DMC Engineer Attains ISA Certified Automation Professional

DMC Engineer Attains ISA Certified Automation Professional

I am happy to announce that I have recently completed the requirements to officially become an International Society of Automation (ISA) Certified Automation Professional (ISA CAP).

Per ISA, Certified Automation Professionals are responsible for the direction, definition, design, development/application, deployment, documentation, and support of systems, software, and equipment used in control systems, manufacturing information systems, systems integration, and operational consulting. In a nut shell, that describes much of what we do at DMC, in particular for the Manufacturing Automation and Intelligence field.

The ISA CAP Requirements include 5 years of work experience (10 years if you do not have a 4 year technical degree) and passing a four hour multiple choice test. I've been in this field for about 10 years now and I have an Electrical Engineering degree, so the work experience and education requirements were no issue.

For the test, I was not sure what to expect before hand. Would it be easy or challenging? I found little to no information online about the certification process, exam difficulty and content, and how much I should study, other than the generic official information on ISA's website. Initially I went through a handful of the practice questions and a lot of them were no-brainers for someone who has done a significant amount of project management and automation engineering (a typical DMC employee). I ended up ordering the ISA Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge text book, as almost all of the test questions are derived from it.

Studying for the test was interesting and enlightening. I spent probably 16 - 20 hours total studying, including taking the practice test questions ISA gives you when you register. I viewed the approximately 500 page text book as not just a study guide, but an opportunity to learn more in certain areas. For example, I enjoyed reading through some of the sections in the book that discuss different valve types (I was not as familiar with that part of the material since I don't have a mechanical degree). Other areas were largely review for me, so I quickly skimmed them. Portions discussing project management were mostly common sense to someone who has worked at an organization with the automation project infrastructure of DMC (ROI, feasibility studies, risk management, etc.). However, there were a few formulas to be learned. I learned a little bit more about process control; I am not an expert in that area relative to some of my co-workers. There were some basic reliability equations I needed to learn from the book as well. It felt validating to already know so much of the technical details in the book. For example, I have spent more than enough time working with VFDs (variable frequency drives) to know that a 4 pole asynchronous AC motor runs at approximately 1800 RPM at 60 Hz, and to be able to derive the pole-frequency-RPM relationship from that.

On the day I was taking the actual exam, I 'formally' went through the entire set of test questions that ISA gave me. More of the questions than I expected were challenging; I was expecting the practice test to be a breeze. I'm sure if I had had more time, I would have easily spent another 8 hours or so studying.

When I took the actual exam, I was given four hours to complete it. Some of the questions were definitely challenging. But all in all, I was well prepared, as it took me less than 2.5 hours. I don't know what my score was, or how close I was to passing (they won't give you that information).

In the end we have one more certification here at DMC and we have measured our automation and project management knowledge and capabilities against one more measuring stick. I also have the benefits of being listed in ISA's Certified Automation Professional database and the opportunity to purchase and wear a cool ISA CAP polo shirt.

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Craig Bransfield
Hello Matt & Fellow Bloggers,

After serving my profession for 40 years, I'm taking the plunge and prepping for both the ISA-CAP and PE-CS exams. Here in California, it appears that just getting the PE-CS application approved is taking 8 months or more - I will likely miss this year's exam and will have to wait for next year's. Does anyone have any feedback re: the ISA review courses, either in-person or on-line?


Craig Bransfield
# Talal
Congrats Naveen,

I am going to appear next month, do share some valuable information about the test & your experience.
Naveen Menon
# Naveen Menon
Hi Matt

I had read through this discussion after i had applied for the CAP. The info helped me to do well in the CAP exam, thanks for the details you have mentioned here, Happy to inform that i have cleared the exam and got certified.

Thanks Once again.
Naveen Menon

# Waheeth
Dear all,

I am interested to do CAP. I am from UAE how to prepare and take exams.Is there any centres in UAE to reach it or to guide how to undertake CAP exams.
# Amir
Hello, Matt as you told you took 16 - 20 yours of reading for the preparation of CAP exam that is the total study time, means 3 to 4 days of study and you have given the exam, is this is enough ? means one or two time automation book of knowledge study and give the exam.
# George
Ok, I will send them an email and see their response.
Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
I bet they would be flexible. They want people to get certified. You'll want to email them directly. They tend to be pretty responsive. Good luck!
# George
Dear Matt,

I have an MSc degree in Electronics and 3 yr experience in EPC field in Saudi Arabia.

Although i have only 3 years experience compared to 5 yr experience as the minimum requirement for CAP certification, i have the following question.

Here in my company our working hours are 10 hours per day and 6 days per week. Therefore i 've put down all the active hours (excluding 1 month vacation per year) and the total hours are more than 8,000, compared to ISA estimation of 5 yrs experience total 7,500 hrs.
Do you believe this will be accepted or not? I am not sure how flexible ISA is on that matter...
# Sakthi
Hi all,

I am planning to take ISA CAP next year, and i am planning to prepare for the same.
1.what are the required books to be purchased?
2.can i take the exam from India?

# emmy
Congrats matt and others certified.

House,Pls let me know how much t cost to register for the exams
# Kumar
Dear Mr Matt,

I have applied for the CAP exam on 10.04.2012, How long do i have to wait for their response.


with regards,

# Arvin

I also plan to take CAP exam this year. Can I suggest to have a CAP group for sharing information, books, standards and study methods?

Wallace Law
# Wallace Law
I'm intended candidate for the CAP certification in June 2012. Please kindly furnish me with any relevant practise question and material that will be helpful to me.
kailas ghule
# kailas ghule
Hello Brian
Did you pass the exam?
I would like you to help me find IEC/ISA standards. Do you have a copy of them? If yes, would you please mail it to me? For that matter I request you to mail me everything you feel will help me pass the exam which I have planned to write in Mar 12.
# Brian
Hi Ammar,

I sat the exam in April this year. I did learn off Standard titles and their associated IEC/ISA standard number and found that this was useful as a good deal of questions refer to the standard no. and assume you know what it refers to.

Cheer, Brian
Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
I don't really remember coming across that. I didn't memorize every standard.
# Ammar
Hi Matt,
I am planning on taking this test next month. I have a quick question, sometimes the question starts as "According to IEC XXXXX (61511 etc)", do you suggest memorizing the IEC list to determine which IEC # talks about what. Did you see any questions is test like that where only the IEC number is mentioned and no additional information about that standard is given ?
Any help would be appreciated.
Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
Hi Kumar,
I'm not sure and I probably shouldn't even guess. But I will guess regardless - you can probably just fill in your background and you probably only have to provide more details if they ask.
# kumar
Dear Matt,

I am planning to apply for this CAP exam, I am having nearly 12 years experience as Automation Technician. If fill the form and apply, along with my supervisor's details. They have mentioned that "IF" my application is audited. Do we have to send previous company experience certificate?.. Pls reply.


Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
I received a small booklet with some practice questions upon successful registration. Kailas Ghule above mentioned receiving additional practice questions for $750, which I'm sure would be very helpful, but I never received those myself.
TR Sumathy
# TR Sumathy
Hi Matt,

I will be taking the CAP exam on Sep 11 and I am preparing for it now.

Where can I find the practice test questions from ISA?

Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
I didn't study from anything beyond the book and the other materials you receive for free when you sign up. I would expect that you would draw upon other things you've picked up during years working in industry and from your education.

Good Luck!
kailas ghule
# kailas ghule
Long time since I enquired about. I have started studying with the AGABOK book and plan to write CAP exam in Dec 11.
Did you refer to any other material?
If yes, what else will I need to study apart from the book?

Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
Hi Kailas,

I don't think the test practice questions were available when I studied for this a year and a half ago. I got a free set of questions, but it was pretty limited, for the cost of registering.

That is a lot of money, but if it allows you to better focus your study time or better prepare, it may be worth the time savings.
kailas ghule
# kailas ghule
Hello Matt,

Congrats for being ISA CAP. I am going to write it soon. As you said, you studied from the book- ISA Guide to Automation Body of Knowledge and it was enough.

The book costs approx 129 US$ and the ISA set of seven books+online test+practice questions costs 750 US$.
How do you justify spending additional 621 US$ for this method?

Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala

I think it was 200 questions, but I believe they state the number on the website and in the materials. I didn't really study off of anything other than the study guide and reading the book I mentioned above (ISA Guide to Body of Automation Knowledge).


You need 5 years experience if you have a 4 year technical degree, 10 years experience if you do not.
taye collins
# taye collins
Hi everyone, I had degree in electronics but with less than one year experience in automation industry,I'm wondering if ISA accept me to take cap with working experience less than a year. Pls your opinions would be kindly appreciated.
Thank you.
Brian O'Connell
# Brian O'Connell
Hi Matt,

Just wondering how many questions are there during the 4 hour exam?

Also apart from the ISA Study guide did you find any other useful CAP exam preparation info on the internet?


Matt Puskala
# Matt Puskala
If you spent a lot of time reviewing and really knowing the Body of Knowledge book, I'm sure it would be enough to pass. As far as I could tell, every question came from that book, one way or another. You shouldn't need to do additional research beyond the book as long as you understand all of the subject matter. You probably don't need to understand all of the subject matter to pass, but it's difficult for me to know just how much is necessary.

I received sample questions in a packet that I believe came after I registered and paid. Those are pretty indicative of what you will find on the test, although the test is much, much longer, so knowing those questions is by no means good enough to ensure you will pass.

I expect that you will find parts of the test difficult. Some questions I found easy, some were challenging.

The more experience you have in system integration or other related automation fields, the better. I've been in this field for about ten years and at DMC our experience is very broad; as a result there were many things I knew without needing to study. The subject matter is broad enough that no one will know everything before studying. As an example, if your background is in process control automation you probably won't need to study that section; if you are involved with quoting, budgets, and project management, the project process material will be obvious; if you work with valves a lot, if you do a lot of risk analysis or ROI calculations, etc., etc. I would expect that the more specialized your experience is and the less broad it is the more you will have to study.

My guess is that the 16 - 20 hours I spent is probably less than average, especially if you don't have a broad background in the automation industry with many years of experience. It would be easier for me to know the answer if I knew how many questions I got wrong and how many correct answers were required to pass, but ISA does not share this. Also, obviously the better you are at taking multiple choice tests the easier it will be.
# sean
Hi matt,

I also would like to take the CAP exam.
I do fulfill the entry requirements (4yr degree in elecrical and computer engineering with 5 years experience)
I have the ISA Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge but I would like some tips from you.
Would the ABOK be enough to study from?
Do I have to go further research into the fields explained in the book?
How was the exams?
Any sample questions you remember?
Would the fact that I have some systems integration experience help?
Any advice, suggestionsm recommendations would be much appreciated.
Hope to hear from you. Thanks !!

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