Emily Bratcher is a contributing editor at Associations Now.
An online practice test is a first step toward a credential for food scientists—and a revenue and engagement generator for the Institute of Food Technologists.
Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, but the Institute of Food Technologists has learned that practice can also make money.
In 2012, IFT launched the Certified Food Scientist (CFS) credential. Nearly 2,000 professionals have earned the credential in 55 countries, but preparation is expensive: The exam application is priced at $550, while the online prep course starts at $599.
IFT realized that cost could be an obstacle for some would-be CFS candidates. “We wanted to create a low-price point of entry for people interested in the CFS exam but either not ready or not able to register for the full prep course,” says Erin O’Connell, program manager of knowledge and learning. The solution: the CFS Standalone Practice Test, which IFT launched last year.
The 100-question online practice test costs $79 for members and $99 for nonmembers, and it allows unlimited retakes. It’s a good way for users to identify their strengths, as well as areas where they may need more study.
We wanted to create a low-price point of entry.
—Erin O’Connell, Institute of Food Technologists
“The idea was that some people would purchase the practice test first and then purchase the prep course,” O’Connell says.
The test has generated a modest amount of revenue on its own, and it provides a value-added element for larger CFS marketing campaigns. For example, IFT may offer a free practice test when a member purchases the prep course within a certain time period.
“So, we’ve been able to use that on its own to generate some revenue, but also to use it as an incentive for other promotion,” she says.
The practice test has also provided a new way to get volunteers involved. Members who are experts in different areas of food science write the test questions, after taking an IFT workshop to learn that skill.
Now IFT has a work group that submits new questions on a regular basis, which helps keep the test current. For instance, if O’Connell notices that almost everyone answers a particular question correctly, it may mean the question is too easy. The volunteers can be tapped to provide a new, more challenging one. Or if a regulation changes, they can update the related questions.
“It’s also been a great way for some people to stay engaged,” O’Connell says.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Just a Taste."]