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Frequently Asked Questions

Taking the Exam

What constitutes passing the exam?

The CLMSM program uses a modified Angoff strategy for scoring the exams. This is a standard approach in the certification testing industry. In this process, each question on a particular exam is reviewed and rated. The averages are tabulated and a passing score is determined. Because questions may vary in their level of difficulty, a passing score could vary slightly from one exam to another based on the difficulty level of the questions selected for each exam. The statistics are analyzed carefully to ensure that these slight fluctuations are within testing standards and that the passing score is an acceptable one for a 100 question exam. It might be of interest to read some information on this testing strategy.

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How important is the issue of confidentiality, and what steps should chapter leaders take to help insure the confidentiality of their members – whether requested or not?

Confidentiality is extremely important. There are only two ALA staff members who handle the Certification applications. Electronic files are password protected. Paper files are listed by number, not name, and are locked. Test proctors do not know who is taking the exam until they arrive at the test site and sign people in. They are also trained not to discuss who took the exam with anyone. ALA makes every effort to ensure the confidentiality of our examinees and hopes that the chapters will do the same.

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Why are there 125 questions if only 100 count?

The exam contains 125 questions, but your test score will be based on only 100 questions. The additional 25 questions are being validated for use on future exams.

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I have been told by people who took the exam that there is more than one correct answer to a lot of the questions. Is this true?

After taking the exam, you may feel that some questions had more than one correct answer. This is not so - there is only one correct answer for each question.

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Are the test questions the same from test to test?

Each exam is created by pulling questions from an “item bank”. They can appear on a future exam, but may or may not appear right away. Even within each testing session there are different test forms being utilized.

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Who writes the exam?

The members of the Certification Committee, all of whom are ALA members and all CLMs, write the exam questions. Committee members are chosen for their expertise in the subjects of the body of knowledge (finance, human resources, legal industry & office operations).

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Why isn’t the exam set up like many state bars where you pass each section and you can re-take only the sections that were not passed?

It is common to think that it would be easier if one only had to retake sections of an exam that they had previously failed. In reality, setting up an exam with separately scored subsections creates a more difficult situation for the examinee. Each section would have to be longer to ensure a reliable subsection score. Statistically it is harder to pass several subsections than it is to pass one overall exam. This is because someone can score minimally well on one part of the test, but pass the test overall because they scored really well on another part. The CLMSM exam is designed to reflect the body of knowledge an administrator needs with appropriate emphasis placed on the subject areas research shows are of higher importance than others.

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Why does ALA seem to hide the pass rate?

In the first few years of the program, the number of people taking the exam was small. Therefore, some statistical numbers did not have much meaning. The average of the last 6 test cycles comes to about 63%.

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Why aren’t there more sample questions?

ALA provides 10 sample questions in the CLM Information and Application Packet. ALA also provides a 25 question sample exam to approved exam applicants. All of these questions were actual exam questions. Once they are used as a sample they are not used on future exams. The Certification Committee reviews these questions annually, and from time to time will add new ones. The purpose is to give you an idea of the types of and style of the questions that are on the exam.


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