Esoteric or essential? Using the CCM exam knowledge domains to guide your study
Whenever I’m with a group of case managers, it’s common to get questions about the essential knowledge domains and corresponding subdomains used as the content blueprint for the exam. Where do they come from? Why do they matter? And (the most frequent question) how do I use them to study?
The CCM® exam is designed to evaluate a case manager’s job-based competency. That requires us to stay on top of current trends and practices in case management. The Commission is the only case management certification body that fields a research-based survey every five years (the CCMC Role and Function Study), to ensure we do just that. We ask thousands of case managers—both certified and not yet certified—about knowledge, skills and activities required in today’s practice. The robust, statistically significant findings inform the knowledge tested by the CCM exam and that’s where the knowledge domains come from.
The most recent study identified five major domains of essential knowledge, each of which represents the core knowledge used by case management professionals across the care continuum. Every time the exam is administered, it contains a carefully weighted number of “items” (questions) from each of the knowledge domains. In that way, the exam as a whole reflects the job-based competency knowledge, skills and activities revealed through the Role and Function Study. That’s important to employers and the health care industry, because it’s assurance that a CCM is truly prepared with the essential knowledge required to perform the job with competency.
To further illuminate the essential knowledge included within those domains, the Commission divides them into more than 80 subdomains. So, for example, the Ethical, Legal, and Practice Standards domain has a dozen subdomains that include what types of ethical, legal and practice standards are tested on the CCM exam.
When applicants first see that long list of subdomains in the Certification Guide, it can be intimidating. That’s a lot of information to study!
I prefer to look at the knowledge domains and subdomains as a means to focus the majority of study time on areas where you don’t use the knowledge regularly in your work. So, for example, if your job doesn’t touch much on rehabilitation, that’s a knowledge domain you’ll need to study more.
There are some simple tricks to ease your mind when you look at that long list. First, print out the knowledge domains and subdomains so you have a hard copy in hand. You’ll find a handy version in our new Develop Others toolkit.
Next, take a highlighter and mark the subdomains where you have the most familiarity with the content. Then take a different colored highlighter and mark the areas where you have less experience or don’t use the information as often in your work.
Now you have a document to guide your study and focus. Although you’ll need to review information in all the knowledge domains and subdomains before taking the exam, the areas highlighted with the second color are the ones you’ll need to focus more time and effort to learn. (Hat-tip to Deanna Gillingham for the highlighter study idea!)
With your study topics prioritized, we recommend you set aside regular study periods at least three times a week (more often, depending on how much preparation you need) to review knowledge domain and subdomain content. The Commission’s new Pocket Prep study roadmap is a high intensity guide for CCM exam prep based on an eight-week circuit. It moves you in a stepwise fashion through the knowledge domains, and also offers guidance for studying the required glossary terms (using the Commission’s official CCM Glossary App1 is a smart study tip as well). Whether you complete the circuit once, twice, or even more, the Pocket Prep study roadmap is a handy way to ensure you’re systematically using the knowledge domains as the framework for your CCM exam preparation.
Getting certified is itself a journey that strengthens your skill set and adds to your professional knowledge. That’s a comment I often hear, too. Knowing that the knowledge framework on which the exam is based is relevant, validated and representative of case management practice across the care continuum only adds to the value of the CCM credential—for those who hold it and for the clients and employers who rely on what it represents.
1Purchase of the CCM Glossary App or any other CCM study materials is NOT required for certification and does not guarantee the applicant will pass the exam.