What To Do If You Didn’t Pass Your Six Sigma Exam.

“Help! I Didn’t Pass My Six Sigma Exam”

I get this message a lot. After my 2016 Lessons Learned article so many people wrote in that they tried to take a Six Sigma exam last year and didn’t pass.

Don’t worry. Many people don’t pass the first time. In fact, it was when several outstanding colleagues of mine didn’t pass did I realize how much effort it was going to take.

As I mentioned last week, I am writing a few more specific articles that should help.

The first thing I would recommend would be to sit down and decide why you didn’t pass. Were you able to put the appropriate amount of time into studying? Did the test have more of a certain type or different questions than you anticipated? Did the test play to your weak areas instead of your strengths.

Whatever it was, it is important to realize this is just a temporary set back.

The important thing to do is to learn from that experience and make a new plan to achieve your goal this year.

In the meantime, I did write a lengthy PDF covering very specific studying tactics to do. Please take the survey here and you’ll be directed right to the pdf. Everyone I know that follows that process has success passing their exam. Every single one. Yes, it takes hard work. Yes, I am working on building something to make the process easier. Perhaps this process will work for you, too.

One audience member describes how he passed his exam:

Preparing well organized notes for terminologies and important formulas and dividing the notebook for sections of the DMAIC phases to find the notes quickly was important! The test was computerized, but not to worry, just read the instructions carefully! A digital calculator was provided although you can bring your own also. Preparation and test practices were essential as you can’t rely on the notes for each question, you will run out of time! Finally a good night sleep, well balanced diet before the exam and good water intake are necessary for concentrating!

For a greater end-to-end overview I’ve written an article as general overview on how to study.  And this article shows how I prepared for the Villanova Six Sigma Black Belt and this other article shows exactly what I did to pass the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt exam on the first try.

Please give those a try and let me know how else I can best help.

Did you pass an exam? Reply in the comments here and share your best tips!

Didn’t pass, write back to me and let me know how I can help. Or leave a comment on this post and start a conversation.

Best, Ted.

PS In case it is helpful, here is an article I wrote for the ASQ Influential Voices Blog on how people just starting out in a career in quality succeed.


Lessons from 2016 by Six Sigma Study Guide

The new year is a great time for reflection. And of course I did that here at Six Sigma Study Guide by affinitizing all of the great feedback that was shared with us over the year.

Speaking of feedback, I just got an email with some great news:

“Thank you Ted for replying! I took the test this past December and I passed! I am SSGB certified 🙂

Thanks for the great tests and well written and informative materials found on your site!” – Jehan.

It’s feedback like that that makes me keep building this site! I love helping other reach their career goals.

Did You Take a Six Sigma Certification Exam in 2016?

If you did, and you found value in the free material at SixSigmaStudyGuide.com, I’d love to hear about it. Maybe you passed your exam. Maybe you didn’t – that’s ok- and you’re gearing up to take another shot this year. Either way I want to hear about it. And I want to know what I can do to help. Please reply to this email or contact me here.

Of Course, There are Things to Be Improved

There was lots of other positive feedback on the quality of the content here. That was great to hear. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the existing content base as well as number of topics covered, not to mention the medium they should be available in (audio, video).

Interestingly, the greatest areas of need I saw was around content that I had already created.

Over the last year SixSigmaStudyGuide.com has seen tremendous growth. The number of people visiting the site and using the material is just staggering. With any expanding venture come growing pains. It turns out that some of the most-requested material isn’t as accessible as I would like.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share a few emails covering the following topics:

  • Learning
    • Six Sigma Basics
    • Deeper Dives into Select Topics
  • Studying
    • How to Study and Prepare?
    • How Much Time is Necessary to Study?
    • What Reference Books to Use (Given limited budget).
    • Retaining all of the Material.
  • Employment
  • Applications & Case Studies

If there’s something you’d like me to cover, reply to this email or contact me here.

Cheers to a great 2017!


Team Dynamics, Mechanics & Communications

This is divided into what teams do (meetings, process) and how they do it (decision making)

Team mechanics

-agendas, times, locations
–Ex Agendas and meeting mins are distributed.
Team communication
-A communication process is completed when feedback is received.
–Ex. Task is assigned, worker acknowledges the task and describes how he will perform the task.


Effective communication

-Necessary as communication supports everything a business does.
-Does not ensure success, but lack of it will lead to failure.

-Ensures that the business objectives are understood.
-Tests for understanding / feedback is received.

Communication types
-One-way comms
–letters, reports, computer messages, and email.

Team Facilitation

Ground rules should be established as a preventive measure to avoid misconduct, not as a reactive measure.

Team Meetings

Team meetings should be reviewed in terms of process, results, and relationships.
-Learning the teamwork process and improving the work process.


Team Decision Making

Types of decision making

  • Authoritarian
    • Should not be used on a Lean Six Sigma project
  • Consultative
    • You decide to seek input from the team before making a decision.
    • Ex. polling the group to see if we should continue with a meeting if a team member is sick.
  • Consensus
    • achieving consensus is the preferred method of decision making in a Lean Six Sigma team
    • The most effective decision-making method in Six Sigma
  • Voting
  • 100% agreement

Decision Making Techniques

  • Brainstorming
  • Hitting and running
  • Negative Polling:
    • Is there anyone who disagrees with these ground rules.” Very quick.
    • a negative poll is conducted when the meeting facilitator asks a question such as, “Does anyone disagree with the ideas we just discussed?” If everyone is silent, the team will know that everyone is in agreement and the team can move on to a new issue without a great deal of time being wasted.
    • A technique used to establish agreement within a team without taking a great deal of time.
  • Multivoting
  • Nominal group technique

Team Facilitation

Ground rules should be established as a preventive measure to avoid misconduct, not as a reactive measure.



Team Conflict Prevention and Resolution

Team Conflict

-Has a negative impact on teams.
-Few people thrive
-Usually results in a lose/win situation or a lose/lose situation.
-Rarely leads to creative alternative solutions.
-When 2 team members both express strong opposing views, have each clearly state their positions.

Conflict resolution

–If a team lead wants to be assertive, they must be collaborative.
–Must not be avoiding, accommodating, or compromising.


-Team members agree with the team even if they know they are wrong
-Team members withhold unpopular ideas from the team.
-Ex. teammembers shout down new ideas


Dealing with the “Expert”

  • Remind him or her of the consensus aim,
  • Suggest allowing the data to do the talking,
  • Ask for another team member’s thoughts when you can get a word in
  • Don’t bother asking to cite sources.

Dealing with Maladaptive Behavior

  • The team leader must work to identify the root cause of the behavior.
  • Maladaptive behavior is usually a symptom of an underlying problem, so the team leader must work to identify the root cause of the behavior, particularly when the behavior is repeated or when early attempts to intervene fail to change the behavior.
  • Immediate intervention and openly addressing the behavior in front of the team are valid in many instances, but they are not always the best approaches because they can have the effect of turning a mole hill into a mountain.
  • Asking the team for input before addressing the problem can also be valid, but it is definitely not something a team leader “must” do.
  • Specific behavior:
    • Reign in a neighsayer, ask how the situation can be improved.
    • Verbal attacker
    • Door slammer
    • Loudmouth

Stop people from dominating meetings

Kellogg – Animation – Final for Site

Avoiding Resource Conflicts

Projects may encounter conflicts in demand for the same resources. You can minimize this with resource leveling. Resource leveling smooth peaks and valleys in demand and spreads it more evenly over time. conflicts are resolved by scheduling activities in the slack time of another.


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Evolutionary Operations Methodology (EVOP)

The purpose of the evolutionary operations methodology (EVOP) is to improve a process through systematic changes in the operating conditions of a given set of factors. An experimental design is established and conducted through a series of phases and cycles. The effects are tested for statistical significance against experimental error when such error can be calculated. When a factor is found to be significant, the operating conditions for that factor are reset and the experiment conducted again. This process continues until no further gain is achieved. Hence, the concept of an evolution is established.


How Can Someone Starting Out in Quality Succeed?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to get started in a quality field. I’ve long wanted to write an article I could direct people to. When the ASQ Influential Voices program asked me to write on the subject I was happy to start!

I mean, what better career could you hope for? The root of quality is improving processes for people. It’s not a stretch to say the efforts of quality practitioners have dramatically improved the standard of living for the world over the last hundred years. Spending your time, talent and energy in that pursuit is a great and noble thing!

In fact, I was so happy to start I just began listing things; to-do lists, must-read books, practical advice, checklists, and more. It wasn’t long until I far exceeded the scope of what I could hope to publish in an article.


In an effort to reduce the sheer volume, I focused on the 80-20 principle; what are the primary drivers that would enable success. This is what I came up with in no specific order;

  1. Read.
  2. Find mentors.
  3. When in doubt, solve a problem for someone else.

That’s it. That’s the advice I will give my own children as they grow up.

For a longer discussion, I invite you to read the following abridged version of my original attempt.

Problems Starting Out

Sure, it’s difficult when you start out. From the many conversations I’ve had with visitors to this site I’ve heard the following common:

  • Don’t know the industry well
  • May not have credibility in the eyes of your peers
  • Don’t know the people “who can make things happen”
  • Don’t have experience

The good news is that it’s up to you. All you have to do is find an appreciative audience and start.

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

Zig Ziglar

And when you look at anyone who is operating in a space you want to be in it looks like they took a defined path that rocketed them to their field. From what I’ve learned from top performers, that is simply not the case. They just kept on working, learning, and applying that knowledge and one opportunity led to another.

The important thing is to get started.

Things in Your Favor

You are Not Alone!

The good thing is that you have lots of company! From new global market entrants, to recent college graduates, to those making career changes and reinventing themselves as a quality improvement practitioner, there are a lot of people in your situation!

Fortunately, there’s a lot of need as well. Look around. Think of the last few hours of your day. Chances are it wasn’t an idyllic perfect experience. There are things that get broken, services that are erratic, and experiences that just don’t pan out as we expect them to.

Permission no Longer Required

Another tailwind is that you no longer need permission to work on quality. In fact, improving quality is just “table stakes” for being hired. Employers want people who will take a personal, vested interest in improving the customer experience – and that is the heart of what quality it.

Unlike the proprietary counterparts that it soon eclipsed, the Internet has no main menu, no CEO, and no business plan. Anything could be built on top of it without permission of a central authority… To see the multidimensionality of quality in the information space is to understand the breathtaking array of choices and trade offs.

Stanley McChrystal and Rodney Evans, “The Future of Leadership: From Efficiency To Adaptability.”

You don’t have to be employed with Quality in your title to begin your work. In fact, if you want to get a job in quality, it’s best if you can apply it in your current position first. (See my guide to getting a job as a Six Sigma Black Belt.)

How to Start a Successful Quality Career

As we are talking about quality, why not begin with a Plan, Do, Check Act approach?


I’ll steal a quote that John Hunter surfaced in his blog article Culture Change Requires That Leaders Change Their Behavior to start off with.

The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge.The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people. Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to.

W. Edwards Deming wrote in The New Economics:


Any plan should begin with education. Consider planning your education and experiences so that you become a ‘T-Shaped Employee”. Get the vertical by finding a maturity model specific to your field and grow the horizontal by benc hmarking and learning how quality concepts are applied broadly.

Have the benefit of education. Of course you will need to learn and understand quality concepts. And there is no better place to start than ASQ’s various Bodies of Knowledge.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Warren Buffett

Find a professional development ladder for your industry and your specialty and work to progress from proficiency through mastery of the expected topics. A great example of this is Construx’s implementation of IEEE’s SWEBOK – the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge.

That will serve as your “I.”

To work on the “T” be sure to understand the end-to-end flow of your industry. Keep up with news. Read what the leaders of your company are reading. Understand how your company competes in the market place – and pay special attention to what your competitors are doing.

As you spot patterns, leverage your quality training to capitalize on the opportunities you uncover.


The next step is where the “rubber hits the road.” It is essential that you deliver results based on that education.

It doesn’t have to be a big, huge thing. Just get started.

If you want to change someone’s life, change their day first.

Patt Flynn, Author of Will it Fly?

Look for ways to apply what you are learning to your daily life. This helps you internalize the lessons so you can apply them on the business stage.

If you are having trouble finding projects, try my guide to finding qualified six sigma projects here.


All quality professionals will be judged on their ability to impact others. Whether that impact is improving external client experience or fixing internal process issues, we all have an audience we will need to please. Also, it’s very rare that professionals are in a position to give themselves a raise, or a bonus, or secure their own promotions, so we need to verify our progress with others. Be sure to seek out as many decision makers both in your company out for a diversity of viewpoints. It’s not necessary to take each review or suggestion as gospel, but interpret each as a data point.

Network with others.

Identify the people in your industries who always seem to be out in front, and use all the relationship skills you’ve acquired to connect with them. Take them to lunch. Read their newsletters. In fact, read everything you can. Online, there are hundreds of individuals distilling information, analyzing it, and making prognostications. These armchair analysts are the eyes and ears of innovation. Now get online and read, read, read. Subscribe to magazines, buy books, and talk to the smartest people you can find. Eventually, all this knowledge will build on itself, and you’ll start making connections others aren’t.

Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Once you have begun building your network, determine their needs. Most people are happy to mentor. However, everyone is happy to mentor people who both apply their advice and bring additional value to the table. As you learn about what issues your mentors have try to apply the techniques from your quality training to make improvements and help them out.



Sure, you’ve been working hard all the way but you really earn credibility by becoming the change you want to see.

If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset “what can the world offer me?” and instead adopt the craftsman mindset “what can I offer the world?”.

Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You

In doing so you will cultivate your personal brand. You will become known as a dependable “go-to” person.

Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.

As you gain experience and deliver results, ramp up your results by applying your solutions to similar patterns of opportunity.  See my specific examples in my article How to Prepare for a Job as a Six Sigma Black Belt for more ideas.

Share your results with others. Regardless of your level of experience share your work. There is no better way to achieve outside results from your work by teaching your methods to others. Don’t be shy. Get started sharing and applying as soon as possible. Applying lessons to other issues in similar pattern. For a great example of this practice in real life, see Jeremy’s article on using Control Charts in the classroom.

Everyone has something to learn and something to teach.

Randy Emelo, Modern Mentoring

In addition to sharing your work, train and teach others – Here’s how to find teaching opportunities – even if you are new to the field yourself.


Ultimately your career is in your hands. There is no one else who will manage your career but you. Be proactive! Learn! Get your hands dirts doing work! Experiment and apply your lessons across diverse fields. And above all have a great time with it! Life is too short to chase a profession that you do not love.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”

Warren Buffett

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Rational Sub Grouping

If you want to operate control charts in a successful manner, the most important thing that you need to know is the formation of rational subgroups. Rational subgroups help in the estimation process of the short term variations for control charts. These variations later help us predict the long term variations and their control limits, depending o the type of causes for the variation (special or common).

Rational subgroups are samples in which we produce all of the items under conditions which will only occur in the presence of random effects (which can then be held responsible for the observed variations). This has been stated quite eloquently in Nelson, Lloyd S. “Control Charts: Rational Subgroups and Effective Applications,” Journal of Quality Technology. Vol. 20, No. 1, January 1988. In other terms, a rational group is the one in which the influence causing system within the variation of the subgroup is approximately the same as the system of causes influencing between subgroup variation.

A rational subgroup is said to possess the following properties:

  • The observations within a subgroup come from a lone steady process. If the subgroup instead has multiple process elements in it or if it has other special causes that occur at high frequency within the sub group, then the variation within the subgroup will be quite high when compared to the variation between the averages of the subgroups. Such large diversities within the subgroups pushes the control limits too far away and thus results in a total lack of sensitivity to the shifting processes. This can be detected using the Western Electric Run Test 7 (15 successive points within one sigma of center line)
  • The subgroups are all formed from the observations that have been taken in a sequence that has been time-ordered. Simply speaking, subgroups are never formed randomly from a set of available data; it is not that simple. The data is supposed to be a “snapshot” of the process over a very small amount of time and the sequence that we set them in will depict how these snapshots will vary over some specified time. Think of it like a picture frame in a movie. The picture frame is not understandable on its own but it is a vital part of the movie when it is run. The amount of time we need for the snapshot depends on individual processes. We avoid using a general rule to reduce the risk of a special chance that may occur within a group.
  • The observations within the subgroups are autonomous, which means that no observation influences, or results from, another. If in some case the observations do depend on one another, than the process is said to have autocorrelation (also known as serial correlation). In many cases, the autocorrelation causes the within subgroup variation to be unusually small and a poor analyst of the between subgroup variation. The small within subgroup variation forces the control limits to be too narrow, resulting in frequent out of control conditions.

On-Line Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt Quizzes Have Been Upgraded!

On-Line Quizzes Have Been Upgraded! New Green Belt Question quiz and individualized studying sections and more Black Belt Questions have been added. Lots of goodness for everyone in this release!

Hi all! If you haven’t noticed, 2016 has been a year of functionality improvements for SixSigmaStudyGuide.com. And each improvement is designed to help you pass your exams.

I’m excited. I hope you’re excited! Let’s review what’s new for you in the free member section.

Green Belt On Line Test

Earlier this year I released an on-line version of the Black Belt exam. You can take 75 black belt questions, submit it for grading and receive not only a score, but detailed descriptions of each and every question, answer and option. Inside each of those descriptions are links to the articles that offer in-depth descriptions of what is required.

Click here to take free online six sigma practice tests.

That worked so well for the Black Belts that I built out the ASQ Green Belt practice test. Now Green Belts get the same functionality for a 25 question set. Reports are that having in-depth descriptions of why each answer is right is very helpful in test preparation for all exam types.

Just click on the Resources tab on the top navigation bar and you’ll be brought right to it. If you don’t have an account, the system will prompt you to register.

six sigma green belt and black belt exams

Green Belt Quizzes by Section

Maybe you are not ready to be tested on the entire green belt body of knowledge. Or maybe you want to focus your studying by section (highly recommended). Now Green Belts have the ability to focus attention section-by-section on individual quizzes, too!

Green Belt Quizzes

Black Belt Question Pool Increased

I’ve noticed that many people studying for various Black Belt exams miss foundation problems that were covered in the Green Belt Body of Knowledge. To help those studying for the Black Belt exams I have added the Green Belt questions to the individual Black Belt quizzes. That means more questions for you to take, more in-depth answers for you to explore, and of course the same functionality to link directly to articles that you need more time reviewing.

And of course all of this is part of the free membership. Just sign up here for access!

Six Sigma Black Belt Quizzes

Future Upgrades and Help Needed!

I’m very excited to announce these upgrades. But please remember that I need your help to decide what to work on. If it is not valuable to you, I don’t want to work on it! Over the next few weeks I will send a brief survey. If you are finding value in what I have built on this website, please take a few minutes to fill it out. If you don’t tell me what you need, I can’t help you ! Of course, you can contact me any time here, or reach out on the forums, or leave a comment on any of the 400+ six sigma articles I’ve written.

Here’s to a great new year!


New Green Belt Study Guide Added

IASSC Six Sigma Green Belt Study Guide

Hi all! Hope your Six Sigma journey is going well. If it’s not, let me know what I can do to help!

I’ve added a study guide for those taking the IASSC Six Sigma Green Belt exam. There you’ll find the all of the topics that you’ll be tested on and links to articles that help explain the material.

IASSC Six Sigma Green Belt Study Guide

That brings the list of study guides up to six!

I strongly suggest that anyone studying for an upcoming exam read up on the articles linked to from those pages. Also, if you have registered for our free membership, you have access to several free downloads that I wished I had on hand when I sat these exams as well as free on-line practice tests and complete access to the forums.

Study Groups

Speaking of the forums, study groups are forming there now. Join up!

How I Passed the Exams

With so many people preparing for six sigma exams in 2016 I get a lot of questions on how to study, what to take with you, etc. If you’re curious, check out the following two articles. Even if you are not sitting the exact same exam, I guarantee what I have written there will help you prepare.

Free Six Sigma Exams

Finally, I have a comprehensive list of free exams. You can find the list here. These exams are hard. After you learn the material the best thing you can do is to practice many different question types.


OK, hope that helps! More great things are coming soon. Can’t wait to share!