My experience of the CITP assessment process

I’ve recently been through, and unfortunately failed, the BCS CITP assessment process. For those that don’t know the BCS is the Chartered Institute for IT and the Chartered IT Professional status is equivalent to the chartered status in accounting, but for IT. There are a number of benefits that CITP status gives you, but mostly it is the recognition that comes with the title.

Whilst I was on this journey I couldn’t find a great deal about it online (not really great given they are trying to expand knowledge about it in the IT profession) which made things considerably difficult for me – I am the sort of person who needs a lot of information about a subject to really tackle it; this is, in some ways I guess, contradictory to the attributes of a Chartered IT Professional I guess but it’s just in my nature. I wanted to blog about my experience for others to understand it better but also to remind myself when I try again.

Application

The certification process starts with your application – this costs £160 and covers the process and your first year of subscription, following which it is £163 per year. To apply for CITP status you should ideally already be a member of the BCS but this isn’t necessarily a problem as if you pass you will automatically become a member. You should have a minimum of 5 years IT experience (that is, in a job) but ideally 8-10 years and in the last 3 years you should have been working at SFIA level 5:

These roles will have carried significant responsibility, full accountability and presented a challenging range of complex work activities. You also need to be able to demonstrate personal influence and well developed business skills.

This last part is absolutely key and will be thoroughly examined in the last stage of the process, I would therefore suggest that you fully and thoroughly understand the requirements of SFIA level 5 and be sure that:

  1. You meet all of the requirements before applying.
  2. You are able to demonstrate and evidence this.

When applying for CITP status you will need to provide an up-to-date CV, a personal statement and also supply details of a referee who is able to confirm that you work to SFIA level 5; this would ideally be someone who works closely enough with you that they can confirm that you work to this level. If at this stage you aren’t sure whether or not you should apply you can actually sit a (very) basic assessment that will tell you if you aren’t ready (not that you are ready – there is a difference!).

Breadth of Knowledge

The next stage is to sit a Breadth of Knowledge (BoK) test – this is a test that you sit at a physical testing centre (Pearson Vue) that checks the breadth of your IT knowledge, as you would expect. It is a multiple choice test of 75 questions, made up of 15 questions on each of the following sections:

  1. Strategy and Architecture
  2. Business change
  3. Solution development and implementation
  4. Service management
  5. Management support and professional issues

Don’t be fooled by the fact that this test is multiple choice: it is very challenging! You must achieve at least 50 out of 75 AND 10 out of 15 in every section. The way that I revised for this test was to use the CITP BoK syllabus and the BoK reading list to cover the areas in which I was weakest – how did I know my weak areas? I sat the BoK mock test a number of times  spread over a period (so that I couldn’t just remember the correct answers) and made a spreadsheet to record my exact scores each time: this showed me a trend of the different sections where I was weakest and my general overall score. My final result in the real thing was 84% so I’d say this was a successful method!

Interview and Presentation

The final part of the assessment is to give a presentation on a chosen subject to two BCS assessors and then sit an interview with those assessors. The presentation lasts for 10 mins and you should really try to stick to this time; it should demonstrate work that you have been responsible for during the last 6 months and I would strongly recommend that you match it with examples that meet the SFIA level 5 criteria for your chosen subject. The interview will then pick up on some of what you have discussed in your presentation and pick up on what you haven’t discussed, it will last for approximately 45 mins. The purpose is essentially to confirm your responsibility, that you meet SFIA level 5, and confirm the depth of knowledge of your chosen subject (see Breadth of Knowledge).

At this point I would strongly suggest that you again review, in detail, the SFIA level 5 criteria for your chosen subject but this time you should use the SFIA matrix and make sure you have chosen a subject that you can discuss confidently and provide strong evidence of working to SFIA level 5 – if, like me, you don’t have a good memory make a list of the criteria, print it out or keep it visible so that you are able to make references to this during your presentation. Failing to discuss any part of this could mean that you will fail this assessment – I personally fell foul of this, though that’s not necessarily the only reason I failed (if you are interested in seeing the format of the feedback please Contact me).

One further point I would just like to make is that you have potentially up to a year between making an application and completing your final assessment (6 months for BoK test and 6 further months for interview/presentation); for me it was about 9 months. During this time the assessors will have access to your old CV – I think it is probably worth sending them an updated version at the time of your final assessment to ensure they have the most up-to-date and relevant details; I didn’t do this and certainly feel it worked against me as some of the areas I failed on would have been immediately corrected.

Pass or fail?

It takes 2 – 3 weeks to find out the results of your assessment. If, like me, you don’t pass the whole assessment (no matter at which stage) then you will have to wait 6 months before you can re-apply. I would also recommend that you request any notes and the recording of your assessment (no matter your result) so that you can review your effort. Finally, certification doesn’t stop at the last assessment as you will need to be revalidated once every 5 years – I’ll be sure to blog about this in 5 and a half years!

Overall I quite enjoyed the process even though I wasn’t successful. It helped to validate my work where I don’t have peers to review and it helped to refine those areas that can be improved upon; I really value having been through this process and look forward to doing it again. I think Chartered IT Professional status is absolutely essential for promoting high-quality professionalism in the IT industry in the UK and around the world and would absolutely encourage anyone within the industry to apply when they are ready! If you are reading this because you are thinking of applying then I wish you good luck and if there’s anything I can help with please do comment below.

About Stephen Pickett


Stephen Pickett is a programmer, IT strategist, project manager, RightNow and telephony expert, information security specialist, all-round geek. He is currently Professional Services Director at Connect Assist, a social business that helps charities and public services improve quality, efficiency and customer engagement through the provision of helpline services and CRM systems.

Stephen is based in south Wales and attended Cardiff University to study Computer Science, in which he achieved a 2:1 grading. He has previously worked for Think Consulting Solutions, the leading voice on not-for-profit fundraising, Fujitsu Services and Sony Manufacturing UK as a software developer.

Stephen is the developer of ThinkTwit, a WordPress plugin that allows you to display multiple Twitter feeds within a blog.

28 thoughts on “My experience of the CITP assessment process

  1. Stephen thank you very much for sharing all this information. A rare display of generocity and helpfullness. And a refreshing honest and brave approach. “I failed it in the first effort” is something that only a decent and worthy IT professional would say in public.
    Cheers
    Angeliki

  2. I’m just starting the CITP process and via Google found your post, which I enjoyed. The BOK is my worry – did you find any useful reading material to help with that?

  3. Hi Mike,

    The BoK test has actually changed since I sat it and I’m not “au fait” with the changes, I’m afraid. What I can say is that when I did mine I repeatedly sat the mock test and measured my results – I then used the BCS library to read up on my weaker areas that I pin-pointed using my log of results and the recommended reading material list that matched up with these areas.

    Good luck with your test!

  4. Hi Rislan,

    Thanks for your comments. The test has changed since I last sat it, and I’m not sure how different it is now. When I sat it the questions were obviously different but training using the mock test was essential for me passing and I would expect the same would still be true.

  5. Hi Stephen, I have sat for the test and pass, the mock and the actual test are to different island. Had I concentrated on the mock I should have fail. But really the CITP application is robust and require high level of critical thinking and independence.

  6. Hi Rislan,

    Thanks for your feedback. The exam has changed since I sat it and wrote this blog – additionally my intention was not to state that simply focussing on the mock will definitely make you pass, more that you can use it as a guide to assist you. I recognise that this may now not be true due to the change but it was at the time that I sat and passed the BoK.

  7. Stephen,

    I am in the process of preparing my CITP application. Do you have any further information you can provide on the personal statement apart from the guidance document.

    Approx Word count, bullet points versus detailed paragraphs?

    Thank you in advance.

    PS – I have been using this page quite a lot recently, it is great resource.

  8. Hello,

    It seems to me that the assessment favours managers with low technical knowledge (but full of blah blah blah) than professionals with hight technical skills.
    So the typical ”Jen” (The IT Crowd) should pass without a lot of problems instead someone of loads of technical experience in lots of IT fields would fail…
    That’s my feeling and this is why I’m still thinking about if to go through the process or not.
    Regards,
    Marco.

  9. Hi Stephen,

    Sorry for the delay in approving your comment and in getting back to you, I’ve had a lot on lately! Thanks for your feedback, that is very kind.

    Sorry again but it’s so long ago now since I made my application that I can’t really remember what I put in it. I’ve taken a look at my old documents and I can’t find a copy of it anywhere either. I wish you all the luck with your application, if you haven’t completed and passed already 🙂

    Steve

  10. Hi Msz,

    I’m not sure I’d agree with that assessment. I think I’d say it favours IT professionals who tend to work in a large environment but a very specific role – that is, not programmers specifically (which many think of as highly technical) but IT staff including programmers but whom have a good knowledge of standards and methodologies. I struggle in this area because my role is so broad, and whilst I do get involved at a deep level on various tasks at various times it still does mean that I do not focus on one area.

    I will probably re-do the process when I have more time but it’s not a very high priority for me at the moment as I don’t see it adding a great deal of value to my every day work, currently.

    Steve

  11. Hi Steve, the experience you have shared is really helpful. Thanks for it. I am thinking of applying for this CITP assessment.

  12. I’ve been a BCS member for a number of years and I happen to have a varied career, in develpment from programming, design, systems integration and testing through to service management an operational support of mission critical systems, but my career so far is 20 years long! When I joined the BCS they had just changed their strategy to the different membership levels, and all existing BCS members automatically were awarded CITP status, new members were only awarded MBCS and the new approach to separate certfication to CITP came in, so I don’t have CITP yet.

    Over the years the CITP has become tougher and tougher taking in more and more material over a wider range of topics.

    There’s very few people that have worked in each different domain. The exam covers development but also service management principles as covered by ITIL. Many people carry out most of their career in the delivery side – solution design and develoment without touching operational support. After 20 years in the profession with my varied career I don’t think I could pass the CITP application process. It’s become a joke.

    And most employers don’t even recognise the CITP certification, there’s no increase in salary for having it, and there’s almost no increase in recognition or status.

    You can become a chartered accountant with three years of training/experience, I’m quite sure that becoming chartered with the BCS has got to be one of the toughest routes to becoming charteted of any profession, and for what? Personal satisfaction only.

  13. Hi Dave,

    Many thanks for your feedback, it’s very interesting and I would tend to agree – the assessment does feel very linear; whilst I have a little over half of your experience it is extremely varied and in that sense I did struggle with selecting a topic for my assessment. They do seem to take experience in to account but where I really lost it was on not having a very deep understanding of my chosen topic in the academic sense – I can carry out change management perfectly well (my business would not be successful otherwise) but I just was not aware of some of the standards that are around and did not well enough communicate my level of budgetary management (I’m a Director but our CEO very tightly manages budget).

    The reason I have not yet tried the assessment again is because I really don’t see the value unless I am going to seek employment elsewhere; I don’t see how it would help me in my current role.

    Steve

  14. I think that’s part of the issue, to know each domain very well, to understand it, you really need to have worked in the domain for some length of time, perhaps as little as one year, but to study it academically by books and training courses is just superficial, I think you’ve got to immerse yourself in that domain by actual work experience.

    For example, years ago I undertook the ITIL foundation exam, whilst useful, and it’s important to know the difference between problem and incident management, my real understanding and confidence comes from working in a technical support organisation for a number of years and actually seeing the kinds of issues that come up on production systems. And then the terminology of ITIL, why it exists becomes clear.

  15. I think if you are that close to achieving CITP then I’d suggest perservering with it and retake the application, having it certainly won’t do your career any harm, even if you don’t need it in your current role, and it might help to some small degree in your application for a next job outside the company. But to be honest, I have seen extremely few jobs insisting on CITP as a pre-requisite; I did see one in recent years tor a tiwn or county council.

    I think it’s actual experience that counts.

    I hate to say it, but from comments I have seen over the years and heard, the BCS is struggling to improve its image, to improve its standing in the eyes of the profession. Professional electrical/electronic engineers are well represented by the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) – formerly the IEE – The Institution of Electrical Engineers and this organisation seems to be held in much higher esteem by the engineering profession and government. Their chartered route is via The Engineering Council and the award of the CEng qualification. I have seen far more jobs advertised over the years requiring the CEng than the CITP.

    I think the BCS has recognised there is an image/status issue and is trying to address that by coming up with a very tough requirement for the CITP, but my personal view is, they’ve gone too far.

    I’m not sure what the answer is for the BCS .

  16. Hi Dave,

    I think that is a very astute observation, and reflects my views and those of others I have spoken with regarding the BCS. Hopefully they will resolve the issues, but in the meantime I probably will not make too much effort for engaging until it proves to be better value – if I can find some time free I may re-apply for CITP, but only if I can find that spare time!

    Steve

  17. Yes, I have to fully agree with Dave above. I think the whole process has become laughable. I went through the interview for FBCS and failed it… I’m used to doing interviews as I have a total of 15 years in IT as a senior consultant with MS certifications etc etc… but the feedback I got from the assessors was that I didn’t have enough knowledge in any one area… which i would say is utter rubbish – especially as I’m a top rate contractor. There is plenty wrong with the BCS, which is regarded as a joke in IT circles… hardly anyone bothers to join it. In addition, I have easily achieved (and use) Fellow status in the other areas in which I consult to…i.e. secondary fields (like medicine!) but can’t get it in my ACTUAL field because I (apparently don’t have enough knowledge!).

  18. It seems to me that FBCS is awarded to professors at universities , almost like being awarded a peerage because it’s expected that you will be given one because of the previous job a politician did. But professors are mostly career long academics and,I can not see how they can have the diverse knowledge and experience to be awarded FBCS or CITP status

  19. Dave,

    agreed… totally… one of my examiners was old school BT and retired (so no current knowledge of ..for example …startups or dotcom) and the other was a university professor…so again…not much current idea of the real world there either)…not surprisingly I didn’t pass!

  20. Really interesting to read your comments chaps.

    I embarked on my CITP application in December and managed (not sure how) to pass the Breadth of Knowledge test a fortnight ago.

    I now have 6 months to take the interview and am a bit worried I will fall into the same boat as you Dave, in that I’ve worked in IT for almost 20 years, used to be a dev, then a PM and ma now in charge of a department of 60 people. I can obviously do the job but do I know the ins and outs of the “ivory tower” way of doing things – No!

    Any advice you guys can give on how to approach the interview will be much appreciated. I’ve now turned into Nervous of Monks Risborough!

    Andy

  21. Dear all,

    I am BCS and IET member.

    I had more than 5 years telecom engineer experience. Now I am a IT manager in IT company for 12 years. I feel Ceng higher than CITP. I want to apply Ceng from BCS.

    David

  22. Steve, your generosity is amazing. Many thanks for starting this thread of discussions based on your experience in dealing with the BCS. I suggest you consider writing a booklet to be sold commercially and aimed at helping many others. Obviously, there will be a need to acknowledge other bloggers’ contributions. My thanks also go to all other bloggers who have equally been generous in sharing their experiences. I am reconsidering whether or not to go for the CITP assessment in view of what I have read here. With best wishes. Paul Stanford Kupakuwana

  23. Hi Paul,

    Thanks very much for your kind comments 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t have time to write a booklet but hopefully in the meantime this blog post will suffice – thanks for the suggestion though 🙂

    If you do go for the CITP assessment then all the best with it and please let me know how you get on!

    Kind Regards,

    Steve

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