8 CRCM Exam Study Tips

The CRCM certification, or Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager certification from the Institute of Certified Bankers, is arguably the highest and most recognized credential a US financial institution compliance professional can earn.  The certification requires compliance professionals to have either 1) six or more years of U.S. experience as a compliance professional within the last ten years with three of the six years being in the last five years, or 2) have at least three years as a US compliance professional experience and either attend an ABA course/seminar or have 30 credits of compliance training.  

As a compliance professional, if you have not obtained the CRCM certification, you have probably at least considered it.  For those of you considering the CRCM or if you already have plans to take your CRCM, I put together the following tips for CRCM preparation.

CRCM Preparation Tips:

The following tips can be used as a study strategy for taking the CRCM exam:

Tip 1: Be diligent about the scope of the CRCM test.

To me, the most important thing to consider when studying for the CRCM test is what topics will be on the test.  In reality, it is rare that a compliance professional will have experience in all of the areas on the test, so it is important to meticulously evaluate the scope to know what areas to focus your studies on.

The scope of the CRCM exam can be found here.  https://www.aba.com/Training/Certifications/Documents/CRCMExam_Outline.pdf

Tip 2: Don’t waste time on your areas of expertise.

If you truly understand a regulation or topic that is going to be on the CRCM test, it probably isn’t worth spending too much time studying for that area.  The key, of course, will be to identify any elements in an area you feel competent that don’t apply to your financial institution or are new to you. For example, Midwesterners who know BSA fairly well may not fully understand OFAC rules because due to their limited geographic risk.  The bottom line is to make sure you pay attention to what will be on the test so that you can focus your study efforts accordingly.

Tip 3: Focus on the actual rules.

While it has been some time since I took the CRCM, I have found that the majority of questions on the test apply to the actual Regulation rather than the commentary or even the preamble.  Therefore, your efforts are probably best spent on the regulation.

Tip 4: Utilize CRCM Preparation Material

One of the best ways to know what is going to be on any test is to utilize any related study guides from the maker/administrator of the test.  In the case of the CRCM exam, the Institute of Certified Banks is a program offered by the American Bankers Association (ABA), who also offers CRCM Exam Preparation question and study material.  While the ABA states that the practice questions they offer will not be the same as those found on the exam, I have heard reports of extremely similar questions being found both on the practice ABA quizzes and the actual CRCM exam.

Tip 5: Be ready for a large portion of “management” questions.  

A big part of the CRCM exam is to ensure that you know how to manage a compliance program.  Therefore, there are many “what would you do first” management type questions. You have to have a management mindset in order to answer these questions correctly as often times, all of the answers could be considered correct on some level.  The best way to answer these questions is to remove yourself from your individual bank and think of the question in terms as “what should a compliance professional do” so that you aren’t answering the question from a perspective that may skew your answer.  Don’t underestimate this, as many of the questions are geared this way.

Tip 6:  Argue your questions.  

When I took the test, they allowed you to argue questions.  I’m not exactly sure if they still permit this, but they understood that some questions were debatable and were willing to take arguments on applicable questions.  I kept notes of questions I felt could go more way than one and made an argument for each applicable question – after I ensured I finished the test within the time limit.

Tip 7:  Don’t wait to study.  

If you are someone who has procrastination tendencies, you will want to check yourself into a proactive clinic before you enroll for your CRCM exam.  For me, I studied about 10 hours a week for several months. There is just too much information to cram if you don’t already know the material inside and out.  Again, this is something that should not be underestimated as failing the CRCM is frustrating and can be embarrassing to explain to your employer who invested in your test.

Tip 8: Talk to those who recently took the exam.

One thing I continue to find about compliance professionals is this: most of them genuinely want to help you in any way they can.  Therefore, take this opportunity to talk to as many recent CRCMs as possible as to tips they might have in preparing for the CRCM exam.

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