The Landscape of CAE Preparation Options

The Landscape of CAE Preparation Options

By Bruce Hammond

Are you thinking about sitting for the CAE exam this fall but don’t have a preparation strategy outlined yet? I previously wrote about 15 Reflections from Earning the CAE, and to continue helping you navigate the process, here is an overview of a few preparation options.

Long-Term Options

Association Forum CAE Study Group

First, I must disclose that I am the immediate past chair of the Association Forum CAE Working Group, which has a hand in developing the Association Forum CAE Study Group program. Nonetheless, I stand by the effectiveness of this preparation strategy. This study group is just that—an 11-week opportunity for prospective test takers to study with a group, in person, in Chicago.

With sessions facilitated by CAE holders, this study group is ideal for those who are looking to be held accountable to review the content each week but who also want practical test-taking tips and to build a bond with other test takers. From all the feedback I have received from those who have participated in the study group, it is a worthwhile opportunity to delve deeply into the concepts covered in the texts and is a good preparation option for Chicago-area professionals. It provides a simulated exam as well as a copy of the CAE Study Guide as part of the course fees.

Cost: $450 (member); $600 (nonmember).

Michigan Society of Association Executives Full and Concentrated CAE Study Courses

Offering two online options for preparation, the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) offers one of the most well-regarded preparation portfolios in the association space: the Michigan Society of Association Executives Full and Concentrated CAE Study Courses. Their 16-week full course provides participants from across the country with more than 30 e-lectures that summarize the material, as well as 600 multiple-choice questions for review. Their 12-week concentrated course offers participants weekly study group calls, along with 400 multiple-choice questions for review. Both courses offer a 1-day wrap up with a 200-question simulated exam.

The course is led by Sue Radwan, CAE, the Managing Editor of “ASAE Professional Practices in Association Management, 3rd edition, written in 2016, and Cheryl Ronk, CAE FASAE, the president of MSAE.

Cost: 16-week option is $850 (partner SAE member) and $950 (nonmember); 12-week option is $700 (partner SAE member) and $800 (nonmember).

Other state and regional societies of association executives also offer study courses, including the Texas Society of Association Executives, Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives, and the California Society of Association Executives to name a few. If you are not in Illinois and would prefer a face-to-face study course option, I’d encourage you to reach out to your state society to learn what they offer.

Shorter-Term Immersion Option

ASAE's CAE Kickoff

A 3-day immersion course typically held in Washington, DC, ASAE's CAE Kickoff is an opportunity for potential CAE takers to“assess your knowledge of the content, sort out what is and is not covered on the exam, identify content areas you need to focus on, and even rediscover the joys of test-taking. Like the Association Forum Study Group, participants receive a copy of the CAE Study Guide as part of their registration fee and during the session will delve deeply into the areas covered in the nine domains within the CAE Content Outline.

Cost: $1,095 (ASAE member); $1,495 (nonmember).

Extremely Short-Term Preparation Options

Michigan Society of Association Executives CRAM Session

Marketed as a good option for those who have taken the other MSAE courses or who have taken the exam, the Michigan Society of Association Executives CAE CRAM (which stands for Complete Review and Mentoring) sessions are held over a weekend to prepare candidates in a face-to-face classroom environment. These sessions include a complete review of each domain’s core concepts and are definitely an option to consider for a last-minute refresher or wrap up opportunity just prior to the exam. In spring 2019, sessions were offered in Baltimore and Chicago.

Cost: $500 (current course participants); $600 (past course participants); $900 (new registrants).

Individual Preparation

Some people prepare best by themselves or with a lone study partner who can help keep them on track. How do I know this, you might be asking? Because I am one of those people. I did not participate in one of the above preparation courses but instead worked with a partner, reading and reviewing material on a weekly basis. This was my preferred way of studying, and it worked well for me from a timing and resource perspective. If you can hold yourself accountable to the preparation and feel good about studying by yourself, individual preparation can work well.

A tip for doing so is to break down the reading into workable chunks so it is not overwhelming, and take time to sit down with and learn from someone who has taken the exam to better understand the kinds of questions and topics that are discussed.

Ultimately, I hope what this post shows is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for preparing and passing, and there are options for all of us: those who are looking for an in-person study group, who would thrive in an online study group environment, who would like to refresh right before the exam, and who (like me) prefer to study independently. Understand the concepts that will be covered. Read and study. Learn how to read and respond to the questions. Repeat.

As you prepare, if I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . And I highly encourage you to take a look at my other CAE blog post.

If you reach out and I can’t answer your question, the good news is that here at AMC, we have nearly 20 other CAEs that I can turn to, so you’ll be in good hands.

Good luck!

Bruce Hammond, CAE, is the director of governance and operations for the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and the director of marketing and communications for the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board.