This free Bowen EHS podcast lays out a road map on how to prepare for the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) exam offered by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). Presented by Russell Bowen, CIH, CSP.

It is the time of year when many folks are preparing to take their certification exam.  Here are a few tips to consider as you prepare to the Certified Industrial Hygiene (CIH) exam or the Associates Safety Professional (ASP) or Certified Safety Professional (CSP) exam.

If you are preparing for the CIH or ASP or CSP exams, I encourage you to review the comments from our previous clients.  Many of the comments focus on tips and references on successful preparation for the exam. Click here for ASP-CSP comments and here for CIH comments. You can also find them under the drop down menus at the top of the page.

You just might be a safety geek if chaperone a Jr. High dance and spend all night worried about the extension cords being a tripping hazard!

Many folks are getting ready to take the comprehensive exam for the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) exams.  Time management is critical for passing any of these exams. Here are a few tips to help you through the exam.

One of the greatest things about our job is that we frequently hear from our clients how our training and services were very helpful in passing their certification exam. I always have a warm, positive feeling after reading an email or talking with someone on the phone about their success. I make an effort to personally congratulate everyone that I speak with.

Unfortunately, not everyone passes their exam.  This is especially true of the CIH exam where the typical passing rate is between 35% and 40%.  I try to offer encouragement and suggestions on how to study for the next attempt.  Of course, as our guarantee states, we allow everyone that is unsuccessful after taking our exam online review or in-person workshop to take the course again at no cost. (the exam must be taken within in 1 year from the course end date.)

One of the things about learning new concepts and practices is that to really know the concept or practice, one must, well….. practice, practice and practice some more.  There are a few things that are easily learned the first time we are presented with the information, but most of the time, we must go through the material again and again and again.

This is especially true when preparing to take the CIH exam or the ASP exam or the CSP exam or the CHMM exam.  In order to do well, one must practice using the concepts. 

'Twas the night before the exam, and all through his home,
The only creature stirring was the IH reading his tome.
His TLV® book was spread open wide,
and he was bent over a calculator trying to decide...
"What was that equation for radiation activity decay?
I do hope they won't ask that question today!"

I recently attended my nephew's wedding and it started me thinking about disasters. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think getting married is a disaster for my nephew and his bride. It's a good thing and I'm sure they'll be very happy. Just thinking of the complexity of planning and executing the event, however, started the wheels of my crazy safety professional mind turning. There are striking similarities between planning for any major event, such as a wedding, and planning for a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incident response.

Think about it. The wedding planner acts as the incident commander, coordinating many different "agencies": the bride's family, groom's family, the caterer, guests with special diet needs (can you say gluten free?), the photographer, the spiritual leader, etc., each of whom have their own specific needs and concerns. Groomsmen need to rent tuxedos and bridesmaids have coordinated dresses made. The success of the ceremony and ensuing celebration rises or falls based on the organizational abilities and communications skills of the planner.

Similarly, hazardous materials incident commanders coordinate local, state and federal agencies, law enforcement, rescue personnel, emergency medical personnel and public health personnel, and the list continues depending on the size of the event. There is personal protective equipment to consider and mitigation of unexpected events. One key to successful mitigation of a hazardous materials incident is a clear line of authority and proper communication among all agencies. Pre-planning is vital to the successful mitigation of HAZMAT incidents, just as it is in a successful wedding celebration.

Weddings, of course, have two major advantages over HAZMAT incidents: 1 - the date and time of a wedding are determined in advance, and; 2 - the risk of serious injury or loss of property is almost negligible.  Both the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) exams have questions on dealing with the incident command system and dealing with hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incidents. There are two great resources to study when learning the basics of the HAZMAT Incident Command System (ICS). The first resource is the classic "Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities", also known as the four agency manual as it was written by four agencies of the U.S. Government. You can download this manual from OSHA here:  While it was originally written in 1985, much of the information is relevant today. The only chapter that is clearly out of date is the chapter on air monitoring instrumentation. Significant progress has been made in air monitoring technology since 1985. The other great resource is the Incident Command Resource Center created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This website is located at

While I played a very minor role in the wedding, I truly enjoyed being part of the process. My role was clear and I did it well. It was a joy to see the happy couple start their new life together. After the bride and groom kissed at the end of the ceremony, we all had loads of fun dining and dancing at the celebration. There were no casualties or property damage and everyone went home happy. It was the perfect conclusion to a major event and the end result of effective planning.

Sometimes a potential client will ask, "so, what makes Bowen's training better than anyone else's? What's so different about you?"

Well, the answer is quite simply that we provide the greatest health and safety exam prep in the universe!


Now, of course, I am admittedly somewhat biased in my assessment.

However, here's the short List of why I believe we are the best.


  1. Our #1 Goal: to help our clients pass their certification exams. We only succeed if you do. This is no part-time job or volunteer outlet for us. This is our commitment to you.
  2. Our interactive member center is chock-full of resources to help you study. Clients receive a year-long membership that includes practice quizzes, study questions, podcasts, subject specific forums and the ability to prepare with over 500 health and safety professionals. What you may not know is that we hold frequent online hour-long study sessions, during which premium members can ask live instructors for help on the topic(s) of their choice. It's a little like the open office hours your professors held in college.
  3. Our guarantee is a real guarantee. In the event that you need to take your exam again, you can repeat the online review at no cost. (The exam must be taken within one year of your course start date (workshop or online review).
  4. We know learning at workshops can be a little like drinking from a fire hose. We get it. That's why our workshop participants have access to lecture recordings and homework for one year from the start of their course. We don't believe in sending you off on your own after the workshop is over.
  5. We're small but committed. We have five full time employees dedicated to giving you the tools you need to succeed. We take your success personally. We understand balance and the demands of a life outside of work. So while our offices aren't open 24/7, we do pride ourselves on responding quickly and efficiently during normal business hours, and checking our email at least once daily during non-business days.
  6. All of our instructors are certified. They have been in your shoes, sat in that uncomfortable chair for hours and sweated through the exams. Some passed the first time, some didn't. They know what it takes to be successful, and have designed our courses to give you the structure and the foundation you need to pass.
  7. Our instructors update the materials after each course to improve the educational experience. We always incorporate feedback from our clients to make sure we're on target. We are continually looking for ways to improve our training.
  8. Learning with us earns you college credit. Our courses are approved for CEUs through the University of Iowa Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety.
  9. We work just as hard to help our Premium Members as we do to support our course enrollees. Whether you've invested $99.95 or $1,595.00, you can be sure that we will be here to help you pass your exam.
  10. While we're probably not the smartest health and safety professionals in the universe, we do have a proven track record of successfully teaching health and safety professionals throughout the world (our clients have worked on all 7 continents), and we're looking for opportunities to help our Martian friends as well.

We have competitors that are able to meet a few of the items listed above, but there is no other organization providing the same high-quality package for exam prep as Bowen EHS, Inc. I guarantee it!

A common question that I receive from Bowen EHS ASP/CSP class participants is: "when will I know I am ready to take the exam?" You don't want to wait too long because you want the course material to be fresh, yet you do not want to take it too soon, only to find that you're not ready. Here are some practical tips to help you make that decision for yourself:

  1. Try to take your exam within three months of your review class so that the material is still fresh. If the class was truly a review for you, schedule the exam on the front end of this window. If you used your course to teach yourself the concepts and had done little studying prior to the course, aim for the latter end.
  2. Have you made review notes and cards of all the Bowen EHS material? Studying the math alone is not enough. Prior to taking your exam, you should be able to recall most (80-85%) of your study materials when prompted by someone else. Make yourself questions from the lectures.
  3. Study your math. Make blank copies of the homework, final exam and optional final exams. Take them periodically without the use of anything but your calculator and BCSP formula sheet. You should be scoring at least 80% prior to taking your exam. Do the same with the study questions in the Bowen EHS® Member Center.
  4. Do you know how to use your calculator? You need to know how to use the statistical functions (find mean, median, and standard deviation), the probability function (prb key) and how to enter log functions, at a minimum, before you take your exam.
  5. Teach someone else. If you really understand a concept, you should be able to explain it to someone else. A study group works best but a spouse, older child, family member or friend, etc. will also work. Many times you will have an "Ah Ha!" moment when doing this.
  6. Get the BCSP Self Assessment Guides, test yourself, and aim for scores of at least 80% without notes. Study the answers in the back as well and make notes from them.
  7. Improve your knowledge on topics that you still do not understand. You do not have to be an expert in everything, but as we tell you in class, picking "C" for everything is also not the wisest option. Three sources of information that may help are: the recorded lectures (pause and take notes, listen to recordings of the other instructor's lectures, if applicable); the Kahn Academy website; and Safety and Health for Engineers by Roger Brauer.

You will not know everything, and your goal is not to get the best ever score on the exam. Your goal is to pass and get three new letters after your name. Most people who have completed the steps above are ready for the exam. Once you get to this point, don't continue to wait because the momentum cannot last forever. People who wait tend to get caught up in life--their studying suffers or they may end up not taking the exam at all.

So, are you ready for your exam?



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