In January I looked through the ASQ body of knowledge (BoK) for Black Belt and said to myself, “I know most of this stuff now”. So put in my entry and passed the Mar’08 exam. I thought I would share the experience, as I believe a number of practitioners may have looked at the ASQ exam.

Get a good foundation
I reviewed the ASQ exam a couple of years ago and concluded I did not have the experience to guarantee a pass. So waited until I had delivered the projects, trained the Black Belts and invested my spare time in learning the tools. After all this I decided I had the right foundations in place. ASQ recommend three-years work experience and that seems about right.

Find what you don’t know
Reading through the BoK and doing the sample exam I identified clear areas of weakness. Coming from a Transactional background, there were manufacturing areas I had never covered in particular around Measurement Systems and Design of Experiments.

Invest the time in preparation
I went through every section of the BoK. Be ready for set-piece questions that require calculating from equations, things like confidence intervals and probability. If you are used to having Minitab do the work, practice doing the equations. I invested in the QCI Exam CD and although I found some of the questions infuriatingly ambiguous it does help.

On the day
The exam is open book and covers 150 questions over 4 hours so it’s a bit of a slog. I found my collection of books & materials were good enough and included Six Sigma, Lean, DFSS, Statistics and quick-reference books. I found I needed to refer to all of these during the exam.

Handpicked Content:   What's Inside the January/February 2011 Issue

Next Steps
I found the brief review of the industry greats, Deming, Juran, Ohno & Taguchi whet my appetite and am keen to learn more. Now I have covered the BoK I am ready to move on and am looking now at understanding the big-picture stuff like strategy planning, target operating model and other related areas

Good luck if you are planning to gain ASQ, let me know if any questions.

Comments 17

  1. Sue Kozlowski

    Hi Robin, thanks for your post. I had the same concerns as you did initially, that I didn’t have enough knowledge or experience to take the exam (even after several completed projects). Coming from healthcare, I didn’t have a comfort level with the manufacturing-oriented questions, and very little experience with statistical analysis for data with a normal distribution.

    I found the ASQ review course to be very helpful – although pricey, my employer paid for it as continuing education. The statistics review and information on topics like DOE and "Jo blocks" was extremely valuable.

    Congratulations on passing your exam, and thanks for the good advice for others interested in taking it.

  2. Robin Barnwell

    Hi Sue,

    Lucky "Jo blocks" didn’t come up on the exam, I just about managed to work out the different types of gauges, let alone other names. I was happy with the stats side and am comfortable working with numbers.

    I had to finance myself through the exam and am hoping it will benefit my career.


  3. Yatin

    Hi All, I am from India and working in BPO and preparing for ASQ Black Belt exam. but am doing my project outside my ofc. as in ofc. i don’t have exposure to six sigma projects.I would like to know future opportunities in Six Sigma Field. in india/abroad. thanks. Yatin.

  4. Robin Barnwell

    Hi Yatin

    Best to luck with the preparation. A word of caution, the ASQ look for practical projects as part of the entry criteria. Being a theoretical black belt may be a problem.

    Lots of opportunities on the job-boards.


  5. Troy Worman

    Kudos and congrats!

  6. Vandana

    Hi Robin, i want to know what books and reference material you have used as i will be attempting ASQ in Oct.

  7. Robin Barnwell

    Hi Vandana

    I worked through the ASQ body of knowledge and researched every section. I did a lot of internet research and worked through the relevant materials in my core reference books below:

    • Forrest Breyfogle – Implementing Six Sigma
    • Tom Luyster and Don Tapping – Value stream Management
    • Michael George – Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook
    • Fleming and Nellis – Principles of Applied Statistics

    Best of luck.

  8. Vandana

    Hi Robin,
    I had a query regarding the BB project financial benefit calculations. I have a project plan for reducing my turnaround time from 20 min to 10 min. How do I show this in terms of dollar saving? Need help with financial calculation of hard benefit.

  9. Robin Barnwell

    Hi Vandana

    When you say turn-around time, I am guessing you mean the "value-added" time it takes someone to complete a process-task. So reducing this time from 20 to 10 minutes creates the opportunity to achieve a benefit.

    Should be straight-forward to calculate the amount of time being saved e.g. 10k transactions at 10 min each gives around 1,700 hours new free time.

    The question is, how do you wish to spend this time?

    You could reduce the number of people involved in the process-task and the hard-benefit would be head-count reduction.

    You could use the time to potentially double the number of transactions processed and the hard-benefit would be productivity rate.

    If you implement the change and free-up 10 mins but don’t actually use this time then you have no benefit.

    Hope this helps

  10. Vandana

    Great Rob This explains my doubt.I work in IT operations dept as CRM Quality.If it possible can i write you at some personal email ID rather than on public forum.Also wanted to check few things on quality iniatives in IT Team dealing with network monitorin,escaltion

  11. CI Man

    If anyone has additional practice exams for the ASQ LSS BB exam aside from what is available on the site today, I would be grateful of you would email them to me at [email protected]. Thanks

  12. chinu

    Hi Guys,
    I am planning to take my CSSBB (black belt) certification, can you please advice books / materials which will be needed to prepare for exam.

    Thanks in advance



  13. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Chinu

    Go for as wide a range of materials that cover the whole BoK. Some suggestions

    Forrest Breyfrogle’s Implementing Six Sigma is essential, especially if you are not strong at manufacturing like me. I got the impression the BoK was based on this book.

    A statistics book so you can learn the basics on probability, distributions, and hypothesis testing.

    Try and read books on Lean, Design of Experiments, DfSS, changes management etc….

    I got the electronic version of the BoK and for each section researched and produced an answer. So I ended up with a big document that answers each of the areas. I also created A3 pages that held all the core information for each section.

    You know what, I suspect it would have value to others, what do you think?


  14. IHD-BB

    The ASQ CSSBB primer is an excellent resource that covers the entire Body of knowledge. See


  15. Sindhu

    Hi Robin,
    i am planning to take up CSSBB from ASQ.
    It would of great help if you can email the course materials (ASQ BOK) & whatever useful soft copies you have.
    Please send across the same to the below mentioed email ID: [email protected].

    Others, If you have course details, please send across the same

    Thanks in advance,

  16. Robin Barnwell

    Sindhu, check-out the ASQ web-site for loads of materials on CSSBB

    ASQ CSSB Site


  17. GANI

    Friends Pls send me if you have any soft copy of useful material for ASQ CSSBB.


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