Common Myths About the CAE Exam

Straight talk about the Certified Association Executive exam.

Considering taking the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam in December? Don't forget to submit your application by Friday, September 28. And if you're not sure what to expect, here are three myths you should get out of your head.

Myth: You need to think like an "old white guy."

Truth: This advice stems from two assumptions: that you should think like a CEO (true) and that most CEOs and people who passed the CAE exam are "old white guys" (false). In reality, the demographics of CAEs are more diverse:

  • 51 percent are women.
  • 25 percent are between the ages of 29 and 47.
  • The CAE exam is designed to designate those who have the knowledge essential to serve as the chief staff executive of an association of any size or type.

Myth: I need to read every book on the CAE authoritative literature list to successfully prepare for the exam.

Truth: The authoritative literature list should not be interpreted as required reading. The list clarifies the positions that may be tested and directs candidates to resources they may find useful when preparing for the exam. Candidates should develop their own reading list and study plan based on their individual needs and knowledge.

Myth: I am a staff specialist (e.g., lobbyist, accountant, editor), so the CAE won't help me in my career.

Truth: The CAE exam will both strengthen your understanding of your current job function and increase your overall knowledge of association management. The CAE will help you expand your prowess and will show others that you are knowledgeable in all aspects of running an association. The CAE can help prepare you for changes at your organization and in your job.

Sidebar: Four ways to prepare for the CAE exam

  1. Use the Exam Content Outline as your self-assessment tool.
  2. Ask recent CAEs for advice. See if you can borrow their study notes, too.
  3. Plan to take the whole exam day off if you can. Either way, celebrate!