How I Passed My ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) Exam

I very recently took my ASQ CSSBB exam and passed! Here’s what I think helped me:

[And here’s my OTHER POST that has my notes attached! Enjoy!] – October 2012

[Note: On February 9, 2015 I added my Top 10 Statistics Topics for the CSSBB Exam to this blog]

1. I studied for about 4 weeks (2 weeks very gently, 1 week much-more-work-because-the-exam-is-getting-closer, and 1 week of panicked, freaked out all nighters) using these great references that I wrote up tons of comments about.

2. I took about 10 pages of really good, concise notes. (I’ll share those with you sometime before the end of the year… want to write them up for public consumption.) (Note from October 4, 2012: OK, so I didn’t package them for public consumption, but I did post PDFs of EXACTLY what I brought in with me to the exam.)

3. I brought about 15 super sharp #2 pencils just in case 14 of them broke. I made sure all the pencils actually SAID #2 on them, so the Scantron machine wouldn’t fail me.

4. I brought my SMART RULER. I’ve had this ruler since the late 1980’s, and every time I’ve taken a tough test, I’ve had my smart ruler with me in case I need to underline anything, or draw dividers between notes. I usually never have to USE the ruler. Usually, its presence is enough to make me do better on any exam.

5. They (the people who say such things) say that peppermint makes you smarter. So I got a new pack of Orbit peppermint gum and chewed it like I had obsessive compulsive disorder for all four hours. (Afterwards I found out that the peppermint thing isn’t really backed up by research, but I didn’t know that going into the exam, so I believed that the peppermint would make my brain work better, and that belief probably helped me out. Got to stack the deck in my favor… didn’t want those 4 weeks of studying NOT to pay off.)

6. When I wasn’t chewing gum, I was nibbling on a Reese’s peanut butter bar. Best 300 calorie investment ever made… the protein made my stomach stop growling so it wouldn’t bother the other test takers.

7. I also brought a couple very cold Diet Cokes, to wash down the peanut butter and the gum taste.

8. To appropriately address my superstitious nature, I wore my Ganesh necklace. In Hindu parlance, Ganesh helps break through obstacles, and I figured the exam that stood between me and CSSBB-hood was definitely an obstacle I wanted broken. (Hey, whatever works, right??)




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  • Hi Nicole,

    Congratulations for passing…

    Just a quick observation: It seems to me that the study time for the ASQ is more or less the same as the study time for the PMP.

  • Hi Congratulations on passing your exam on the first try!!! You give me hope since I have about 8 weeks to get to it; no all nighters allowed since I work full time…

    Any idea if you’ll get to posting these notes soon? I am looking for any help I can get I can’t afford to not pass this exam!!! Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I only bought the CSSBB primer form the indiana council but i am considering getting the introduction to statistical methods also.

    Congrats again 🙂

    • Hi Joelle – my notes are in “only decipherable to me” format so it will take a little while to process… maybe I will try to motivate myself over the next couple weeks to post the most important ones. Thanks… and good luck to you!

  • congrats…nic…..

  • Hi Nicole…this is a nice article and helps a lot.
    I wanted to ask what books did you carry into the exam hall. The instructions say that you cannot carry any material that has ‘question-and-answer’ types in them. The Primer and the CSSBB Handbook do have some examples in that format right? Was it allowed to take into the exam hall?

  • Nicole Radziwill

    Hi Anand… I carried in all the books I listed at — EXCEPT I had to pull out the blue question sheets from the Primer. It was heavy, but it worked! 🙂

  • Hi Nicole

    Thanks for this information. It was indeed useful and motivating : ) What was the complexity of statistics in the actual exam

    Also , do let me , if you could share your exam notes. I am sure that would be extremely useful in my preparation as well

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  • Nicole Radziwill

    To anyone who’s following the comments on this page… I finally posted my (raw) notes at !

  • Glad to reach this page. My only question is how complex are the math problems. I mean do they expect you to remember or have with you all the complex math formulas. Thanks

    • Nicole Radziwill

      It depends on what you consider “complex”. There’s no calculus or anything, but you have to know which statistical formulas to use in which contexts (e.g. should I use the t-distribution or not?) — Definitely ORGANIZE YOUR FORMULAS, preferably with examples of how and when to use them, on separate sheets of paper and bring them to the exam. I posted my notes here:

      (PS I teach introductory statistics at a university. The CSSBB exam was definitely not a cake walk for me, but it was totally doable regarding the math.)

  • @Nicole

    I am planning to begin with my preparation for black belt.
    Read all your pages here and have only one thing to say “Nicole, you are awesome!!!” 🙂

  • This is great and congrats for you.

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  • Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for your blog, advice, and recommendations. Much appreciated! I’m obviously looking to take the ASQ Blackbelt exam. I had a couple questions I hoped I could pick your brain on:

    1) I noticed you said you took about 4 weeks to study for the exam. How many hours did this consist of? I just passed the PMP (4P’s, 1MP). I made a study plan and studied for about 180 – 210 hours over about 6 weeks. Not sure I want to do that again :). But wanted to figure out if this would require that same amount of time.

    2) Read your recommendations on what resources to study and recommendations from others. Thinking of getting the CSSBB Primer (of course), the solution book, and (may be) the exam CD. And perhaps going through a chapter or two a day of the primer. Thoughts on that plan? What kind of plan did you use?

    Thanks! Again appreciate your sharing your sharing your experience, advice and adding to the SS body of knowledge!


    • Hi again Tim,

      Sorry for the delay in answering this question… just saw the comment. I think I spent about 6 hours a day studying, probably for a month. So your 180 hour estimate seems pretty reasonable to me. I think the CSSBB is *much* easier if you are solid with basic statistics, confidence intervals, inference, control charts, process capability, and that sort of thing.

      If I had to do it over again, I’d probably JUST focus on the Primer. Really, it is THAT good!! Also, I really like my book, but it doesn’t have the Six Sigma specific pieces in it. I’m writing a Six Sigma prep book, but have no idea when it will be done. I may be able to get it done by Jan 11th if I get a burst of inspiration (definitely possible). When are you taking the exam?


  • Hi Nicole – took the exam earlier this month (Mar 2016) and passed! I actually found quite a bit more challenging then the PMP due to the stats piece you alluded to.

    I actually bought both the Primer and ASQ book. Both helpful in their own way. Found Primer a bit of info overload at times while ASQ book provided a nice “cliff-notes version.” I had issues with stats in both, but found youtube/Khan Academy helpful.


  • Where do you sign up at

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