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

A Newbies Journey Through the CFI Prep Course and Certification… Join Me, Won’t You?

First things first, and in the interest of transparency, “newbie” may not be the most accurate description of myself.  I am not “new” to this field (investigations, interviews, interrogations), nor am I “new” to the general teachings of Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates.

I am, however, a newly hired employee of the aforementioned worldwide leaders in interview, investigation and interrogation training and consulting (no pressure, I know).




I’m really not trying to earn points here…though maybe that will help me with this exam.



So when the WZ CEO, and all around great guy, Shane Sturman, (ok, maybe I am trying to earn some points with the bosses) proposed the idea of me writing a blog to document my progress through the CFI Prep Course and certification, all I could say aloud was “Sure! That sounds like a great idea.”

Key word: aloud. Internally, I was in DEFCON 1 panic mode… but I digress.

Outside of various formalized investigation summary reports, memorandum reports, etc. that I have authored over the span of my professional career, I have never written anything that would be potentially viewed by members of a professional community.  Much less something that was supposed to inform and inspire said readers.  But there is a first time for everything!





Much like the first time my dog Koda decided he was going to read a book.

Best study buddy ever.





Over the coming weeks I will diligently review the CFI prep course, and in turn will be sharing my experience and takeaways from each individual segment.  I also plan to document how long it took me to review each section, as well as when I was able to make the time to study.

Let’s be honest: studying for an in-depth examination is not the easiest bite to swallow when you have a job, commute, family (which includes pets), travel, and voluntary or community responsibilities (among a litany of other possible hurdles I failed to mention) already on your plate.  Not only can I include all of the above on my barely visible plate-o-life, I also have two fall marathons that I have been registered for since early this past spring: Chicago AND New York City.




Because my plate-o-life doesn’t abide by portion controls…I’m coming for you, World Majors!





Despite any perceived and/or unexpected hurdles (shout out to Wayne, who just gave me another assignment while I was typing this) we encounter along the way, the truth is this training is a worthy recipient of my time and attention, and yours!  If you don’t believe me, feel free to reach out to any one of the approximately 1800 CFI’s who have already received their designation and ask their opinion.  Better yet, take a few moments to peruse current job listings in any private or public sector investigative field.  If you do, you may notice a theme: the CFI designation is a common preference.

For those of you who are not familiar with the CFI designation, I commend you for sticking with me this far.  If you think this blog is interesting, just imagine how interesting the actual topic of this article is!  That being said, I strongly encourage you to check out the International Association of Interviewer’s website to learn more.

If you don’t trust my hyperlink, here’s a brief definition of a CFI: Certified Forensic Interviewer, a.k.a.: expert interviewer and interrogator, top of the line investigator, someone you should strive to be, someone you should strive to hire, and someone who has attained an overall bad-assery level in our industry.  (If that definition didn’t peak your interest to check out IAI, I don’t know what will.)

Now that you’ve taken the time to tear yourself away from the best blog ever (this one, obviously) and determined that I was 100% accurate in my definition of a CFI, it’s time to get down to business.  Once you’ve completed and submitted your application, and it has been approved, you will receive a welcome email containing a link to the CFI Exam Prep Course website.  From there you will be able to complete a pre-test and review all 15 segments that form the content of the exam.  Each segment will also include practice questions covering some of the previously reviewed material.  Then we wrap the prep with a post-test, to get a sense of how much we’ve learned and improved.

Just a friendly heads up from me to you – I’ve been forewarned that the practice questions are MUCH easier than those found on the actual exam.  Long story short, do NOT plan on passing this exam just by memorizing the practice questions.  That would be equivalent to planning to run a marathon by watching a highlight reel of the Boston Marathon on repeat – you may make great observations and mental notes of what you should do on race day, but if you have not put in the actual effort you will FAIL.  Miserably.  (Winning a Marathon can be miserable enough, so just imagine how miserable it would be to utterly and completely fail at one…)




No matter what training and experience you have, the struggle is real. But we’re (sort of) in this together!



If reading on a computer or teeny-tiny tablet is not your ideal study technique, you could also attend a CFI Exam Prep 2 Day Seminar (YOU can… I do not get that option); but if you’re anything like me, i.e. learn better in a classroom setting, then the CFI Exam Prep 2 Day Seminar is the way to go. Not only will you get access to the online prep course, but you’ll also get the pleasure of learning from the one and only Wayne Hoover, in person.

Alright.  I think I’ve thoroughly thrown enough information at you to get familiarized with the course of this blog, and to hopefully get you started on your own journey to the CFI Exam.  In my next post, I will aim to cover the first two segments of the Prep course: Preparation and Interview Setting, and Legal Aspects.  Until then, consider me your cyber study buddy or your CFI Exam Prep pace group leader, if you will.





(yes, that’s me – HAPPY as can be just before mile 23 of my first Chicago marathon, circa 2014) 
Replace “distance” with “designation” and this quote is spot on!

 Read Part 2 of Tammy’s blog here.