How I studied for the certification exam

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When I finally signed up to take my certification exam, I quickly became overwhelmed with what/how I had to study. The Child Life Council has a list of suggested materials for you to review before the test – ( http://childlife.org/files/CandidateManual.pdf — page 15) – but it can definitely be overwhelming to be given a list of textbooks as suggested study material . Here is what/how I studied for the certification exam (and yes, I passed on my first try!)

I began studying exactly one month before the date of my exam. I’ve never studied for one thing for so long with such a broad study guide so I knew I was in for an adventure.

Speaking of adventures, here’s a little timeline of my child life adventure – so you know where my studying starting point is: I graduated from college in spring 2012, took my intro to child life class in fall 2012, did my practicum in spring 2013, finished my internship in fall 2013, began working in January 2014, and was now taking the certification exam in March 2014. I’ve been consistently engaged with Child Life for 2 years – that being said, my studying was based on all that I’ve experienced and learned during my consistent Child Life adventure so I felt confident skipping over some material & focusing more on others.

So, first thing’s first: textbooks.

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I’m a very thorough note taker so having studied two of these books for my intro to child life course and the other two during my internship, I already had a ton of material to go over. I went through all of my notes of each chapter of each book and rewrote things I felt would come up on the test.

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The readings for ethics and the one for volunteers I had (luckily) made photo copies of from a friend and I’m so happy that I did! There were absolutely questions relating to these two topics on the exam. If you don’t have a copy of these materials already, get them! It may seem like a subject that’s common sense but reading through these two materials helped me a lot with various questions on the test.

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Another tool that helped me a lot were these two little gems from the Child Life Council. The study guide has great test taking tips and practice exams with answers! And, “the official documents of the Child Life Council” is a good resource to have whether you’re taking the test or not because it is filled with important information about our profession.

As for things I did not do:
– use the “child life certification exam” flash cards. I am HUGE on using flash cards to study but there was just so much information on each of the cards and a lot of lists “8 reasons ___”5 ways that children ___”10 most common ___”. I think I got through about 10 before I pushed them aside. They just didn’t “go” with my studying style.
– review a child development textbook or a nursing textbook. I felt confident enough with these two subjects based on all of my experiences leading up to this exam to be able to skip over them.
– try to rush or obsess over a question. While taking the test, if a question was unclear or if I was having trouble picking an answer, I left it blank and went back to it at the end of the test (you have FOUR hours!) This was a great tip because with the practice exams I noticed I would get ahead of myself and try and answer the questions as quickly as possible making me misread what the actual question was asking. Pay attention to what the question is asking and don’t be fooled by additional information given to try and trick you! and always always go back and reread your answers after you’ve completed your exam. always.
– study the day before the exam. By this point, I had studied for a MONTH. If I didn’t know something by this point I wasn’t going to learn it the day before the exam. My brain needed a much needed relaxing day off before the big show.
– freak out the day of. Sure, it was nerve wrecking, but as soon as I say down at the computer I said to myself “I’ve been studying every day for a month and I’ve been living this for two years. It’s time to answer some questions about this topic that I love so much.”

…And just like that, a (scary) two months later, I found out I had passed! (March 2014 exams took way longer to reveal test scores for some reason – lucky me. I’ve been told that you normally find out whether you’ve passed or failed immediately after you submit your test.)

Best of luck to all of you child life-ers out there studying!!

*Update 9/13/15* I have realized that the two resources on volunteers and ethics have been difficult to find. The copies that I have were photocopied and given to me along my Child Life journey so I am not even sure of the title of the book to be able to search on Amazon. Also, I cannot post the copies of the documents online as that may violate copyright regulations. If you think there is something better that I can do to (legally) provide this information to all of my aspiring Child Life Specialists, please, e-mail me and let me know! dianemo.ccls@gmail.com

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12 thoughts on “How I studied for the certification exam

  1. Hey! I am about to take the child life exam in about 3 weeks and several of us “child lifers” have started a google + study page to share study materials. This post was uploaded to the group to share and we were all wondering where you got the ethical and volunteer readings from?? It would be great if we could get it and post it on the study group page for everyone!

    Thank you for all the other tips!

  2. What job did you get after your internship? Also, how did you get the job, was it through the same place as your internship, and was it difficult to get the job before passing the test? Thanks in advance.

    • After my internship I got a job as a child life specialist at another hospital in my area. I was told that I had one year from my start date at my new job to become certified which I was able to do three months later 🙂

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  6. Hi! I love this post. I finished my internship in December but was not able to take my certification exam because I was at my grandpa’s funeral. Honestly, I am having a difficult finding a job, and I think it may be because I am not certified. I have my Master’s degree and experience as a CLA, but other than that I am just like any other “fresh off the internship” applicant. Do you have any recommendations? I would appreciate any help I can get!!

  7. Hello!
    I love this post and also this blog! It has so much useful information. I am about to graduate in may and am starting to apply for internships and also looking for professional development workshops to attend while working my way up to be a CLS. I would love if you could shoot me an email and answer some questions I have for planning my road to becoming a CLS. Thanks!!

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