It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon: Preparing for the CFI Exam, Part 5

The CONCLUSION to a Newbies Journey Through the CFI Prep Course and Certification!

Hello again to all of the aspiring CFI’s and anyone else who has been keeping up with this blog series!  As you may have ascertained from the previous four entries, the goal of this blog is to give you (yes you!) an idea of what to expect when you’re preparing to take the Certified Forensic Interviewer certification exam.  I have been working through the CFI prep course, breaking it down into manageable segments and noting special areas of interest as well as the amount of time each segment took me to review.  I have also had a bit of fun relating this virtual study guide session to one of my other passions – running – in hopes to not only inspire you all to invest in yourself by continuing your education and taking the CFI exam, but also to maybe get some of you interested in hitting the pavement.  If my blog series has done either the former or the latter, please let me know! I am also open to providing advice or tossing ideas around should you be interested… but until then, keep on keeping on with this series!

In my previous post, we collectively completed what I figured to be our Half Marathon distance, by reviewing six segments of the CFI prep course: Handling Denials, Obtaining the Statement, Telephone Interviewing, Fact Gathering, and Sexual Harassment Interviewing.  Six segments in one post may have initially seemed overwhelming, but I bet you all powered through like the champs you all are, and at the end you probably thought – “huh, that wasn’t that bad! Tammy was right.” [maybe not that last part, but still –  you finished!] Trust me, I said the same thing after completing my first half marathon and downing a slice of Giordano’s deep dish pizza, followed almost immediately (within a half hour) by a black & blue burger, fries, and a side of chocolate chip pancakes – for good measure.

This applies to the CFI exam, running any distance, and eating like a teenage boy…

That means that this post, my friends, is it – this is the MARATHON post!  My final installment in the series, which means we will be wrapping up the CFI exam prep course by reviewing the last three segments: Behavioral Interview, Field Interviews and the Final Practice Exam.  For good measure, and to give you a gentle nudge towards that finish line, I’ll give you all a little insight into what exactly exam day looked like for me – so you’re not caught off guard. With all that said, let’s jump right in and do the darn thing!

This isn’t my first post… this should not come as a surprise to you.

We’re hitting the starting line in this entry with the Behavioral Interview Technique.  As you may recall from the Interpretations of Behavior segment in my third entry, there is no singular behavior that is wholly indicative of truth or deception, and as such, it is very important to establish a subject’s behavioral baseline at the beginning of each interview or interrogation.  Such is the case with the Behavioral Interview – we must be able to establish a subject’s baseline in order to determine whether we can eliminate them from suspicion or they continue to be the focus of our investigation based off of answers provided by the subject to our line of questions with the Behavioral Interview.  What was really interesting for me to learn about the Behavioral Interview – a technique I had never utilized before – was that you alert all the interviewees to the issue under investigation through the line of questioning.  The Behavioral Interview is a great tool to use when you do not have a single clear suspect in an investigation because the line of questioning, which is uniform for all who are questioned, specifically includes the act/event/loss that you are investigating, thus allowing the interviewer to eliminate the innocent based on their responses to questions about the specific issue at hand.  This chapter outlines the differences between the behavior provoking questions and the control questions, and provides video examples of both, accompanied by an example of what kind of behavior/response the questions may elicit from your subject.  The chapter also covers suggestions on how to schedule the interviews based on what type of investigation you are conducting.  Overall a pretty succinct chapter with video clips and quiz, and with an utter lack of distractions, I was able to completely review this segment in about an hour.  However, if this is a new technique for you, as it was me, it may warrant additional review – even after you’ve nailed that post segment quiz!

The half way point of this review (a.k.a. the half marathon mark – there’s no turning back now!) is the Field Interviewing segment.  While Field Interviewing was most definitely nothing new to me thanks to my time in the public sector, I still found this segment to be a nice review of the advantages and disadvantages of Field Interviewing.  In addition to listing both the pros and cons of field interviews of witnesses, victims or subjects, this portion also took the time to caution readers to the real safety concerns that interviewers may encounter while conducting field interviews.  The Field Interviewing segment did come across a bit heavy in the public sector/law enforcement examples and references, but rightfully so as those in a career in any of those relatable fields are more likely to be conducting field interviews on a more regular basis.  As such, this segment covered case law relevant to field investigations, including Terry v. Ohio and People v. Vasquez.  This portion continues with the behavioral considerations related to field interviews and notes that the spontaneous nature of the field interview is advantageous for the interview, because the guilty subject, or any interviewee who is attempting to conceal information, will have a more difficult time masking his body’s natural response to stress (a.k.a. questions about an incident that they do not want to answer).  While this may seem like a quick review, it is still worthwhile to take your time here and not breeze through.  Between the segment review, video clips, and a very needy dog, it took me about 45 minutes to review and complete this segment plus the end of chapter quiz.

If anyone ever figures out how to do this, let me know…
It’s literally impossible!

With the Field Interview segment completed, we are nearing the end of our race to the CFI certification!  Didn’t those last two segments feel like a breeze after all the time and effort you’ve put into all the other segments so far?!  That, my friends, is why there are segments in marathon training too – base, build, peak, and taper – all of which lead up to the day you’ve been enduring all those miles/study hours for – race/EXAM day!  This post has been all about that taper, my friends, which includes the shortest last long run of training before the big day… but instead of making you all run 8 miles, the CFI prep course simply has you take a final practice test consisting of 140 questions.  I’m not going to lie here and tell you how long it took me to take the final practice exam, because I was so focused on the practice quiz itself that I did not take the time to notate my start and end times – please forgive me!  I will tell you it felt like hours, but was more likely somewhere around 20 minutes – and that’s because I’m an extreme over analyzer.  I WILL tell you, as a treat from me to you, that the questions in the practice exam at the end of the CFI prep course are all multiple choice or true/false type questions.  It is a great way for you to get a quick understanding of how you stand as far as knowledge of the extensive information contained in the review, but it is NOT at all like the real CFI exam! Dun, dun, DUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!

Test anxiety? I had it too… just remember – you got this!

On to test day!  First things first, you get to schedule your own exam day, which can be kind of cool – or it can be an additional level of stress because the date is not set.  So if you’re a procrastinator, with studying or just in life in general, I would highly suggest scheduling the exam as soon as you commit to taking it.  You can always reschedule the actual date of the exam depending upon how your study progress is going, but lock that date in people!  You’ve made the first step by deciding to continue to challenge yourself and grow professionally; don’t let it become an easy excuse to just pass on as the days/weeks/months go by.  Now if you’re anything like me, and you too suffer from extreme test anxiety, I highly suggest scheduling the exam for the early afternoon.  By scheduling it after lunch – a light lunch, nothing heavy or food-coma inducing – I was able to run through the practice exam a couple more times in the morning and review any segments that I either missed during the practice exam or just wanted to buff up on before the big show.

The exam consists of 160 questions total, 140 of which are scored, and you are allotted three hours to complete the exam.  Which is great, because if you’ve studied, that leaves you plenty of time to either feel like a BA for completing early (average exam time is approximately 91 minutes) OR you have plenty of time to look at any questions that you may have flagged for review during the course of the exam.  Three hours or not, I would caution everyone against getting lackadaisical during the exam – that three-hour mark can creep up on you just as quickly as the six-month deadline to take the exam can!  And as just another heads-up from your awesome study buddy/pace leader – the questions on the actual exam are MUCH more challenging than the ones found in the CFI prep course.  While the answers are still multiple choice, the questions in the exam are comprised of recall, application and analysis scenarios, requiring you to determine which interview or interrogation method is being used, what step of the method the scenario is at, and the next best step or response.   It is SERIOUS stuff folks, but you’re ready for it!

That’s you, in the kayak, which makes me the shark – a.k.a. your motivation for the CFI Exam!
(or maybe a raise, professional development, personal achievement, etc., is your motivation…)

160 questions, approximately an hour and a half of sitting uncomfortably at a semi-quarantined computer, and that’s it – the light at the end of the tunnel you’ve been anticipating all along!  Once you complete the exam, you’ll get your test results on sight, and then you can celebrate; however, you see fit!  Personally, I bought a nice bottle of red and made some coworkers celebrate with me.  Whatever you choose to do to celebrate your accomplishment post exam, I can personally guarantee you deserve!  The minute I walked back in the door at WZ I received several comments about how I literally looked relieved/relaxed/anything other than my test anxiety ridden self I had looked days and week prior to the exam.  The other question I received once I completed the exam is the same I’ve received from several seminar attendees as well – how did the CFI exam and designation compare to the CFE exam and designation?  For those of you who have not cyber stalked me yet or are not familiar with the CFE designation, CFE stands for Certified Fraud Examiner and the designating organization is the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), an organization that I have proudly been a member of since 2011.  While I always state that the degree of difficulty in the exams does not correlate to the significance of the designation, I can say that for me, personally, the CFI exam was much more challenging.  That being said, I do believe that the two designations and correlating required training are very complimentary.  By joining the ACFE and studying for and completing the CFE exam, I vastly expanded my knowledge into a plethora of different types of theft and fraud investigations in both the public and private sector, many of which I had not previously had direct experience in.  Similarly, in studying for and completing the CFI exam (and by joining the WZ team) I became exposed to a variety of different interview and interrogation techniques that I had never used before.  By obtaining these two designations, I now have two pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly together, complimenting my professional experience, and making me a true leader in my field.

CONGRATULATIONS!  That, ladies and gents, is a wrap.  Once the exam is complete you are officially across the finish line and safely out of reach of my continued running and racing references – and, unfortunately, all my highly entertaining selfies and memes.  As I’ve said all along – you are doing yourself a great service simply by taking the first step in achieving the Certified Forensic Interviewer designation.  Don’t rest on your laurels with this exam; put in the time – which is very, very manageable – and study, study, study!  It’s worth it, I promise!  I know you all will do well, and I cannot wait to hear about your personal experiences, so let me know how it goes!  Send me an email, LinkedIn message, or even a tweet to keep me posted on your progress as you study for the exam and, most importantly, how much butt you end up kicking on the exam itself. It has been an absolute blast taking you guys through the CFI prep course, and all I have to say now is GOOD LUCK!


No more running memes for you – it’s all inspiration and motivation from here on out!