The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement Learning Center
About the CAWA Exam
Understanding the CAWA exam content, as well as how to apply one’s knowledge and experience while taking the exam, is essential to successfully becoming certified. The Exam content is based on current practices in animal welfare administration and was determined through a comprehensive job analysis. A job analysis is a process that determines the scope of duties of those in animal welfare administration and what they need to know to carry out their job safely and effectively.
Exam Specifications (Updated November, 2019)
The Exam assesses your proficiency of the body of knowledge required and the application of that knowledge in the conduct of your job duties and responsibilities. To be certified, animal welfare professionals are expected to have proficiency in five core knowledge areas found below and detailed further in the Exam Specifications/Authoritative References List.
- Administration (25%)
a) Organizational Governance and Management (10%)
b) Analysis and Planning (8%)
c) Financial Management (7%)
- Human Resources Management (13%)
- Leadership (12%)
- Communications, Advocacy, and Development (25%)
- Animal Management (25%)
a) Animal Husbandry and Sheltering (10%)
b) Programs and Policy (8%)
c) Field Services and Public Health (7%)
Each question on the exam is based on this outline. Therefore, to prepare to take the exam, one should study this outline and especially consider the underlying knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform as an animal welfare administrator.
The CAWA Exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. Each question has three options. The content covered in each question is linked back to content on the Exam Specifications/Authoritative References List. Additionally, each question has only one best, correct answer. Each correct answer is supported by citations from authoritative references in the field. Answers cannot be designated as correct simply because “everyone knows that”, or because it is the opinion of the Exam Committee or individual who wrote the question. It must be supported in commonly accepted, generally available texts.
The purpose of this list is to provide support for exam questions so that they are rooted in best practices and procedures. It is not intended that the exam test the content found in all of these books. Rather, the intent is that these texts can help candidates familiarize themselves with content and bolster their existing knowledge and skills.
It is challenging to identify a list of high quality, authoritative reference materials that covers all of the important knowledge areas measured in the exam – but not so extensive to be unreasonable in terms of time commitment or cost. The Association's Certification Council continues to refine the reading list to make it more candidate-friendly without compromising the integrity of the certification program. Every item on the exam is supported by and referenced to at least one of the authoritative sources.
Preparing for the CAWA Exam
The best preparation for the CAWA certification exam is understanding the knowledge requirements of your role and their application to animal welfare and protection. Certainly, each organization has its own way of doing things. The CAWA exam tests the common body of knowledge and best practices, regardless of how your organization may apply them. As with any professional certification, it is anticipated that you should have a solid knowledge and experience base that prepares you for the exam. The eligibility requirements help support that. However, no two candidates come to the exam with the same knowledge base. Since experience and educational backgrounds are unique, these differences must be taken into consideration when determining a study method. Begin to prepare using the following steps:
Step 1: Assess your own professional experience. Read carefully through the Exam Specifications description for the exam you are taking. Compare the detailed description of knowledge and tasks, plus the proportion of questions, to your own professional experience. Rate your relative skill level and experience on a scale of 0–5 (0 = no experience) as an indicator of how prepared you are for each section and where to invest more of your study focus in preparing for the exam.
Review this Self-assessment (PDF). While you personally may have limited experience with certain job functions due to your job description with your employer, success on the exam requires you to demonstrate competency in all areas of the exam.
Step 2: Start early and plan ahead. Don’t leave this until the last minute! Focus some learning time on reading in every content category, but spend extra time reading in those categories where your experience is limited. Match your study efforts in relation to the time you have available and the specific study needs you have identified for yourself. Every exam candidate will answer the same number of questions in every category.
Step 3: Schedule your study time. If you decide to set up a study group, you should hold weekly meetings that will take about two hours on one day/evening every week. Encourage your virtual study group to share notes and/or questions weekly. Schedule flexible blocks of time into your personal schedule. The key is not to memorize what you read, but to understand concepts behind best practices in each knowledge category area to supplement your experience. Be sure you understand how your SOPs differ in relation to those best practices and commonly accepted principles.
Step 4: Organize your study notes. It may help you to organize your study notes, articles, summaries, etc. in a binder using either the five exam categories, or your own index. Let your experience guide you in the content areas you are most comfortable with and focus more time in your weaker areas or on those areas with which you are least familiar. Create flashcards to use as study aids.
Step 5: Choose the methods that are right for your study plan. Choose a mentor or colleague who has more experience in the areas in which you are less familiar and ask him/her to review concepts with you. See if you can shadow someone at a different type of organization for a day so that you can identify how best practices are applied differently. As you perform your daily responsibilities, think about the underlying principles that lead you to take a particular course of action. This will help you connect the exam content to your daily work.
Step 6: Stick to your study plan. Pick a regular night and show up for yourself or your study group on time. Each of you has the same goal, and everyone has something to offer. Sharing reading and exchanging notes is a great way to lighten the load. Study groups foster friendships and provide an incentive to stay focused on your collective goal. Complete; don’t compete.
Step 7: Don’t panic. Follow this pre-exam advice and come to the exam well-rested and prepared.
Further Study Tips
In addition to reviewing the authoritative references (updated 11-2019), one way to review is to select texts and training materials you used when first taking on your role in animal welfare administration. You can select a publication that you may already have on your bookshelf or one that you can borrow from a colleague. You should select books or publications that cover topics found on the Exam Specifications. If you have time, attend webinars, workshops or conference sessions on topics in which you need to become more familiar. Any professional development learning events that cover animal welfare administration topics will add to your knowledge base and therefore will help you prepare for the exam. The CAWA Certification Council does not sponsor or endorse any specific educational courses for exam preparation. Participation in any courses may help you learn or review topics covered on the exam, but you should not expect them to directly cover exam content.
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