Tips on Preparing for the ACA Exam

Post by Meg Tuomala, electronic records archivist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Most of you have probably heard of the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA), the certifying organization of professional archivists. And you’re probably also aware that in order to become a certified archivist you must sit for and pass the ACA exam, which is offered every year in August to coincide with the SAA Annual Meeting.

The decision whether or not to become a certified archivist should be considered carefully, and there are many factors to weigh before deciding to sit for the ACA exam. In this blog post I won’t go in to what those factors are or how to weigh them, but for those of you planning on taking the Academy of Certified Archivists exam in 2013, here are some tips to help you prepare. I took the exam (and passed) last year, and these are just a few things that helped me along the way…

1. Start early. Like now. Really. I know it’s only January, but you have a ton of stuff to read before August.

2. Join a study group. Like I said, you have a ton of stuff to read before August. Why not share the burden and split the readings with others planning to take the exam? See if your local archival organization is hosting a study group. Reach out over listservs and social media to find others taking the exam. If you can’t find a study group to join, start your own!*

3. Read the ACA Handbook.

4. Create a schedule. Stick to it.

5. Read, study, discuss, repeat. I found that talking about the readings with colleagues and my study group really helped me wrap my head around everything.

6. Apply to sit for the exam. Yes, this seems like a no-brainer but I almost forgot. May 15th is the application deadline.

7. Review. Budget in a few days of review before the exam on August 14th. Take some time to look over the practice questions in the ACA Handbook.

8. Don’t stress. If you’re an archivist, work in an archives, or have a degree or coursework in library or archival science and have taken time to prepare for the exam you’ll probably be fine. It’s really not that bad.

9. Talk to others who have taken the exam. Get tips from them. If you don’t know anyone who has taken the exam I would be happy to talk to you about it. Email me and we can set up a time to chat.

10. Start early. Really, this can’t be overstated. You probably should have already started, but there’s still plenty time to catch up!

*If you’re interested in starting a study group I would be more than happy to pass on a Google site that a group of us used last year. It has a reading list based on the ACA Handbook, a schedule, and spaces to upload notes and discuss the readings. Email me if you’re interested in taking over the site for 2013 and I’ll make you an admin. Let’s make this a resource for SNAP to use this year, and for years to come!

What about you, SNAP Blog readers? Have you taken the ACA Exam? Do you plan to? What factors did you weigh in this decision, and how did you decide?


5 thoughts on “Tips on Preparing for the ACA Exam

  1. Laura DeMuro

    These are all great tips and I can’t agree more with starting to study early. I made up a whole bunch of flash cards that I studied from which helped alot. I made outlines of some of the readings I did. I also made a list of topics I felt weak on right after I took the test when it was fresh in my mind. This way if I had to repeat it I knew exactly what I needed to focus on.
    I’m not sure about splitting up the readings for a group. I would worry I would miss something. If you do that, I would do it for some of the readings not for all.
    Personally I think Greg Hunter’s Yellow book helped me the most in studying.
    Full disclaimer: I might be bias he was my archiving professor at Palmer and that was my textbook. Also you by no means should just focus on that one book, it won’t work.
    My suggestion if you’re taking this test for the first time is to study your best and go in relaxed. If you pass great if you don’t view it as practice and focus on your weak points for next time. Whatever you do don’t give up.

  2. Pingback: SNAP ACA study tips post and reposting my comment from there | Laura DeMuro

  3. Brad Houston (@herodotusjr)

    Hey folks,

    I’ve been in touch with Meg and she’s transferred admin rights for the above-mentioned site, so if you want to join an e-study group for the 2013 exam, please send me an email at houstobn AT The more the merrier!

    1. Alison Dundy

      Hello Brad,

      I qualified to take the exam and would like to join an e-study group. I’m a little frightened about how late I already am in the process, but I would like to give it a go.

      Alison Dundy

  4. Pingback: ACA Certification Exam Information Session | SAA-UW

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