Becoming a PGA Member: Step 7

It's more than
It’s more than a little relieving to see you’re 100% Complete with the Portfolio.

After you complete your Work Experience Portfolio, it’s time to submit it to a PGA Education faculty member for grading. It’s an exciting (and more than a little relieving) feeling when you click on the portfolio progress bar and all you can see staring back at you is “100% Complete” and a “Submit Level 1 to Faculty Review” button.

You have to check a box that reads, “I agree to send my PGA Work Experience Portfolio Level 1 in for review by a Faculty member. I acknowledge that I will not be able to access my Level 1 Portfolio for the duration that the Portfolio is under review. I further acknowledge that I will be notified when the review of my Level 1 Portfolio has been completed.”

Once your Portfolio has been received, you’ll get an email thanking you for your submission and telling you that it’s “currently in the review process and will be evaluated within 30 days” of the receipt date. At the Seminar, we were told it could take anywhere from 15-30 days depending on how busy it was at PGA Education at the time and how many other Portfolios they had received. So it’s submit… and wait. At least, that’s what you would think.

I really connected with PGA Education faculty member Bill Cioffoletti at the seminar, so I called him several times to update him on my progress, ask him questions, and eventually ask him if he would personally grade my Portfolio. Bill is a bit of a whirling dervish. I submitted my Portfolio for grading on Halloween and was shocked to get an email back exactly seven days later, on November 7th, telling me that my Portfolio had been approved. I have to tell you that I was beyond a little surprised to get it back so quickly. Bill is awesome! Use your resources.

If you really connect with a facility member at the Seminar like I did with Bill, try to have that person grade your Portfolio if you can. Take advantage of the connection you’ve made!

Before Day 4 of the Seminar, faculty member Erik Nielsen (PGA) told me that only 20% of the 1,300 Level 1 attendees every year (about 260) get through the level within 12 months. The Portfolio wasn’t hard, but it was tedious, and it did take time. However, if you keep your head down, you can complete it sooner rather than later. I attended the Level 1 Seminar August 8-12, submitted my Portfolio on October 31st, got it approved November 7th, and tested December 9th.

Bill Cioffoletti suprised me by grading my Portfolio in just one week.
Bill Cioffoletti suprised me by grading my Portfolio in just one week.

The Portfolio approval email says “you’ll receive an email from PGA’s testing company (PSI Exams) within 5 business days with test scheduling information.” I got that email the following day. Registration is $78.

The five-test battery is extensive, and it’s recommended that you allow roughly four hours to complete the 160-215-question exam (40 minutes for all of the exams except Introduction to Teaching and Golf Club Performance, which has an 80-minute time limit).

Cost: $78
Running Total: $3,665.99

Time to Study
Once you schedule your test, it’s time to start studying for the Level 1 Test Battery. Bill recommended writing a short paragraph answering each Learning Outcome question at the end of every section. “There’s no way you’re going to be able to read 461 pages (747 if you count the PowerPoint slides in the Seminar Manuals), so don’t even waste your time,” said Bill. “Write a paragraph on all the learning outcomes, and you’ll be good to go.”

My understanding is that there are also practice exams available for purchase, but I never looked into it. My thinking was that I’ve spent enough money already.

Testing Day
My exam was at 9:00a at PSI Exams’ local testing center on Tucson’s west side. The exam was 240 questions long (not the 165-215 questions they said it would be), a combination of True/False and Multiple Choice, but it was not in same order as Level 1. I started with Business Planning before moving on to Customer Relations, Golf Car Fleet Management, Introduction to Teaching and Golf Club Performance, and finally, Tournament Operations.

Four of the exams were 33 questions each (with three questions, at random, not scored on each test), but Intro to Teaching and Golf Club Performance consisted of 66 questions (with six questions, at random, not scored).

I flew through the 33-question exams. They took just 17 minutes, 18 minutes, 22 minutes, and 16 minutes respectively (with a five-minute bathroom break somewhere in between) despite having a 40-minute time limit. I spent more time looking back over my answers than I did taking the actual exams. The 66-question exam took me the longest at 25 minutes, even though it was twice as long, but had an 80-minute time limit. You have to score at least 70% to pass.

PSI Exams are usually located in a nondescript office building like this one.
PSI Exams are usually located in a nondescript office building like this one.

I found Bill’s advice above to be both true… and false. I put together a 22-page study guide and was able to pass four out of the five exams without much trouble and with scores in the high 80th to low 90th percentile. The exams were fair, and unlike the last time I was at a PSI Exams testing center, I didn’t feel like I was slowly sweating to death. If PSI has your email address on file, you can email yourself your test results right from your computer inside the testing center with just one click. That’s pretty cool!

In the coming days, I’ll be posting that study guide for others to follow if they wish. The one exam I did fail to pass on my first try was Golf Car Fleet Management. I missed it by just two and left the building kicking myself a little to get so close and come up just short. Now that I think about it, Bill told me that’s the exam the most people fail. Maybe it’s because it’s the only topic PGA Education doesn’t cover at the Level 1 Seminar!

Immediately after the exam, while the information was still fresh in my mind, I rushed back home and studied all of the questions I thought I missed. If had to re-take the test today, I know I would pass it. I also know I’ll feel a tremendous sense of relief when Level 1 is finally in my rearview mirror.

Scheduling a Re-take
Since I failed to pass Golf Car Fleet Management, I have to re-take the exam. I tried to schedule the re-take when I got home a few hours after the battery but was told I couldn’t do so yet. Expect to receive an email invitation from PSI Exams to register to schedule your exam within 24-48 hours. I took my battery on a Friday and got email by mid-morning on Monday. Great news! It turns out the cost to re-take is only $32, not the $40 they told us it would be when we attended the Level 1 Seminar.

The re-take was exactly like the first test I took, except that the questions were in a slightly different order. It took me less than ten minutes, and I’m happy and relieved to say that I got the 70% required to pass. So long Level 1. Now it’s on to Level 2!

Cost: $32
Running Total: $3,697.99

Next On the Tee
Register for the PGM 2.0 Level 2 Seminar back in Florida. Once you pass all five tests, you can register for Level 2. Unfortunately, because my wife and I are trying to get pregnant and because of the Zika Virus scare, I can’t go back to Florida again until our baby is born. This is scary stuff! Don’t believe me? Just watch this recent 60 Minutes’ report (as of November 6th) on the effects of the virus on pregnant women.

Cost: TBD

Previous Steps
Step 1 – In order to become a PGA member, you first have to become a registered apprentice and go through the PGA Professional Golf Management (PGA PGM) Program. It takes up to three years to complete all 11 steps. Step 1 is pretty self-explanatory. To register into the PGA PGM Program, you have to register or re-register as an apprentice and complete a Background Check. (Cost: $58.99)

Step 2 – You’re not considered a PGA Apprentice until you satisfy all the requirements at the Qualifying Level and register as an apprentice. At the Qualifying Level, applicants must complete three online courses: Introduction to the PGM and the Golf Profession, PGA History and Constitution, and Rules of Golf 1 as well as pass a knowledge test based on the three courses. (Cost: $200)

To earn your PGA Certification, at some point, you have to pass a PAT.
To earn your PGA Certification, at some point, you have to pass a PAT.

PGA Qualifying Test – This 90-minute, 75 question test is administered by PSI Exam centers nationwide. The test covers three online courses: Introduction to the PGM and the Golf Profession, PGA History and Constitution, and Rules of Golf 1. A clean, unmarked copy of the Rules of Golf is permitted into the testing center and a score of 70% is required to pass. (Cost: $40)

Step 3 – The 36-hole, one-day Playing Ability Test (PAT) at a PGA Approved Golf Course requires a target score within 15 shots of the course rating in order to pass. The $160 total cost includes the $100 pre-registration fee as well another $60 paid on-site to cover the cost of green fees, cart fee, range balls, and lunch. (Cost: $160)

Step 4 – Print out the PGA PGM Program Application, get it signed by your Current Employer/Intermediate Supervisor, and then fax or email it back to the PGA. Be sure to include proof of your highest level of education and a copy of Work Permit or Employment Visa if you’re not a U.S. Citizen.

The last page of the application is a combination of National Fees ($60), Section Fees ($250), Liability Insurance ($25), Life Insurance ($34), a Registration Fee ($200), and the Level 1 Online Course Access Fee ($560). Once your registration is approved, you’ll have access to the Level 1 courses through the PGA Knowledge Center. (Cost: $1,129)

Step 5 – Register for the PGM 2.0 Level 1 Seminar in Florida
The all-inclusive package includes five days of classes, airfare to West Palm Beach (from the city you prefer to fly out of), lodging for the week (it’s $500 more for your own hotel room if you don’t want to share with another Apprentice for the five days), ground transportation, and breakfast and lunch each day. (Cost: $2,000)

Apprentices registered after January 1, 2010, can view and/or download PGA PGM 2.0 curriculum information online.

Step 6 – Level 1 Work Experience Portfolio
The average student takes 26 months to pass Level 1: the Portfolio and all five tests. That’s ridiculous! In the right environment, a properly motivated Apprentice can easily complete the task in less than two months. It’s not difficult, but it is time consuming and, at times, tedious. (Cost: $0)

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor or equivalent, you should submit documentation to the PGA Membership Department to determine eligibility for PGA Membership prior to proceeding. Per the PGA Code of Ethics, certain transgressions are cause for permanent preclusion to PGA Membership.

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