Article: The CIP Exam: Why Take It

CIP logo

The CIP Exam: Why Take It and Tips on How to Prepare - An Interview with Tanna MacReynold

Tanna MacReynold, special projects manager of the Institutional Review Office at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and an active PRIM&R member, recently spoke with PRIM&R about her decision to apply for the CIP® credential and her experience preparing for and taking the CIP exam.

PRIM&R staff (PS): PRIM&R members are interested in learning more about the value of professional certification. I wanted to ask you a few questions about why you decided to make the investment in obtaining the CIP credential, and then about how you prepared for the exam.

PS: When was the first time that you took the CIP exam?

Tanna MacReynold (TM): The first and only time I have taken the exam was in 2005.

PS: What prompted you to take it?

TM: I had been working in the field for over four years; I had attended PRIM&R’s national conferences where I talked to people about the credential, and I began to see value in having the CIP®. In addition, my office was about to start the AAHRPP accreditation process, and I was encouraged to take the exam as a way of improving our program.

PS: Did your employer ask you to take the CIP exam?

TM: No, they did not require it, but they did encourage me to obtain my CIP.

PS: Did you think that having the CIP credential would help you to advance in your job?

TM: Maybe not in my particular situation, but as a general matter, yes. My colleagues and I are seeing an increasing number of job descriptions noting a preference for applicants with the CIP credential. Having CIP credential is not a requirement for working in my office, but those who pass are reimbursed for the application fee.

I also found the credential useful in other, unexpected ways. Our office recently developed enhanced software for IRB administration which we have sold to other institutions. I believe that we will have more credibility with potential customers when we tell them that the software was developed by people who have the CIP® credential, and possess this level of regulatory knowledge.

PS: Does your employer recruit people who have the CIP credential?

TM: The CIP is not a requirement, but we do indicate during recruitment that candidates who possess the CIP credential are preferred.

PS: Does your employer pay a higher salary to those employees who have the CIP credential?

TM: Well, there is no guarantee that if you pass the exam you will receive a salary increase, but it would certainly be a relevant consideration in a salary review.

PS: Now I would like to shift our discussion to what strategies you used for studying for the exam. How long before the test date did you start studying?

TM: Generally speaking, my years of experience working in the field were the most helpful background for taking the test. Once I made the decision to take the exam and submitted my application, I began studying in earnest which was about three months before the exam date.

PS: Can you tell me a little bit more about your background and experience working with IRBs?

TM: I have four years of experience working as an IRB Administrator and Analyst. I have experience supervising other analysts and administrators and was eventually promoted to Assistant Director by the time I took the test. I conducted the human subjects training for my institution which was very helpful to me as I prepared for the exam. I would recommend that anyone considering taking the CIP® exam retake the formal human subjects training provided by his or her institution, or even better, become a trainer for the course.

PS: What materials did you use to study?

TM: I read and reread both the HHS and FDA regs. I also found the IRB: Management and Function textbook and Study Guide helpful. I started with the Study Guide. I tried to answer the questions, noted my deficiencies, and then read the text book cover to cover. I also reviewed the Belmont Report, the Declaration of Helsinki, and the Nuremberg Code. It is important to learn how to apply these principles. The CIP Handbook is useful and so is the text Protecting Study Volunteers in Research. It is also important to review the FDA Information sheets and OHRP Guidances.

PS: How did you find the time to study while you were working?

TM: I would study about five to ten hours a week in the beginning and then, during the last two weeks, I used all of my spare time to study which probably amounted to about 30 hours a week. You have to know your study style. I hadn’t taken a test since the 70’s! I tend to be a “crammer.” I took a lot of notes, and then reread and highlighted them. Another strategy that might be useful for some people would be to record your notes into a dictaphone to listen to while commuting or doing other activities.

PS: How did you decide which areas of content to focus on?

TM: Using the Study Guide to figure out my weaknesses helped me to prioritize. I also tried to focus on the areas unrelated to my own work. I had to spend a lot of time learning about pediatric and emergency research issues which I do not regularly deal with in my current job.

PS: What final words of advice would you like to offer people who are considering taking the CIP® exam?

TM: I guess I would say to talk to other people who have taken the test, and when preparing, focus on learning how to apply the ethical principles and regulations. Also, remember that your own institution’s practices may not always be equivalent to what is required by the regulations. It is important to know the difference between what is required by your own institution and what is required by the regulations and ethical principles that are the focus of the exam.

PRIM&R thanks Tanna for sharing her experience with our members.