Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Changes to the CLA Exam

The Preparing for the CLA post is one of the most highly visited links on my blog, so I figured I should post some updates that I just learned about (thanks to JG's post on LAVA) to the way the CLA exam is now done. Much of the advice I gave in the aforementioned post is no longer valid, so I'd like to highlight some of the new features of the CLA Exam as described on the NI CLA prep website:
  • No more written portion - When I took the CLA exam, it contained a written portion that was 40% of my score. This part of the exam has been removed, which now makes the CLA a 100% practical exam.
  • Customize LabVIEW settings prior to exam start - When I took the exam, I had to spend the first few minutes after the clock started customizing LabVIEW (adding Quick Drop shortcuts, turning off auto wire routing, etc. etc.) before I even read the first question. But now, it seems you can ask your proctor to allow you to customize LabVIEW *before* starting the exam. The following is a direct quote from the new CLA Exam Preparation Guide (page 2) on ni.com: "Please note that you will not receive extra exam time to compensate for non-familiarity with the LabVIEW environment. If you need time to customize the environment, please make arrangements with your proctor to hold off on giving you the exam packet until you are ready to start the exam."
  • Sample Exam Available - There is now a CLA Practice Exam available...this is a great asset in CLA preparation that I highly recommend taking very seriously. There is also an exam solution available.
  • Requirements tracking - 30% of your CLA score is now determined by requirements tracking, the details of which are described in the practice exam and prep guide documents linked above. The exam graders will be using NI Requirements Gateway to verify requirement tracking in your VIs, so make sure you adhere to the [Covers: ] syntax described in the prep guide and sample exam. Note that knowledge of NI Requirements Gateway is *not* a requirement for the CLA.
Looking at the changes, I think they're probably for the best. I personally found the written portion of the CLA when I took it to be relatively easy and straightforward. But I know that written exams are notoriously hard to grade, and there might potentially be language barriers for some test takers. It looks like the test writers are expecting the additional requirements tracking to take roughly the same amount of time as the written portion of the exam, since the sample exam is very similar to the actual exam I took for my CLA, with the addition of the requirements tracking information.


  1. Hi Darren, great post (as always) and thanks for the shout out.

    Would you be able to comment on the differences of the original exam's code portion versus the sample exam?

    E.g. In your opinion, is the spec twice as long etc...?

  2. It seems to me like the use of Requirements Gateway to determine 30% of the grade effectively limits CLA status to NI employees, partners and large corporate customers with the financial resources to pay for the additional tools and training.

  3. @Phillip - It probably just limits the people that can mark it :). RG is just the tool used to check the Coverage. All you have to do as a Architect/Developer is jot down the [Cover: ID] tags in your documentation. So you don't need to know how to use RG at all. Its much like (I assume) they would use VI Analyzer on your exam to quantify your style. All in an effort to help speed up marking.

  4. @JG - Based on my brief perusal of the practice exam, it looks like the spec is a similar length. I really do think they expect you to spend a comparable time adding the requirements info as you did answering the written questions on the old CLA.

    @Phillip - Sorry I wasn't more clear in the original post. You won't be using NI Requirements Gateway during the exam. As JG mentioned, it will be used to automate *grading* of the requirements portion of the exam. I'll update the text in the post to be more clear about this.

  5. If anyone is interested:

    In the event of saving a few minutes, I followed up on what Darren suggest and contacted certification-at-ni.com to ask about setting up the environment for the exam. Seems they actually prefer you to go early - this was their response: "I would suggest to come a few minutes early to customize yourself with the computer and environment before starting the exam. We will start the exam at 1:00 pm..."

  6. Just finished taking the CLA... ouch. The amount of code required was about double(!) the practice exam.

    Is there any forum to give feedback to NI on the exam?

  7. Underflow,

    I think the most direct way to send feedback to the NI Certification team is to email certification at ni dot com.