Putting Your Expertise to the Test

May 1, 2010

Among the requirements to become certified through each of the four certification programs offered by EnviroCert International Inc.-Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC), Certified Professional in Storm Water Quality (CPSWQ), Certified Erosion, Sediment and Storm Water Inspector (CESSWI), and Certified Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Specialist (CMS4S)-is that of passing a written exam. That exam is designed to determine your proficiency in the principles, methods, and legislation pertaining to the particular field of professional practice.

Depending on the certification, you are allowed four or five hours to complete the exam, which may include more than 200 questions. The questions are true-false, multiple choice, matching, and comparison. The exams are offered throughout the year at various locations in the United States and Canada.

What to Expect
Each of the four different certification exams covers government rules and regulations at the national level, explains Dan Ross, CPESC, CESSWI, an approved EnviroCert International Inc. instructor. “In the United States, for example, you’re tested on how the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and other federal rules and regulations affect your professional role and duties rather than addressing any specific state or local requirements,” he says.

That national perspective carries over to other areas of the exam, such as best management practices in the case of the CPESC and CESSWI certification exams.

“The BMP questions concern techniques that are commonly used throughout the country, instead of any BMPs that may have been developed to deal with a unique local situation,” Ross says.

Unlike the exams for the CPSWQ and CMS4S certification, the CPESC and CESSWI exams are divided into two major sections. In the case of the CPESC exam, Part 1 includes 190 questions that cover the fundamentals of erosion and sediment control, along with rules and regulations. Part 2 deals with the practical application of erosion and sediment control concepts and regulations on a job site. Because it also requires various math calculations, you’re allowed to bring a calculator to the test. In this second part of the CPESC exam, you choose three erosion and sediment control scenarios from a list of six types of land uses-agriculture, small commercial development, mining, linear construction project, residential development, and forestry. You are given 12 questions to answer about each of the three selected scenarios, for a total of 36 questions. To pass the exam, you must score at least 70% on each part of the exam.

Eric Berntsen, CPESC, CPSWQ, an Approved EnviroCert International Inc. Instructor, suggests to students in his CPESC Exam Review class that they take as much time as reasonable to answer each question correctly. “If you know your stuff, you’ll finish in the five-hour time allotted,” he says.

Should you pass one part of the exam but not the other and want to try again, you need to retake only the part that you failed.

Test Preparation
Committees representing each of the certifications have developed separate exam review course workbooks or study guides to help applicants prepare for the respective written exams.

Approved Enviro International Inc. Instructor Mell Nevils, CPESC, CESSWI, is technical vice chair of the CESSWI Executive Committee. The study guide covers various practices and issues involved with conducting a site inspection-rules and regulations, safety, communication, documentation, inspector duties, plan management, and best management practices. It was written by a team of 14 erosion and sediment control and storm water professionals from throughout the US and Canada.

“This study guide is probably the best erosion and sediment control and stormwater inspection manual available today,” Nevils says.

It and the other study guides are useful as a refresher for seasoned professionals in preparing for the exam, he notes.

These manuals also form the basis for the day-long exam review courses that EnviroCert International Inc. offers to help prepare applicants for each of the certification exams. In fact, about three-fourths of applicants who take one of the exams also attend the exam review course. Often, these courses are presented in conjunction with the written exams that are offered a day or two later. Each is taught by an instructor approved to teach the course by EnviroCert International Inc.

“These courses hone in on the concepts and other material that you’ll be tested on and the types of questions,” Berntsen says. “All of us are busy, and these reviews can help you make better use of your time in studying for the exams.”

More information, including the schedule of exam review courses and exams, is available at www.envirocertintl.org or by contacting EnviroCert International Inc., by phone at 828-655-1600, or by e-mail at [email protected]