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Don’t Let Reliability Testing Turn Into a Hail Mary Pass

06 Feb 2017 by Tracy Jones

I have a confession to make. I loathe football. Yes, it’s true. I have spent my life surrounded by football-watching brothers, cousins, sons, and husbands and I don’t understand the first thing about it. I live in Louisiana in the heart of SEC territory. I truly cannot count the number or types of football games I’ve been to: powder-puff, flag, pee-wee, high school varsity, junior varsity, college, arena, professional, and even a prison game! I still know nothing about the game except that I yell when everyone else does and I love the New Orleans Saints (due to a childhood, okay, adult crush on Archie Manning). 

CLASS Trainer, Tracy JonesHowever, I do know all about one aspect of football: the Hail Mary Pass. If you look in the definitive book of "knowledge" (AKA Wikipedia), it defines the Hail Mary as "a very long forward pass in American football ... made in desperation with only a small chance of success." The term became popular a few years back when Roger Staubach coined the term. According to Wikipedia, in other fields, the term Hail Mary Pass generally refers to any last-ditch effort with little chance of success.

Unfortunately, I've seen too many CLASS participants resort to a Hail Mary Pass in their reliability testing experiences. It is sad but true. Listen to me, I don’t know squat about football--but I know a lot about helping people pass their reliability test, and I didn’t read it from Wikipedia!


As a trainer, it is your responsibility to prepare participants so they do not need to rely on a Hail Mary to attain their certification.

After a couple of years training for Teachstone I have learned that time management might be the number one key to passing the CLASS reliability test. While the information they learn is important, so is the timeline that they have to follow. So over the years, I’ve added more and more tips dealing with time management and testing to my trainings. Hopefully our participants will rely less on the “Hail Mary Pass” test approach and more on solid planning.

The first thing I do in my trainings is practice good time management with our trainings. I always try to start on time and end on time. I tell my participants how long breaks are and when I expect them back in their seats if they are ready to learn. And I stick to it. I believe I am showing them respect for their time and modeling the importance of keeping to a timeline.

On the last day of training, I spend a long time describing the testing process and so forth. I remind them that as a rule of thumb most people need to spend 8-10 hours preparing to take the test. Next, I have my participants turn to the inside cover of their manual and write down four dates. It looks something like this one.

Example Testing Timeline Dates

Now I explain to them how they have an eight-week test window and three attempts.

Then I ask them to make a plan. I start by pointing out the date two weeks out and add a reminder: "If you start your test within the first two weeks you have a much higher chance of becoming reliable." I prompt them to think about what they have going on, personally and professionaly, over the next two weeks. I ask them to look at their calendar and pencil in at least four two-hour study times during the next two weeks. Next, I tell them to pencil in 3-5 days in which they can devote 45 minutes per video for testing. If participants fail to make a written plan for how and when they plan to test, they better get their football gear out and start practicing for the long pass!

Next, we talk about what their plans might look like four weeks from today. I name a few events that will be going on around that time; that's typically when I start to see heads shaking across the room like little plastic dog heads on car dashboards. They are beginning to see what I mean about making a time plan. I point out that at four weeks, if they haven’t already been studying, it’s going to be like picking up new material. The good news is that at week four, there is still time to study and test without too much pressure.

Then we look at the date six weeks out. This is the tipping point between testing and resorting to a Hail Mary Pass. If they haven’t looked at their materials or even taken a single test attempt, they are in deep waters, but success is still possible. I know people who have passed the test on the very last day. And I also know that a Hail Mary Pass might just win the Super Bowl. I encourage participants who might find themselves in this situation to email Reliability Support (reliabilitysupport@teachstone.com) or their trainer. Both resources are there to  help.

Finally, we look at the final stretch, week eight. This is the last date to take the test. I always explain how they can find their testing deadline on their online dashboard at any time.  

While not all participants stick to the plan they initially make during the training, many of them do, and they email me to thank me for adding that extra bit of help. I also hear from participants who tell me it made them more mindful about the amount of time needed to prep and test. The moral of the story? While it's always possible for the Hail Mary Pass to win the football game, let's leave those nail-biter situations to the football fields and not our CLASS reliability testing!

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