Some Helpful Hints for Taking the CPSI Exam

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:01am
Last updated
7 months ago
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Certified Playground Safety Inspector

I have recently been lucky enough to be chosen to work with the National Recreation and Park Association’s (NRPA) Certified Playground Safety Inspector Exam Review Committee and NRPA staff member Caroline Smith. I found these people to be caring, hard-working people dedicated to our field and children’s safety. This group agonizes over trying to create and administer a fair test that will insure that the individuals that pass it are capable of correctly analyzing a playground and can help make positive changes.

But as I travel around the country, I often hear comments such as: The test is too hard; the test is full of trick questions; why aren’t my opinions as valid as the test writers? With these types of statements in mind I hope this column can provide the frustrated test takers with some actions that will result in their passing the exam.

1st Hint: Study.

Do not show up to the class or take the test without taking the time to study. There is far too much information for you to learn during the class. To pass the exam, you must have a deep understanding of the Public Playground Safety Handbook written by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (2010, November), which is available for download at no cost at You can do that right now!

You must know all the information provided by the ASTM F1487, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, which can be purchased at Also available any time.

Read the Content Outline and study the areas that provide the most points. The Content Outline is available at: Available all the time.

Read and understand the manual: Playground Safety is No Accident 5th Edition. There will be test questions from this book. It is available from the NRPA at:

Other playground information is available at:

2nd Hint: Learn as much as you can about a playground.

Go to other workshops on playground safety and read other books on playground safety. The more you know, the better. The NRPA, state recreation organizations, childcare associations, school groups, risk management agencies, the National Program for Playground Safety, and private companies all offer opportunities to help you understand playgrounds better.

3rd Hint: Be prepared the day of the test.

Don’t cram – for the most part it does not work. Get sleep. Eat a good breakfast. Dress comfortably (this is not the time to dress to impress). If you need to use the restroom, do so. There is plenty of time to finish the exam; you do not need to be uncomfortable. Do not wear a hat – they will make you take it off. Take your time and read each question.

I promise you that no one is trying to trick you in any way. I also promise you that without a dedicated effort on your part you are not likely to pass the exam. I hope that these hints can help you have a better understanding of the exam and assist you in passing.

To register for the CPSI certification, contact the National Recreation and Park Association (

In 1997, a group of parks and recreation, physical education, and private recreation professionals formed PlaySafe, LLC to provide resources that were not readily available to the public and private sectors. Today, PlaySafe, LLC is the largest, most respected and highly skilled playground, surfacing, and ball field safety auditing firm in the United States. Our staff members are experts in playground safety, athletic field testing, bleacher inspections, master plans, feasibility studies, and program development. Our training and seminars are informative and will make your organization the best it can be. PlaySafe, LLC staff includes Parks and Recreation, Physical Education and Community Health professionals with over 200 years of combined experience.

PlaySafe, LLC is the Premiere Recreational Consulting Company. PlaySafe, LLC assists municipalities, schools, childcare providers, communities, and other recreation-providing entities by offering the following services throughout the United States: Playground Equipment and Surfacing Audits, Recreational Topic Seminars and Training, Recreation and Physical Education Plans, GMax Turf Testing, Bleacher Inspections, and Expert Witness Services.


Playsafe and Live Well!

Butch DeFillippo is the owner of PlaySafe, LLC, the Premiere Recreational Consulting Company. PlaySafe, LLC assists municipalities, schools, childcare providers,...

There are 8 Comments

Steven Curry's picture

Why not include some practice questions?

Jim Joline's picture

The CPSI course is a revenue generating scam period. After one maybe two exams being passed by the test taker it should be at the most ceu's in a classroom. Those who have passed the test north of five times should be exempt. Really, an exam every three years is ludicrous. Only those who actually and officially inspect "might be subject " to the official inspection process. The rest of us is a waste of time . Stop with the nonsense please!

Jim LeBraun's picture

Challenge us. How many instructors are actually retired? Enough enough enough. You don't know anymore than the rest of us. Most of us are done with this nonsense. Please end this agony and find something else to do for the sane headed people. Go away...u don't know half of what I do. Stop with the generating scam. Please please please go away

Anonamous 's picture

I've taken and passed the test twice. But I can tell you that cramming so much information into two 8 hour classes and then expecting someone to be ready for the exam on the third day is absolutely ludicrous. This class should be held on a Thursday and Friday, let the students have Saturday and Sunday to study, and then administer the exam on Monday.

We're not school students. We're grownups with professional level jobs. We also have families and other responsibilities that need to be taken care of when we get home. But you force us to go home and stress out while studying for 4-5 hours starting at 8pm after the kids have been put to bed, dinner has been made, and lunches are packed for the next day.

Furthermore this should be an open book test. Requiring someone to memorize so much information in such a short period of time is not realistic. It's no wonder why the failure rate is between 20-30%. You're not giving 20-30% of the people enough time to absorb all of the information. It should also be open book because in the real-world that's what we do. We bring our field guides for reference.

I'm a fire code official and had to take 5 3-day classes. Each one finished with an open book test. Why? Because unlike CPSI instructors they know it's not realistic to expect someone to memorize so much information in just three days and then sit for a test.

brian brubaker's picture

Why not follow Pennsylvania's guideline on Pesticide Edu, Application and building credits in a three year period? We take the test one time for each category needed then attend seminars to keep your credits up to date. You do not have to take the tests over again.
CPSI retesting is ridiculous because we have all the literature we need for reference. We could attend a class every three years for updates, etc.

Blake Harvey 's picture

I am in agreement with almost all of the comments above. We are professionals with jobs and a family. I am also a college grad. The magnitude of information and the design of the test is a little out of line. The word ludicrous is used and I agree. There is far too much information to cram in roughly 16 hours of class. Besides all of this information can be referenced when you are out in the field conducting inspections. The whole process needs to be look at and modified in my opinion. I also have passed this class twice and my boss refuses to send me to continuing education.

Blake Harvey's picture

I just recently posted a comment on here last week. Since then I have taken the class again and am waiting to see if I passed the test. For anyone going to receritify, the entire format of the exam has changed. They don't test you on the material presented in class. In class you're given all this information about how each piece of equipment should be made from the manufacturer. Slide sizes and openings in borders and what not. No professional installer is going to fabricate as the will and not follow the documented install instructions from an engineer. No, no, the exam now tests you on how to apply the material in a manner of such that you can make an opinionated decision on how to rank hazards from a less than perfect non specific description. The majority of the exam has turned into audit and inspection question. Enough information is not given and you as the test taker are expected to rank the hazards. Have I made that clear enough? It was difficult before but they certainly made it more difficult now. Why is the exam so difficult? Here's a hint, I would not bother trying to cram all the numbers. Remember what's most important to avoid. Death by strangulation, death by falls. Understand what to do with standing water and where that ranks. This test has gotten harder for no reason I can see. Unless to many people were passing it. Sheer lunacy. Read their website, they actual compare being this prepared and knowledgeable as that of a doctor.

Dan's picture

I am taking the exam in July, I just got my study material last week...My supervisor is out on medical leave so i'm running a park solo, have little time to study at work or i doomed?

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