Today's global PWB design job market is more competitive than it's ever been. To cope with the threats of downsizing and outsourcing, increasing numbers of PWB designers are recognizing the value of continuing education.
Designers who were formerly tentative about taking the IPC Certification Exams are now coming forward and diving into the process. Many of them haven't been exposed to a multiple choice examination for decades, and are understandably nervous about preparing for the big day.
Here's a typical comment from one of my CID certification candidates: "I've got a couple of weeks to review this material before I take the IPC CID Certification Exam. I'm staring at a 160-page book, a CD-ROM, and numerous IPC Specifications. Frankly, I'm so overwhelmed, I don't know where to start! Can you help me get focused?"
Here's the advice I give these candidates.
First, to get started in your study process, you'll need to look at two places in the training book (IPC PCB Designer's Certification Study Guide - CID Basic Training Module * Rev. A). The first place you'll look is at the beginning: The Introduction on "Page i" is a useful overview of the process. Although it says on "Page i, Paragraph 3" that "For study purposes, this guide should be supplemented with a copy of IPC-2221A, IPC-2222, and IPC-T-50," in reality, all the relevant passages that you should read from the IPC specifications are actually excerpted in the book itself. So ... focus on the book!
This means that, for now, you should put those specifications within easy reach on your book shelf at work, so you can reference them when needed during your normal work day. No memorization of the tables found within the specs is necessary to pass the exam.
For example, in the real world, when an electrical engineer informs a designer that a certain trace needs to accommodate 10 amps of current, the designer grabs the specs and looks it up, finds the charts, and does the math to determine how wide and how thick that trace needs to be. No one memorizes these things! Designer skills consist of knowing where to look to find the right information and tables, and most importantly, how to use them once you find them.
When you take the exam, you will be asked to use some tables and charts from the specs, but they will be given to you right in the exam book--just like in real life, you will need to know how to USE the tables and charts. And by the way, don't worry about my amperage example when studying for the CID exam; that will come later in the CID+ exam!
Cracking the Book
Turn the page to look at Pages ii and iii. Notice that the training book is divided into five sections, with the starting page for each section in BOLD on the right:
1. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
2. LAYOUT PRINCIPLES
3. COMPONENT AND ASSEMBLY ISSUES
4. PRINTED BOARD CHARACTERISTICS
5. DOCUMENTATION AND DIMENSIONING
Each section has 8 sub-sections (e.g., 1.1, 1.2), with their referencing page numbers in regular type on the right.
These sub-section numbers correspond to the slides found on the CD-ROM, and also the slides your instructor will use during the Workshop Review of the material. These two pages are a useful overview of the book's organization. These sub-section numbers also correspond to the second place (and the most important place) in the book to look at before you start. This second place is the BACK of the book.