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I’d Forgotten How Difficult Written Exams Were…part 1

Over summer, I attended an IRCA (International Register of Certificated Auditors) registered ISO 9001 Lead Auditor course run in Manchester by ISOQAR.  I did an Auditor course in the mid-1990s, when I was a paternity tester in central London, but that certification had expired (well before the end of the last millennium, in fact!) and I wanted to do it again.

There were a number of factors affecting this decision, not the least of which was a succession of recent Certification Body Assessors, assessing my customers’ management systems, asking for evidence that I, as their subcontractor, knew what I was doing. This questioning of my abilities (what a cheek!), which hadn’t previously come up, started last year, and the Assessors were unsatisfied to varying degrees with my assurances that I’d been implementing management systems for over 20 years and had never failed.  Flintloque’s (and/or Ashworth’s) reputation was at stake.

So, as I keep telling folk that they need to ensure that their suppliers are fit-for-purpose, I decided to “walk-the-walk”.  I wanted a certificate to wave at the Assessors (and my customers) to prove that my claims of competence weren’t just hot air…and given my years of experience, how difficult could the auditor training course be?  Little did I know…

I looked on ISOQAR’s website and found a list of courses.  Given that I considered myself experienced at this auditing lark, and that I run projects with small teams on a regular basis, I thought that a Lead Auditor course would be suitable.  So, with no further messing, I booked it.  Ah, the hubris that leads to a lack of planning…

The first shock was when the booking confirmation came through explaining that the course was for FIVE days.  Five whole days!  As it was a couple of months until the course, I could clear my calendar, so that was okay, but then the second shock arrived in the form of the daily timetable.  We were instructed to arrive at 0800 hrs for an 0830 hrs start (prompt) with an expected finish time of 2000 hrs!  I’d signed on to FIVE lots of 12 hours.  At this point, I was starting to have second thoughts.  I’m used to working long hours (I’m a consultant, it’s the nature of the beast), but at least I’m paid for it.  In this case, I was having to pay for the privilege.  Anyway, I told myself that it would be worth it.  Then, I got the final shock…

I thought (make that “hoped” by this point) that I would just pay my money, turn up, learn a load of stuff about auditing, have some fun (hopefully), and walk off with a nice certificate to wave at anyone who had the temerity to doubt my abilities.  Upon a more careful reading of the course outline, I noted that Friday finished at 1700 hrs, rather than 2000 hrs, which I thought was great until I saw what preceded it; a TWO hour WRITTEN exam!  At this point, I was starting to panic.  It wasn’t the idea of the exam itself (given my academic history, I’ve lost track of how many exams I’ve sat), but I’d not done one for over 25 years.  “It’s like riding a bike”, I told myself, “You’ll remember”.  And in the next blog, I’ll tell you if I did.

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