Preparing for the ASQ Six Sigma Black belt exam can be overwhelming. This ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Study Guide lists all key concepts (and links to learn more) for the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Certification. This list comes from the 2022 update to the official ASQ Black Belt BOK. And it’s totally free to use.

What is the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK?

The ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK is created by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). It’s periodically reviewed and updated by leading members and Six Sigma professionals to ensure it’s relevant to today’s world.

The ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK has 9 sections geared around Six Sigma Fundamentals, Organizational Deployment, the different phases of DMAIC, and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS).

You’ll need to master various topics in order to pass the exam.

How to use the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Study Guide

Some ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt candidates will have taken six sigma training. Others will be self-taught. No matter your path, you’re going to have to know what’s on the standard BOK – Body of Knowledge.

Step 1: Scan over the material below.

Scan through the rest of this page before proceeding further. Take a look at what will be asked. Do you feel comfortable with this material? Is anything new to you? Are there any surprises?

Make a mental note of that and proceed.

Step 2: Review (or learn!) the material.

Not every training program covers every topic. Depending on the quality of the training you took, your instructor may have skipped a section entirely! Click one of the links to dive into any topic that you don’t feel as strongly as you’d like and read up.

Step 3: Leave a comment on any page where you have questions.

Each of the topics below are linked to a detailed article where I thoroughly step through the concept. If you have any questions, or if any topic is less clear than you’d like it to be just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Step 4: Practice as many questions as possible.

Find an excellent question bank that covers each of these sections and take as many practice tests as possible.

The ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK

What follows below is the ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK. The top-level sections I through VI also list the number of questions you can expect in that section. This will help you see the relative weight of those topics compared to others.

Use this page as your ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Study Guide. All Body of Knowledge topics required for the exam are mapped to study notes and example problems. Also, read here to see how I prepared and passed the ASQ Black Belt exam.

I. Organization-Wide Planning and Deployment (12 Questions)

I.A. Organization-wide Considerations

I.A.1. Fundamentals of Six Sigma and lean methodologies

Define and describe the value and goals of these approaches (Six Sigma, Lean), and describe the integration and complementary relationship between them. Identify and understand an organization’s lean six sigma maturity model. (Understand)

I.A.2. Six Sigma, lean, and continuous improvement methodologies

Describe when to use Six Sigma instead of other problem-solving approaches, and describe the importance of aligning Six Sigma objectives with organizational goals. Describe screening criteria and how such criteria can be used for the selection of Six Sigma projects, lean initiatives, and other continuous improvement methods. (Apply) (Also see the History of Six Sigma and the History of Lean. )

I.A.3. Relationships among business systems and processes

Describe the interactive relationships among business systems, processes, and internal and external stakeholders, and the impact those relationships have on business systems. (Understand)

I.A.4. Strategic planning and deployment for initiatives

Define the importance of identification and strategic planning of Six Sigma projects and lean initiatives as part of the business planning process taking into consideration outcomes such as return on investment and measured intangibles. Use strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis (SWOT), contingency planning, and business continuity planning to enhance strategic planning and deployment. (Apply)

I.B. Leadership

I.B.1. Roles and responsibilities

Describe the roles and responsibilities of executive leadership, champions, sponsors, process owners, and Master Black Belts, Black Belts, and Green Belts in driving Six Sigma and lean initiatives. Understand the importance of coaching multiple levels of leadership and belts on appropriate six sigma tools and techniques. Understand the importance of finance and its role supporting a project and confirming its outcome. Describe how each group influences project deployment in terms of providing or managing resources, enabling changes in organizational structure, and supporting communications about the purpose and deployment of the initiatives. (Understand)

I.B.2. Organizational barriers

Describe how an organization’s structure and culture can impact Six Sigma projects. Identify common causes of Six Sigma failures, including lack of management support and lack of resources. (Apply) Also, see Critical success factors.

I.B.3. Change Management

Apply and facilitate change management techniques, including stakeholder analysis, readiness assessments, proactive change management, and communication plans to overcome barriers and drive organization-wide change. (Apply)

II. Organizational Process Management and Measures (12 Questions)

II.A. Impact on Stakeholders

Describe the impact Six Sigma projects can have on customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. (Understand)

II.B. Benchmarking

Define and distinguish between various types of benchmarking, e.g., best practices, competitive, collaborative, and breakthrough. Select measures and performance goals for projects resulting from benchmarking activities. (Apply)

II.C. Business Measures

II.C.1. Performance measures

Define and describe balanced scorecard, key performance indicators (KPIs), key behavior indicators (KBIs), objectives and key results (OKRs), customer loyalty metrics, and leading and lagging indicators. Explain how to create a line of sight from performance measures to organizational strategies. (Analyze)

II.C.2. Financial measures

Define and use revenue growth, market share, margin, net present value (NPV), return on investment (ROI), and cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Explain the difference between hard cost measures (from profit and loss statements) and soft cost benefits of cost avoidance and reduction. (Apply)

III. Team Management (15 Questions)

III.A. Team Formation

III.A.1. Team types and constraints

Define and describe various teams, including virtual, cross-functional, and self-directed. Determine what team type will work best for a given set of constraints, e.g., geography, technology availability, staff schedules, and time zones. (Apply)

III.A.2. Team roles and responsibilities

Define and describe various team roles and responsibilities for the leader, facilitator, coach, and individual member. (Understand)

III.A.3. Team member selection criteria

Describe various factors that influence the selection of team members, including the ability to influence, openness to change, required skill sets, subject matter expertise, and availability. (Apply)

III.A.4. Team success factors

Identify and describe the elements necessary for successful teams, e.g., management support, clear goals, ground rules, and timelines. (Apply)

III.B. Team Facilitation

III.B.1. Motivational techniques

Describe and apply techniques to motivate team members. Identify factors that can demotivate team members and describe techniques to overcome them. (Apply)

III.B.2. Team stages of development

Identify and describe the classic stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. (Apply)

III.B.3. Team communication

Describe and explain the elements of an effective communication plan, e.g., audience identification, message type, medium, and frequency. (Apply)

III.B.4. Team leadership models

Describe and select appropriate leadership approaches (e.g., direct, coach, support, and
delegate) to ensure team success. (Apply)

III.C. Team Dynamics

III.C.1. Group behaviors

Identify and use various conflict resolution techniques (e.g., coaching, mentoring, and intervention) to overcome negative group dynamics, including dominant and reluctant participants, groupthink, rushing to finish, and digressions. (Evaluate)

III.C.2. Meeting management

Select and use various meeting management techniques, including using agendas, starting on time, requiring pre-work by attendees, and ensuring that the right people and resources are available. (Apply)

III.C.3. Team decision-making methods

Define, select, and use various tools (e.g., consensus, nominal group technique, and multi-voting) for decision-making. (Apply)

III.D. Team Training

III.D.1. Needs assessment

Identify the steps involved to implement an effective training curriculum: identify skills gaps, develop learning objectives, prepare a training plan, and develop training materials. (Understand)

III.D.2. Delivery

Describe various techniques used to deliver effective training, including adult learning theory, soft skills, and modes of learning. (Understand)

III.D.3. Evaluation

Describe various techniques to evaluate training, including evaluation planning, feedback surveys, pre-training, and post-training testing. (Understand)

IV. Define (20 Questions)

IV.A. Voice of the Customer

IV.A.1. Customer Identification

Identify and segment customers and show how a project will impact both internal and external customers. (Apply)

IV.A.2. Customer data collection

Identify and select appropriate data collection methods (e.g., surveys, focus groups, interviews, and observations) to gather voice of the customer data. Ensure the data collection methods used are reviewed for validity and reliability. (Analyze)

IV.A.3. Customer requirements

Define, select, and apply appropriate tools to determine customer needs and requirements, including critical-to-X (CTX when “X” can be quality, cost, safety, etc.), CTQ tree, quality function deployment (QFD), supplier, input, process, output, customer (SIPOC), and Kano model. (Analyze)

IV.B. Business Case and Project Charter

IV.B.1. Business case

Describe business case justification used to support projects. (Understand)

IV.B.2. Problem statement

Develop a project problem statement and evaluate it in relation to baseline performance and improvement goals. (Evaluate)

IV.B.3. Project scope

Develop and review project boundaries to ensure that the project has value to the customer. (Analyze)

IV.B.4. Goals and objectives

Identify SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound) goals and objectives on the basis of the project’s problem statement and scope. (Analyze)

IV.B.5. Project performance measurements

Identify and evaluate performance measurements (e.g., cost, revenue, delivery, schedule, and customer satisfaction) that connect critical elements of the process to key outputs. (Analyze)

IV.B.6. Project charter review

Explain the importance of having periodic project charter reviews with stakeholders. (Understand)

IV.C. Project Management (PM) Tools

Identify and use the following PM tools to track projects and document their progress. (Evaluate)

IV.C.1. Gantt charts

IV.C.2. Toll-gate reviews

IV.C.3. Work breakdown structure (WBS)

IV.C.4. RACI model (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed)

IV.D. Analytical Tools

Identify and use the following analytical tools throughout the DMAIC cycle. (Apply)

IV.D.1. Affinity diagrams

IV.D.2. Tree diagrams

IV.D.3. Matrix diagrams

IV.D.4. Prioritization matrices

IV.D.5. Activity network diagrams

IV.D.6. Process decision program chart (PDPC)

IV.D.7. Interrelationship digraph (ID)

V. Measure (25 Questions)

V.A. Process Characteristics

V.A.1. Process flow metrics

Identify and use process flow metrics (e.g., work in progress (WIP), work in queue (WIQ), touch time, takt time, cycle time, and throughput) to determine constraints. Describe the impact that “hidden factories” can have on process flow metrics. (Analyze)

V.A.2. Process analysis tools

Select, use, and evaluate various tools, e.g., value stream maps, process maps, work instructions, flowcharts, spaghetti diagrams, and gemba walk. (Evaluate)

V.B. Data Collection

V.B.1. Types of data

Define, classify, and distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data, and continuous and discrete data. (Evaluate)

V.B.2. Measurement scales

Define and use nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio measurement scales. (Apply)

V.B.3. Sampling

Define and describe sampling concepts, including representative selection, homogeneity, bias, accuracy, and precision. Determine the appropriate sampling method (e.g., random, stratified, systematic, subgroup, and block) to obtain valid representation in various situations. (Evaluate) Also, see Sampling methods.

V.B.4. Data collection plans and methods

Develop and implement data collection plans that include data integrity, accuracy, and
processing tools, e.g., check sheets, and data normalization. Avoid data collection pitfalls by defining the metrics to be used or collected, ensuring that collectors are trained in the tools and understand how the data will be used, and checking for seasonality effects. (Analyze)

V.C. Measurement Systems

V.C.1. Measurement system analysis (MSA)

Use gauge repeatability and reproducibility (R&R) studies and other MSA tools (e.g., bias, correlation, linearity, precision to tolerance, and percent agreement) to analyze variable measurement system capability. Use audit MSA for attribute measurement system. (Evaluate)

V.C.2. Measurement systems across the organization

Identify how measurement systems can be applied across all functional areas of the organization (e.g., marketing, sales, engineering, research and development (R&D), supply chain management, operations, and customer experience). (Understand)

V.C.3. Metrology

Define and describe elements of metrology, including calibration systems, traceability to reference standards, and the control and integrity of measurement devices and standards. (Understand) Also, see Evaluating the Measurement Systems.

V.D. Basic Statistics

V.D.1. Basic statistical terms

Define and distinguish between population parameters and sample statistics, e.g., proportion, mean, and standard deviation. (Apply)

V.D.2. Central limit theorem

Explain the central limit theorem and its significance in the application of inferential statistics for confidence intervals, hypothesis tests, and control charts. (Understand)

V.D.3. Descriptive statistics

Calculate and interpret measures of dispersion and central tendency. (Evaluate)

V.D.4. Graphical methods

Construct and interpret diagrams and charts, e.g., box-and-whisker plots, scatter diagrams, histograms, normal probability plots, frequency distributions, and cumulative frequency distributions. (Evaluate) (Also see Frequency Plots)

V.D.5. Valid statistical conclusions

Distinguish between descriptive and inferential statistical studies. Evaluate how the results of statistical studies are used to draw valid conclusions. (Evaluate)

V.E. Probability

V.E.1. Basic concepts

Describe and interpret probability concepts, e.g., independence, mutually exclusive events, addition and multiplication rules, conditional probability, complementary probability, and joint occurrence of events. (Understand)

V.E.2. Common distributions

Describe, interpret, and use normal, Poisson, binomial, chi square, Student’s t, and F distributions. (Evaluate)

V.E.3. Additional distributions

Identify hypergeometric, bivariate, exponential, lognormal, and Weibull distributions. (Understand)

V.F. Process Capability

V.F.1. Process capability indices

Define, select, and calculate Cp and Cpk. (Evaluate)

V.F.2. Process performance indices

Define, select, and calculate Pp, Ppk, Cpm, and process sigma. (Evaluate)

V.F.3. General process capability studies

Describe and apply elements of designing and conducting process capability studies relative to characteristics, specifications, sampling plans, stability, and normality. (Evaluate)

V.F.4. Process capability for attributes data

Calculate the process capability and process sigma level for attributes data. (Apply)

V.F.5. Process capability for non-normal data

Identify non-normal data and determine when it is appropriate to use Box-Cox or other transformation techniques. (Apply)

V.F.6. Process performance vs. specification

Distinguish between natural process limits and specification limits. Calculate process
performance metrics
, e.g., percent defective, parts per million (PPM), defects per million opportunities (DPMO), defects per unit (DPU), first pass yield, and rolled throughput yield (RTY). (Evaluate)

V.F.7. Short-term and long-term capability

Describe and use appropriate assumptions and conventions when only short-term data or only long-term data are available. Interpret the relationship between short-term and long-term capability. (Evaluate)

VI. Analyze (22 Questions)

VI.A. Measuring and Modeling Relationships Between Variables

VI.A.1. Correlation coefficient

Calculate and interpret the correlation coefficient and its confidence interval and describe
the difference between correlation and causation. (Evaluate)

VI.A.2. Linear regression

Calculate and interpret regression analysis and apply and interpret hypothesis tests
for regression statistics. Use the regression model for estimation and prediction, analyze the
uncertainty in the estimate, and perform a residuals analysis to validate the model. (Evaluate)

VI.A.3. Multivariate tools

Understand sources of variation through multivariate tools (e.g., factor analysis, discriminant
analysis, and multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA). (Understand)

VI.B. Hypothesis Testing

VI.B.1. Terminology

Define and interpret the significance level, power, type I, and type II errors of statistical tests. (Evaluate)

VI.B.2. Statistical vs. practical significance

Define, compare, and interpret statistical and practical significance. (Evaluate)

VI.B.3. Sample size

Calculate sample size for common hypothesis tests: equality of means and equality of proportions. (Apply)

VI.B.4. Point and interval estimates

Define and distinguish between confidence and prediction intervals. Define and interpret the efficiency and bias of estimators. Calculate tolerance and confidence intervals. (Evaluate)

VI.B.5. Tests for means, variances, and proportions

Use and interpret the results of hypothesis tests for means, variances, and proportions. (Evaluate)

VI.B.6. Analysis of variance (ANOVA)

Select, calculate, and interpret the results of ANOVAs. (Evaluate)

VI.B.7. Goodness-of-fit (chi square) tests

Define, select, and interpret the results of these tests. (Evaluate)

VI.C. Risk Analysis and Management

VI.C.1. Types of risk

Identify, assess, and prioritize various types of risk such as enterprise, operational, supplier, security, product, and cyber-security. (Analyze)

VI.C.2. Failure mode and effects analysis

Describe, the purpose and elements of FMEA, including risk priority number (RPN), and evaluate FMEA results for processes, products, and services. Distinguish between design FMEA (DFMEA) and process FMEA (PFMEA), and interpret their results. (Evaluate)

VI.D. Additional Analysis Methods

VI.D.1. Gap analysis

Analyze scenarios to identify performance gaps, and compare current and future states using
predefined metrics. (Analyze)

VI.D.2. Root cause analysis

Define and describe the purpose of root cause analysis, recognize the issues involved in identifying a root cause, and use various tools (e.g., 5 whys, Pareto charts, fault tree analysis, cause and effect diagrams, and A3) to resolve chronic problems. (Analyze)

VI.D.3. Waste analysis

Identify and interpret the seven classic wastes (overproduction, inventory, defects, over-processing, waiting, motion, and transportation) and resource under-utilization. (Analyze)

VII. Improve (21 Questions)

VII.A. Design of Experiments (DOE)

VII.A.1. Terminology

Define basic DOE terms, e.g., independent and dependent variables, factors and levels, response, treatment, error, and nested. (Understand)

VII.A.2. Design principles

Define and apply DOE principles, e.g., power, sample size, balance, repetition, replication,
order, efficiency, randomization, blocking, interaction, confounding, and resolution. (Apply)

VII.A.3. Planning experiments

Plan and evaluate DOEs by determining the objective, selecting appropriate factors, responses,
and measurement methods, and choosing the appropriate design. (Evaluate)

VII.A.4. One-factor experiments

Understand when to use completely randomized, randomized block, and Latin square designs. (Understand)

VII.A.5. Two-level fractional factorial experiments

Understand these types of experiments, and describe how confounding can affect their use. (Understand)

VII.A.6. Full factorial experiments

Understand these types of experiments. (Understand)

VII.B. Lean Methods

VII.B.1. Waste elimination

Select and apply tools and techniques for eliminating or preventing waste, e.g., pull systems, kanban, 5S, standard work, and poka-yoke. (Analyze)

VII.B.2. Cycle-time reduction

Use various tools and techniques for reducing cycle time, e.g., continuous flow, single-minute exchange of die (SMED), and heijunka (production leveling). (Analyze)

VII.B.3. Kaizen

Define and distinguish between kaizen and kaizen blitz and describe when to use each method. (Apply)

VII.B.4. Other improvement tools and techniques

Identify and describe how other process improvement methodologies are used, e.g., theory of constraints (TOC), and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). (Understand)

VII.C. Implementation

Develop plans for implementing proposed improvements, including conducting pilot tests or simulations, and evaluate results to select the optimum solution. (Evaluate)

VIII. Control (17 Questions)

VIII.A. Statistical Process Control (SPC)

VIII.A.1. Objectives

Explain the objectives of SPC, including monitoring and controlling process performance, tracking trends, and runs, and reducing variation within a process. (Understand)

VIII.A.2. Selection of variables

Identify and select critical process characteristics for control chart monitoring. (Apply)

VIII.A.3. Rational subgrouping

Define and apply the principle of rational subgrouping. (Apply)

VIII.A.4. Control chart selection

Select and use control charts in various situations: X-R, X-s, individual and moving range (ImR), p, np, c, u, short-run SPC, and moving average. (Apply)

VIII.A.5. Control chart analysis

Interpret control charts and distinguish between common and special causes using rules for determining statistical control. (Analyze)

VIII.B. Other Controls

VIII.B1. Total productive maintenance (TPM)

Define the elements of TPM and describe how it can be used to consistently control the improved process. (Understand)

VIII.B.2. Visual controls

Define the elements of visual controls (e.g., pictures of correct procedures, color-coded components, and indicator lights), and describe how they can help control the improved process. (Understand)

VIII.C. Maintain Controls

VIII.C.1. Measurement system reanalysis

Review and evaluate measurement system capability as process capability improves, and ensure that measurement capability is sufficient for its intended use. (Evaluate)

VIII.C.2. Control plan

Develop a control plan to maintain the improved process performance, enable continuous improvement, and transfer responsibility from the project team to the process owner. (Apply)

VIII.D. Sustain Improvements

VIII.D.1. Lessons learned

Document the lessons learned and benefits realized from all phases of a project and identify strategies for reinforcing and replicating improvements. (Apply)

VIII.D.2. Documentation

Develop or modify documents including standard operating procedures (SOPs), work instructions, and control plans to ensure that the improvements are sustained over time. (Apply)

VIII.D.3. Training for process owners and staff

Develop and implement training plans that are handed off to process owners to ensure consistent execution of revised process methods, KPIs to confirm sustained benefits, and standards to maintain process improvements. (Apply)

VIII.D.4. Ongoing evaluation

Identify and apply tools (e.g., control charts, and control plans) for ongoing evaluation of the
improved process, including monitoring leading indicators, lagging indicators, and
additional opportunities for improvement. (Apply)

IX. Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) Framework and Methodologies (6 Questions)

IX.A. Common DFSS Methodologies

Identify and describe define, measure, analyze, design, and validate (DMADV) and define, measure, analyze, design, optimize, and validate (DMADOV). (Understand)

IX.B. Design for X (DFX)

Describe design constraints, including design for cost, design for manufacturability (producibility), design for test, and design for maintainability. (Understand)

IX.C. Robust Designs

Describe the elements of robust product design, tolerance design, and statistical tolerancing. (Understand)

ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt BOK Helpful Resources

Comments (10)

“…that 100% of the people who pass my Green Belt practice exams report passing their exam (IASSC, ASQ, Villanova, etc” I looked into Villanova, and was told by one of their recruiters they don’t have a 100% pass rate, but 85%. But they offer a free re-take of the exam if it was failed.

Hi Frank, That passing rate may be true, but I doubt it. Certainly the Black Belt exam is a much, much lower passing rate.

Isn’t there also a time limit on how long you can take the restest for free?

Is there any difference between DMAIC process explained in Green belt materials and the ones in black belt materials?

Hi Ali,

DMAIC as a framework is the same, no matter what belt you are. However, there are different expectations as to depth of knowledge in tools practices, considerations, etc. Does that help?

Can you please explain a bit more with example what did you mean by depth of knowledge, if the material is same in both belts. Why do you think the passing rate for BB is low? Approx. how low? What is the approx %mark needed to pass BB?

Maksuda,

Since you’re commenting on the ASQ Black Belt page, I’ll assume you’re asking about ASQ.

The material is certainly not the same across ASQ Green Belt and Black Belt. For contrast, see the ASQ Green Belt BOK here. You’ll notice that the Black Belt is far more comprehensive and rigorous.

The ASQ Pass rate is around 65%. Source here.

The ASQ BB Passing score is hard to state. Per ASQ they use a sliding scale. I would err on the side of caution. Do not come in to this exam wondering what you have to do at minimum to pass. Aim to truly understand the material. If you want a viable practice exam proxy, I recommend marks between 85-95% on high-quality practice exams.

Hi Ted,

Is it recommended to take ASQ Green belt prior to black belt for an individual who has more than 11 yrs experience in leadership, operations, customer experience and process improvement?

Regards,
Bala

If you have the luxury of time, I think it is helpful. Nearly everything in the GB Body of Knowledge is in the BB. Even if the specific questions are not in the exam, the concepts that drive them are. I feel that a) achieving a GB first lowers the learning curve and b) is a great milestone towards your BB.

Best, Ted.

I did not find the price for this course. Could you provide me with the information as an ASQ member and non ASQ

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