CWEA Launches Clear Path Project to Help More Water Pros get Certified

This January, the CWEA Board approved investing in a project to make improvements to CWEA’s certification program. The goal of the improvements is to provide a clear path to CWEA certification for applicants and test-takers.  

Amanda Opperman, Ph.D
CWEA Director of Credentialing

This exciting new project consists of three parts which will occur in 2018 and early 2019.  

Part 1. Developing new Handbooks and Exam Blueprints  

 New Handbooks will help water professionals and certification applicants clearly understand the pathway to CWEA certification. Exam Blueprints will help applicants understand the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) tested.

For those of you who are already familiar with the TCP Study Guides, these Exam Blueprints will provide an added layer of clarity and understanding when it comes to answering this important question: “What is on the exam and what should I study for?”

To be more specific, Exam Blueprints move beyond a simple list of KSAs. On any given Exam Blueprint, each KSA will be clearly described and  include a bullet list of the knowledge and cognitive skills tested on the exam.  

The new Blueprints will also help CWEA trainers and trainers at agencies fine-tune their education sessions, which will ensure that the information presented during TCP Training Sessions is aligned with the KSAs on the exams. As always, our esteemed group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) will review each Blueprint. 

Part 2. Hiring a professional item-writer to update exams  

 Just like there are professionals with a unique body of knowledge working in our field, there are professionals working in the certification field who have a unique body of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the art of writing test questions.

These professionals are commonly referred to as “item-writers,” and they possess valuable experience, knowledge, and training in writing test questions and answers.  

To ensure that the professional item writers accurately reflect the technical knowledge required in the  professions, we will continue to use Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in their area of expertise – identifying KSA content areas and reviewing exam items.   

Part 3. Transitioning to ongoing exam performance monitoring and improvement   

With new access to exam performance data at the test item level, along with new TCP staff who possess skills to analyze such data, we are now able to monitor exam performance at the end of each test window. That means TCP can make exam ongoing improvements if we see an item requires SME review and potential revision.

This adds up to a better experience for test-takers because any confusing or misworded questions will be identified and edited right away.   

When can you expect to see the results of the Clear Path Project?

The new Handbooks and Exam Blueprints for Collection Systems Maintenance (CSM), Environmental Compliance Inspection (ECI), and Mechanical Technologist (MT) will be released Summer 2018.

The updated exam items will be released on a rolling basis into the CSM, ECI, and MT exams between Summer 2018 and early 2019.   

For those of you who belong to the Lab or Electrical Instrumentation communities, do not fear! Your turn to benefit from the Clear Path Project will begin in the Summer of 2019. 

This project underscores the importance of CWEA’s Technical Certification Program, which serves more than 5,800 wastewater professionals and their employers. Maintaining an excellent program is part of the value CWEA promises to members, employers, regulators, and the public.   

To learn more about the Clear Path Project or to volunteer as an SME, please contact:

Norah Duffy
Certification Manager
510.382.7800 x106



About the Author

Amanda Opperman


Dr. Opperman is the Director of Credentialing for CWEA. She joined the association in 2017. Most recently, Dr. Opperman was Director of Competency-Based Solutions at Wonderlic, where she oversaw the development of a competency-based eLearning program. She earned her PhD in Education from the Claremont Graduate University/ San Diego State University Joint-PhD program in Education. She also holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from San Diego State University.

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