Update on ISSP Certification Beta Testing

Tue, 2015-08-11 14:15

Update (10/4/16): ISSP Exam Prep is now available! Click here to get started.

I just logged off the August 2015 webinar from the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), recapping the beta testing experience for its new Sustainability Associate and Certified Sustainability Professional certifications.

As Maureen Hart, ISSP executive director, said, "The sustainability field is maturing enough that we need to have credibility for people who are in the field and for employers to say whether the people they're hiring are competent. This is a field maturity issue, and that's the main career benefit [of ISSP Certification]. This should help you in terms of getting a job and demonstrating credibility to clients."

Registration for the ISSP Sustainability Associate (ISSP-SA) beta testing closed on July 31st with 163 registrations. ISSP had initially set a limit of 150 registrations but, due to popularity, opened the exam to more candidates. The beta exam will be open and accessible for participation starting tomorrow, August 12th, and will be available for two weeks.

Only those who applied for the ISSP-SA beta exam can apply to take the ISSP-CSP beta exam. So far, there have been 27 applications for the ISSP-CSP beta exam. The ISSP-CSP beta exam window doesn't open until September 14th, so there's still time. All ISSP-SA beta testers should have received an email from ISSP with a link to register for the ISSP-CSP beta test. This link is not publicly available.

Candidates will not know whether they have passed the ISSP-SA exam until after they've taken the ISSP-CSP exam. The ISSP Candidate Handbook includes a provision for beta testers who pass the advanced CSP exam but fail the SA exam. If this happens, a candidate will need to retake the ISSP-SA exam at launch. He/she will not need to retake the ISSP-CSP exam.

ISSP Sustainability Certification Requirements

ISSP has plans to develop a study guide for its certification exams, but a time frame is not available. The Candidate Handbook includes an Exam Content Outline with references and topics covered for review.

If you weren't able to participate in the ISSP beta testing, you are encouraged to join the ISSP mailing list to hear about the official launch. Then you can apply. There will be no second beta registration. Any other candidates will have to wait until November for the official certification exam.

Evaluating the ISSP Beta Testing Process

ISSP will be forming a Beta Test Advisory Council, comprised of 20 seasoned professionals who are going through the beta exams. ISSP will be posting the names and affiliations of those people soon. Their job will be to provide meaningful feedback on the beta certification process, including the policies, eligibility criteria, and application and testing process.

Next Steps

Related to the beta testing process, the next step for ISSP staff is to determine the passing scores for the ISSP-SA and ISSP-CSP exams! After that, they will start revising and improving the application process.

Once the "cut scores" have been determined, the initial cohort of test candidates will be awarded their official ISSP Sustainability Associate or ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional designations.

For everyone else, applications for the official ISSP-SA certification exam will launch in November, with the exam to debut in December. The applications for the official ISSP-CSP certification exam will launch in December, with the exam to debut in January. Going forward, ISSP has plans to have a rolling application process, where candidates can register and take the exam whenever they want to. As soon as a candidate takes the ISSP-SA exam, he/she can then sign up for the ISSP-CSP exam. ISSP is open to creating a combined SA/CSP exam experience, similar to USGBC's LEED GA/AP combined exam. However, there are some concerns about the length of a proposed SA/CSP exam. The ISSP-SA exam is 2 hours in length, and the ISSP-CSP exam is 2.5 hours. There are concerns that a candidate may not want to participate in 4.5 hours of testing and that the online proctoring software may not be able to allow for breaks. So, for now, the ISSP testing will be separate. There are also plans to combine the application process, so although a candidate may take the ISSP-SA and ISSP-CSP exams separately, they can at least enjoy a one-stop comprehensive application process for both designations.

Speaking of the USGBC, how is the ISSP Sustainability Certification program different from LEED?

According to Maureen Hart, "LEED Certification is all around green buildings. ISSP-CSP is a much broader certification process. There’s way more to sustainability than just green buildings." Also, ISSP is undergoing ISO accreditation. Because of this accredited certification process, ISSP test testers will only receive a pass/fail score instead of a numerical score and won't know which questions they got right or wrong. Revealing this information would ultimately be giving out the test questions.

What makes the ISSP Certification program unique?

ISSP's sustainability certification is intended for global applications and for sustainability professionals from all over the world. Interestingly, the demographics for the beta testing vary a little bit from ISSP's overall membership - being that ISSP's membership has more of a broad distribution around the world than the beta demographics reveal. ISSP is working with organizational partners around the world to get the word out about its certification program. ISSP is working on surveying hiring professionals to find out what they are looking for in terms of hiring. There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence that hiring professionals aren't sure what to look for in a sustainability candidate and aren't sure how to best write a job description for what they are looking for. ISSP is hoping to strengthen this process with its certification program.

ISSP Sustainability Candidate Demographics

There were 101 professionals registered for this ISSP webinar, with many of the beta testers in attendance. Check back with us as we report on ISSP Certification updates.