CRE exam Preparation

The CRE exam

I never did like taking final exams in college as I viewed them as a four hours I would rather spend doing something (anything) else. An exam is a check of what you know about a topic or subject. We prepared for those exams by reading, studying, practicing working problems (doing homework) and trying to understand the key concepts, trends, themes, etc. Some of my classmates thought it was about how much they could stuff into short term memory, others though sleep deprivation had something to do with preparing for an exam.

Once I left school, I thought I was done with exams. Then I signed up for the CRE exam. This was a few years after taking the CQE so I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. And, I understood the challenge the CRE exam posed.

I was working as a reliability engineer, had a strong understanding of statistics and thought having the certification would be a nice addition to my resume. It wasn’t necessary, it would not provide me fame or fortune, and it would be another long exam.

It was time to get ready to take the exam.

Steps to prepare for the CRE exam

I reviewed the requirements and signed up for the exam. Having a deadline provided the motivation to study.

Reviewing the body of knowledge revealed a few areas that I would have to understand better as at that time I had no experience with maintainability or availability. There were a few tools and statistical elements I hadn’t used very often if at all, those also made the growing list of topics to review.

Gathering my trusted references I worked an example exam, which further revealed a few areas to add to the study list. I also needed another reference or two.

I saw a CRE Prep course offered by my local ASQ section, so signed up for the 8 weeks of devoting Saturday mornings to working problems in class, and doing the homework each week. I probably solved 400 to 500 sample problems during that time. The course provided a little structure and set expectations and support to work the problems.

It was working the problems from across the body of knowledge that I learned what I did and didn’t know, plus learned my references very well. The Quality Council of Indiana CRE Primer was getting ragged around the edges, including more than one coffee stain. I still use that primer as a reference today as it is very practical and full of worked out examples.

The Last Results of Reliability Knowledge

The CRE certificate itself means that I passed the exam. It’s not that sheet of paper that is important though. It is the knowledge, confidence and experience from preparing for the exam that has the true value. There are very few reliability related tasks or problems that I cannot solve (sometimes we don’t like the answers – like very large sample sizes) and it was the combination of my experience and preparation that has continued to serve me today.

Learning is a good thing. And, even after achieving the CRE credentials, my desire and ability to learn continued.

How are you preparing for the exam? What advice do you have for others?

This entry was posted in CRE Prep and tagged , by Fred Schenkelberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Fred Schenkelberg

I am an experienced reliability engineering and management consultant with FMS Reliability, a consulting firm I founded in 2004. I left Hewlett Packard (HP)’s Reliability Team, where I helped create a culture of reliability across the organization, to assist other organizations. Given the scope of my work, I am considered an international authority on reliability engineering. My passion is working with teams to improve product reliability, customer satisfaction, and efficiencies in product development; and to reduce product risk and warranty costs. I have a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Science in Statistics from Stanford University.

12 thoughts on “CRE exam Preparation

  1. I fairly agree, my concern is regarding the exam itself. I don’t think the fact that you need to answer so many questions within such short time will really tell you whether you do or don’t know about Reliability.

    • Hi Meny,

      AS you know, the test and for that matter nearly any testing for knowledge is an artificial means to assess knowledge. Better might be a series of interviews and portfolio of work in the field. Even that has flaws. It is the system we have at the moment. In the end, the CRE is simply a marker and not something that conveys the true value of a good reliability engineer.



  2. The CRE exam is open book so I got a pad of small 3M page tab notes and labeled sections in the several reference books I brought. My regret is that I spent too much time checking multiple reference texts to answer a question. My advice would be to bring several texts but if you feel you need to check a reference to answer a question select one book for that question and go with that becuase there are only so many seconds on average to answer each question.

    • Hi Paul,

      Open book and yes time management is critical. Good advice, and if one is compelled to check a second reference, save that one for after you’ve answered everything else then come back as time permits.



    • Good question. As far as I understand the rules – no, nothing electronic except a calculator. Definitely no computers. I have sent a note to Sally Harthun who manages the certification program at ASQ for a response and will post here when I hear back from her.

      Whether a hardcopy or Kindle – you have to be very familiar with you reference – you really do not have time to learn something or read about something during the test. I recommend using your references to find the details of a formula, definitions of terms, or mostly just as an aid on details that memory isn’t (not mine any way) good at keep clear. You should be very comfortable with all the concepts and approaches covered by the BoK and not need a reference for that material.

      More once I hear more from ASQ.



      • Hi Jorge,

        Got a reply from ASQ

        The ASQ Certification Board has decided not to allow e-books or Kindles due to the fact that the internet can be accessed. Thanks and please let me know if you have any other questions.

        Hope that is clear that we are not permitted to bring and use ebooks during the exam.



  3. I would also include the book “Practical Reliability Engineering” by O’Connor as a reference. This book contains a lot of good RE information and is nice to have in your library.

  4. Agreed. Just another certification and marker of basic assessment of Reliability knowledge. Time to time I browse new Reliability engineering job posts and more now state that a CRE is desirable. Certifications are good to have but then I’ve seen people with all sorts of acronyms by their name CQE, CQA, CSSBB, CRE, etc…it only tells me they are good at taking exams. For the CRE I also found beneficial:
    – CRE Primer by the Quality Council of Indiana was a great reference
    – Ordering the question bank from ASQ (I think $90) and just going through practice questions again and again. In the case with CRE practice makes perfect.
    – Some people will go in there with 5~8 books and realistically won’t have the time to look up all those books. Rather having a typed or written notes covering the BOK should be sufficient. I used CRE Primer, my written notes, and 2 reliability engineering books.
    – Finally a calculator you are comfortable using (non-graphing or calculators with letters)
    – Some of the answers are debatable/opinions based on your experience or how your company might do things, however keep in mind how ASQ would want you to answer the questions. This is particularly more true for topics within reliability management.

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