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My Experience Taking the CEDS Exam (and Some Practical Tips)

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When I was thinking about sitting for the CEDS exam, I had questions. After I registered, I had more. Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I thought I’d compile the answers I found along with a few of my own observations.

What does the test cover?

The CEDS exam is 145 questions on 11 subjects:

  1. Discovery and the US Legal Framework
  2. Understanding Technology and Sources of ESI
  3. Information Governance & Litigation Readiness
  4. Identification and Preservation
  5. Collection of ESI
  6. Processing of ESI
  7. Document Review
  8. Production of ESI
  9. Project Management and Budgeting
  10. International and Cross-Border Discovery
  11. Ethical Considerations in E-Discovery

The most questions in a category is 24 and the least is four. To keep you on your toes the questions aren’t grouped by subject. Some questions in my estimation overlap more than one of the categories.

What’s the test format?

It’s a multiple-choice exam in the format of a narrative question with four possible answers. Question length ranges from two or three sentences to two or three paragraphs. Some are straightforward question and answers. Many present a scenario, which can be simple or complex, and ask you to choose the first or best thing you should do in the situation.

The ACEDS website offers a mini-mock test (open access after filling in a contact form). The sample questions give a good feel for the real thing in format and content.

How long is the test?

You’re allowed four hours. I finished in two hours and 40 minutes. I’m a fast reader so that’s probably on the short end, but I think most people will be able to complete the exam comfortably in under four hours.

Can you go back and change your answers?

You have the option to review and change your answers before submitting the exam. A nice feature of the testing program is that you can mark a question for later instead of answering it on the first pass. There’s a “Review All” summary page that lets you jump to the questions you marked for later.

You can also go back to the beginning and review the full exam. Doing that added another 30 minutes onto my total test time.

When will I get the results?

A passing grade is 70% (out of the 145 questions, 125 are scored). You get your results right after you hit submit. A page comes up that tells you whether you passed or failed. It also gives the number and percentage of questions you answered correctly, including a breakdown of how many answers you got right and wrong for each of the 11 categories. A confirmation email with the same information followed almost immediately.

How hard is the test?

The CEDS exam deserves its reputation as a challenging test. First, it covers the eDiscovery spectrum. The EDRM stages are well represented as you’d expect. There are also questions on a variety of other topics like legal ethics and the GDPR.

Second, it tests both legal knowledge and practical know-how. To give just a few examples, there are questions about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing discovery, digital forensics in departed employee investigations and ESI processing specifications.

Can you be more specific?

I’d rate the majority of the questions moderately difficult. A small number are easy and a few more than that are hard.

When and where is the exam held?

The exam is administered by a testing company as a proctored online test. You can register to take it at pretty much the day and time of your choosing. My number one test taking tip is to pick the time of day when you’re at your most awake and alert.

As long as you’re alone, undisturbed and on camera the whole time you can take it at home or the office. The testing company recommends home to avoid technical complications with office firewalls. However, the only absolute requirement is solitude.

You can opt to take the exam onsite instead of online but it’s not exactly convenient. When I looked at onsite options for the month ahead there was precisely one day to choose from and a single test site 35 minutes from me.

Am I allowed to reschedule?

The online test can be rescheduled for no fee up to 24 hours before test start time and for a fee ($125 at writing) after that. For onsite tests you have to reschedule farther ahead to avoid the fee.

Is there anything else I need to do to get ready for the exam?

The next step after registering for the CEDS is to create an account on the testing company website and schedule your exam. Assuming you’re taking the test online there are several things to do beforehand to prep your workstation. Equipment-wise, multiple monitors are not allowed; internal or external camera is accepted; you must download and install a secure browser. You also have to configure biometric authentication (photo and keystroke).

It’s a big world and there must be some people out there who don’t get nervous before a test. I’m not one of them. However, I have learned over the years that the more I know about how the test works, the less anxious I feel going in. I hope this information will take some of the stress out of your exam preparation too.

Helen Geib on Email
Helen Geib
Helen Geib is Of Counsel for Hoover Hull Turner LLP in Indianapolis, IN. Her deep knowledge of eDiscovery law and practice was gained over many years of experience as a litigator and discovery consultant. Helen is a nationally recognized author and presenter. She has published numerous articles on electronic discovery, professional development, and courtroom evidence presentation, and she regularly speaks about topics relating to law and technology. In 2019, she was recognized as E-Discovery, Information Governance & Cybersecurity Professional of the Year by the Indianapolis Bar Association. Helen obtained her JD, summa cum laude, from The John Marshall Law School and is a member of the bar of the State of Indiana and the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She is past chair and serves on the Executive Committee for the IndyBar E-Discovery, Information Governance & Cybersecurity Section.

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