz can help)
- Quizzes designed to identify knowledge/skill gaps
- Sessions to discuss specific topics – see examples under POSTS above
- Sessions to discuss CPHQ exam technique
- Sessions to discuss common CPHQ exam issues
- Free-for-all sessions
The modules/submodules listed above are merely examples of what is possible through our modular approach. By now, you might have already recognized the enormous potential and utility of this approach, but I encourage you to read on to gain deeper insight into our rationale for departing from the current norm.
How the CPHQ Tutor Modular Approach Was Conceived
The roots of our modular approach stemmed from our work with students in our private CPHQ coaching program, which we launched in early 2010, i.e. about 12 years ago.
Private CPHQ Coaching Program – Customized CPHQ Exam Prep Content
To be clear, the Teh & Associates private CPHQ coaching program remains the benchmark in the industry in terms of effectiveness – a 100% first-time pass rate since 2010 is nothing to sneeze at. The idea behind the genesis of this program was quite intuitive: busy healthcare professionals only need to learn (new) things which will enable them to achieve a passing score, and they don’t have the time or inclination to “study” stuff they already know (this is a waste of time and effort for both the candidate and yours truly). So, in our private coaching program, we first identify the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses relative to what is required to pass the exam, work out a mutually agreeable action plan, and execute with methodical precision. The plan is entirely flexible and will likely include a combination of face-to-face and virtual interaction, online and physical content (notes), videos, etc. The actual content provided to the student is selected from our ever-growing library of original and curated materials (more than 25 years’ worth of them) to close the gaps we had identified and to optimize performance on the CPHQ exam proper. In other words, the content in our private coaching program is modular, and the individual modules and submodules are carefully selected to meet the needs of the individual student – when we say customized, we mean it. (By the way, the content is also problem-based, but we won’t dwell further on this point in this article.)
Is there any downside to our private coaching program? Yes, it’s costly. It requires a considerable amount of time and labor on my part to train and coach a candidate from start to when they become certified, which translates to a monetary cost that is beyond most people’s budgets. Yet, we continue to see interest and a steady stream of sign-ups. “Why?”, you ask. Well, the answer to that question is the unbeatable value proposition. Our private coaching program comes with a full money-back guarantee on passing the CPHQ exam on the first attempt. If you need to be CPHQ certified on your next attempt, if your budget allows it and if you can get a spot on the program, the Teh & Associates private CPHQ coaching program is definitely the way to go.
However, if you don’t believe you can meet the projected expense of our private coaching program, we now have another solution: the CPHQ Tutor modular approach.
How the CPHQ Exam Differs From University or College Exams
Some people have the misguided notion that preparing for the CPHQ exam is like preparing for an exam in university or college. When doing the latter, the test taker is provided discrete chunks of information in a highly structured manner. Whilst some degree of exploration and processing of the information may be necessary, university and college exams have a well-defined scope and depth. Based on the content of their course, including that gained from attending lectures, doing course work, and reviewing past exam papers, test takers who have done the prescribed work usually have a ball-park idea of:
- What material will be tested;
- What kind of questions they will get on the exam; and
- How difficult the questions will be.
In general, learners at university or college who have done the necessary work can expect to do reasonably well for their exams. However, for the CPHQ exam, what constitutes the necessary work is not so clear.
If the entire content of the CPHQ examination were purely recall questions, it is theoretically possible a comprehensive CPHQ exam prep course will enable participants to perform well and even attain a perfect score. The problem lies in the fact only about 23% of the items on the CPHQ exam content outline requires recall, and the remainder calls for either application of knowledge or analysis. Therefore, even if the course had plugged all the gaps in knowledge to help participants correctly answer all the recall questions on their test, they would still have to demonstrate the ability “to interpret or apply information to a situation” (application questions) or “to evaluate, problem solve, or integrate a variety of information and judgment into a meaningful whole” (analysis questions). Unfortunately, only a handful of courses actually help candidates answer application and analysis questions.
When you are in university or college, you can be assured the course content will, more or less, prepare you for the exam or exams associated with the course. I can think of at least two reasons for this: firstly, the people who develop the exam questions have some role in creating the content of the course; secondly, if the exam questions deviate too much in terms of either scope or depth from the course content, students won’t likely do well and this outcome will justifiably reflect poorly on the faculty.
The single-choice questions on the CPHQ exam, unlike most university or college exams, are randomly selected from a question pool. Unless the CPHQ exam prep course provider knows a substantial proportion of the actual questions in the pool and provides content that specifically addresses these questions, the value the course offers may be uncertain. This fact is further complicated by the question pool being revised every few years (though at the time of writing (February 8, 2022), the HQCC has not revised the CPHQ exam content outline for more than 4 years, i.e. since January 2018!).
The Traditional Approach
Before we discuss the pros and cons of our modular approach to CPHQ exam preparation, we’ll examine the approach employed by virtually every exam prep provider (e.g., healthcare quality association, healthcare improvement organization, academic institution, healthcare quality consulting firm, unqualified freelancer, etc.) when preparing their course, workshop, seminar, etc. To keep things simple in this article, we’ll call their course, workshop, seminar, etc., either conducted in person or virtually, a “course” and their method of packaging and delivering the content, the “traditional approach.”
Selection of Topics Presented
In the traditional approach, the course provider usually divides their course into four parts that correspond with the four main exam content categories: Organizational Leadership, Health Data Analytics, Performance and Process Improvement, and Patient Safety. For each content category, the provider proceeds to select topics they believe are relevant. The topics are necessarily selected because a prep course for the CPHQ exam, a professional certification exam, cannot and should not include everything there is to know about healthcare quality management.
The Course Content May or May Not Fill Gaps in Knowledge and Skills
Factors that influence the candidate’s probability of achieving a passing score on the CPHQ exam include knowledge and skills in the tasks listed on the CPHQ exam content outline and relevant experience in the field of healthcare quality. What is less discussed is the degree to which the CPHQ exam preparation product or products they had chosen helped to bridge their gaps in knowledge and skills so that the candidate performed better on the actual exam.
The average CPHQ candidate does not have zero knowledge about healthcare and healthcare quality management. To the contrary, he or she is usually (but not always) a mid-career healthcare professional, who possesses a nursing background and has at least some training and experience in healthcare quality. They know things. When these individuals attend a course, to the greatest extent possible, they should not be given information that they already know, i.e. you shouldn’t be teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Instead, the course ought to extend their knowledge base and to provide the audience with new skills.
In most CPHQ exam prep courses, the bulk of content is merely regurgitated common knowledge. If this were the case, the content is not likely to help participants improve their performance, compared to, say, a scenario in which they did not attend the course and did some home study instead. Those candidates who eventually pass the CPHQ exam often credit the course they attended for their success without giving much consideration to how much the scope of its content actually benefited them, compared to a situation in which they had not attended the course. On the other hand, there are candidates who fail the CPHQ exam (sometimes repeatedly) after attending one or more CPHQ exam prep courses (not ours), and later wonder why they had not managed to pass despite being attentive throughout the course(s) – we know this because quite a number of these individuals have sought our assistance. Each case needs to be evaluated on its own merits but we believe, in many cases, the course or courses in which they had participated failed to bridge gaps in knowledge and skills in the tasks listed on the CPHQ exam content outline, or if some gaps were filled, these were insufficient in number to achieve a passing score.
On the other hand, if the scope of the course content was adequate to cover the gaps in a candidate’s knowledge and skills in the tasks listed on the CPHQ exam content outline and the content raised the candidate’s level of knowledge and skills (including application and analytical skills) to that required by the exam, we can expect him or her to manage a passing score.
Fixed Level of Difficulty
Have you attended a conference where the presenter was speaking over the head of the audience? Or, worse, where the presenter was putting the audience to sleep because the things he was saying were rudimentary?
Either way, the mismatch between the level of the content and that of the audience leads to an experience that is less than satisfactory and, in our opinion, wasteful.
If the content is presented at a level too advanced for the audience, course participants will find it difficult to assimilate and will, therefore, find little value from it. The content will probably not help them improve their performance in the CPHQ exam. In some cases, the content might even create confusion and frustration. The inevitable outcome is a waste of time and money.
If the content is presented at a level too familiar (well-known) to the audience, course participants will not acquire new knowledge or skills that will improve their exam performance. They might have not attended the course and still achieve an identical score on the actual test. Also a waste of time and money.
Unfortunately, mismatch between the level of depth of the content and the individual’s level of existing knowledge and skills happens all too often in CPHQ exam preparation courses, usually with the best intentions of all parties involved.
In the ideal scenario, each topic is not only relevant to the CPHQ exam content outline, but also presented at a level that is just right, neither too easy nor too difficult. “The Goldilocks Rule,” coined by James Clear, states that “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.”
In an in-person or synchronous virtual course, it is almost impossible to follow the Goldilocks Rule for each participant because it is challenging to cater to everyone’s needs within a short period of time. For such courses, the provider usually aims to meet the needs of the majority of persons who attend the course. The consequence of this tactic is that some people will be left neglected and disappointed.
However, with an asynchronous learning format, each participant can and should have access to content delivered at their optimum level such that he or she is maximally motivated and is given the best opportunity to build on their present competencies. Alas, all CPHQ exam prep courses available online to date fail to respect Clear’s Goldilocks Rule.
Bundled Content Must Be Consumed in a Limited Period of Time
In the traditional approach, the course is all or nothing. You either purchase the entire course, regardless of whether or not you are familiar with (or even an expert in) most of the content; you might have signed up merely to fill gaps in knowledge in only a handful of areas. Furthermore, participants are expected to consume all the content within a relatively short time frame. For example, if it were an in-person CPHQ exam prep course, the content will be delivered in a few days at most. Some “review courses” go on for only a day or two. Online courses, likewise, are generally conducted over a similar period of time, with some permitting access to content for up to only a month. Often, people need more time to process information and to clear up any ambiguities in their mind. They may not need a few months to fully process all the information but a few weeks may be a more realistic estimate of the time it takes the average adult learner to fully grasp new concepts or ideas.
Why the CPHQ Tutor Modular Approach is Superior
The CPHQ Tutor modular approach to exam preparation solves all the problems associated with the traditional approach listed above.
Our modular approach allows for a great deal of flexibility, both for the customer (you) and us. Modules can be developed or deprecated quickly and easily without impacting the experience of users who are already on board, i.e. they can continue to access the content they had purchased. We can rapidly respond to customers’ needs and preferences or to any change in the requirements of the CPHQ exam (e.g. exam content outline) without disruption in the customer experience. Our modular approach allows us to fully leverage the PDSA cycle to improve the quality of our offerings with zero or minimal downtime and to scale. In contrast, if we were to use the traditional approach, we would have to suspend access to relevant and useful content until the entire course content is ready for roll-out. The latter causes unnecessary delays in getting the content to the people who need it. It is not customer-centric. It limits our agility to respond to market conditions. It is simply not how we do things at our firm.
An Eclectic Selection of Modules
As with any other CPHQ exam preparation course in the market, our modules do not aim to cover everything there is to know about healthcare quality management and patient safety. Rather than attempting to be all-encompassing, our modules emphasize the areas of the CPHQ exam content outline candidates find the most challenging or problematic. In this way, we respect the fact the vast majority of CPHQ candidates are not total noobs in healthcare quality. The CPHQ exam is not meant to be taken by folks who have little or no experience in healthcare quality management. The following excerpt from the current (2022) CPHQ candidate examination handbook gives the HQCC’s stance on the matter:
The examination committee develops and writes the examination to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities of effective quality professionals who have been performing a majority of the tasks on the examination outline for at least 2 years. The examination does not test at the entry level and is not appropriate for entry-level candidates. If the candidate is new to healthcare quality, has worked in the field less than 2 years, or his or her experience as a quality professional was not specifically related to healthcare, HQCC cautions that the candidate may not be ready to attempt the examination.
Our selection of topics to cover in our modules are based on nearly 15 years of research, and training and interacting with literally thousands of candidates, including those who have taken the actual exam and passed. We know what it takes to pass the exam.
The Candidate Can Choose from an Assortment of Modules
If you are unsure whether you have enough knowledge and skills to get a passing score on the exam, you are not alone. A lot of people go through this kind of uncertainty, usually because they are less confident in their proficiency in some areas of the exam content outline, compared to other areas.
For example, if the candidate has been doing a lot of data collection and analysis as a member of the staff in the quality department of a hospital for the past five years, it is likely the person would be competent in many tasks listed in the “Health Data Analytics” category of the exam. In fact, he or she may be an expert in this field of work. Nevertheless, he or she may feel the need to brush up on quality improvement tools (in the “Performance and Process Improvement” category) or change management (“Organizational Leadership” category).
In this situation, our modular approach excels because you can focus on the areas where you need the most work while ignoring those where you are highly proficient. By doing so, you will be spending valuable preparation time on activities that will truly improve your performance on the exam, as opposed to diluting your time and energy by going through material that you know well and which does not add value to your exam preparation (other than, perhaps, a short-lived lift to your confidence and ego).
“What if I want “everything”?”, you ask. Well, our modular approach has got you covered there too. Nothing will stop you from using additional modules as they are published. In the medium term and as soon as we have a sufficient number of modules to bundle, we’ll offer at least one “module package” – our terminology to describe this product may change in the future but you get the idea.
Our Modular Approach Facilitates Graduated Learning
Besides giving candidates the ability to select modules to fill knowledge and skill gaps, our modular approach addresses the predominant problem of varying degrees of competence in the different tasks on the CPHQ exam content outline.
For topics that are likely to require recall of knowledge of specific facts and concepts only, we may publish didactic or instructional content at only one level of depth (“difficulty level” if you like).
On the other hand, there will be some topics that warrant different levels of didactic or instructional content, e.g. statistical process control – for illustration, we might have three different levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced. By offering different levels of depth in this way, we give the customer (you) the opportunity to apply the Goldilocks Rule to their (your) CPHQ exam preparation – you’ll want to work at a level that is not too easy and not too difficult, just right. For any particular topic, a person with limited knowledge and experience may decide to start with content at the “beginner” level. On the other hand, someone who already knows the basics might skip the “beginner level” content and select the “intermediate” or “advanced” modules instead.
Our modular approach gives you the ability to match your level to the level of the content and, if necessary, to ramp up your learning appropriately.
Work at Your Own Pace
Leveraging the asynchronous nature of most (but not all) modules on the CPHQ Tutor platform, you can use the modules according to your schedule, not someone else’s. You can go as quickly or as slowly as you want. Want to take a complete break from exam prep? No problem, you can take time off for whatever reason.
Because modules are consumed at your desired pace, you will have time to digest the content of one module before you move to the next one.
Going forward, not all content on CPHQ Tutor will be asynchronous. We plan to have modules which will include live (synchronous) interaction, either to accompany asynchronous content (written material or videos) or as a discrete module (e.g. a live streaming event in which participants can ask anything they want or can discuss specific exam issues).
More Than Just Didactic and Instructional Content
Some modules on the CPHQ Tutor website will contain mainly didactic and instructional content. These modules may, or may not, include related practice exam questions and/or live streams.
Quizzes, containing CPHQ exam practice questions, and live streams will also be made available as discrete modules. Such modules may be useful to those candidates who are well prepared for the exam and may only need a little touch-up work. Quizzes may also benefit candidates who want to identify the areas in which they are strong and those areas that need improvement.
Articles and Videos
The CPHQ Tutor database contains hundreds of published and unpublished articles on topics that address the exam content. In 2022, we will publish pre-recorded instructional videos, also covering a range of topics. These articles and videos form our didactic content. Which is better – written articles or videos? There are pros and cons for either format of content; we don’t need to pick one over the other because, where appropriate, we can produce content in both formats!
CPHQ Exam Practice Questions/Quizzes
Our database also contains thousands of CPHQ exam practice questions, which have been crafted over the past 12 years – this question bank continues to grow every week. As has always been the case, our practice questions will be bundled into quizzes. What’s different about our quizzes in the latest iteration of CPHQ Tutor is that some quizzes will contain questions that address items in all the four main exam content categories (Organizational Leadership, Health Data Analytics, Performance and Process Improvement, Patient Safety) while other quizzes will contain questions that address only items in one content category. For years, candidates have asked for the latter – we are delighted to present this option. Exam category-specific quizzes marks another first in CPHQ exam preparation and what’s more, we will offer multiple quizzes for each content category!
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our consulting firm has pivoted to providing training and support to staff of various healthcare organizations and CPHQ candidates virtually online. We have reached a point where we have both the necessary infrastructure (space, equipment, and technology) and know-how (processes) to implement live streaming effectively, efficiently and reliably on a broader scale through the CPHQ Tutor website.
We believe live interaction with candidates (like you) will add much value to your exam preparation – people can seek clarification on concepts or practice questions they are having difficulty with; we can discuss exam techniques; we can explore different exam preparation strategies. Live streaming may not be the same as an in-person conversation, but it may be the next best thing in present times.
Are There Any Shortcomings to the Modular Approach?
With all the advantages of our modular approach, you might be wondering if there are any drawbacks.
One potential issue is that candidates will have to know beforehand how proficient they are in the different tasks on the CPHQ exam content outline when selecting modules. This issue does not exist for our private coaching students because we identify their strengths and weaknesses for them. To help candidates figure out the areas in which they are sufficiently knowledgeable and those in which they need to improve, they may need to try a quiz designed to identify knowledge and skill gaps and/or join a live discussion session with us.
Some people may find it a hassle to select the modules they need. We will do our utmost to minimize this inconvenience, e.g. through a “module package,” as mentioned above, and appropriate guidance.
With the strong pipeline of modules in store for 2022 and beyond, you might be concerned about the potential cost if you purchased all of them. I’ll say a few words about this issue here.
CPHQ Tutor was created 12 years ago to fill a previously unmet need among CPHQ candidates – a simple yet effective way to prepare for the CPHQ exam with the convenience of an asynchronous platform. In these 12 years, we have demonstrated unrivalled leadership, creativity and innovation in the field of CPHQ exam preparation. Despite copycats, including the big guys, we continue to thrive and make investments in growing our platform our way. Our way means developing the most convenient method of CPHQ exam preparation, given current market trends and consumer behavior, that is both:
- effective, i.e. gives the candidate a decent chance of a passing score, and
- cost-effective, i.e. good value for money.
Whilst other providers seek to grow their revenues and bottom lines, we choose not to suffer the limitations of having such motivations.
Instead of primarily looking to increase profits, our firm Teh & Associates, which wholly owns and operates CPHQ Tutor, has stayed laser focused on our mission to bring about “better and safer healthcare at a cost that represents good value” since inception in 2009. We will remain true to our mission.
The passion in our consulting work and in CPHQ exam preparation is evident through our communications and interactions – clients, including those getting ready for the CPHQ exam, often tell us they can feel our passion for what we do.
Our attention to cost-effectiveness has helped to drive innovation while earning us loyal customers all around the globe. I see no reason why we would even consider wavering from our commitment to provide superior value.
Let me be clear on this point: my firm will do whatever it takes – be it continuous process improvements, development of new skills, or acquisition of new talent, infrastructure or technology – to deliver services and products that not only meet customer specifications, but also offer the best value in the business.
If and when you purchase CPHQ Tutor modules, you can rest assured that the content was prepared by a CPHQ with more than 14 years of relevant and successful experience in training candidates. You may purchase as few – or as many – modules as you wish, and at whatever time you like. You need not purchase all the modules you need in a single order. Why not try out one or two modules first? If they work for you, consider using more. In this way, you’ll have little to lose… and you’ll be applying the PDSA cycle. 🙂
The CPHQ Tutor modular approach to CPHQ exam preparation is revolutionary and is a feature of the evolution of the CPHQ Tutor platform.
For us, the modular approach enables maximal flexibility to respond to any change in exam requirements, e.g. change in the exam content outline, and to prevailing customer needs and preferences, while remaining equitable. We can also scale more quickly with this approach.
For you, the CPHQ candidate, our modular approach provides a customer-centric and cost-effective solution to preparing yourself for the CPHQ exam.