Six Sigma is a philosophy, set of tools, methodology and culture, and aims to identify, analyze, and eliminate variability within a process. Sigma, represented as σ in the Greek alphabet, is a mathematical symbol used to represent standard deviation. Within a process, the sigma level estimates defect probability. When a process operates to a level of 6σ, it is without error 99.99966% of the time; products will be essentially defect free (Otherwise stated, a process will produce 3.4 defects per 1 million products!).

Six Sigma teams should contain a diverse mix of skills, with people fulfilling roles appropriate for their level of training. Following the martial arts naming convention, there are many levels of Six Sigma certifications - from white belt (least experienced) on up through yellow belt, green belt, black belt, and finally master black belt (most experienced).

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) is one of the many organizations that administer Lean and Six Sigma certifications. Founded during the end of World War II, the ASQ is a community of professionals who strive to integrate quality concepts, tools, and technologies into their work. To learn more about ASQ, check out the Meet the ASQ blog.

Through an intensive 11-week group study session, CapTech prepared 17 employees for the ASQ Six Sigma Green Belt certification – all of whom passed the examination on their first attempt! This expands CapTech's Six Sigma resources to have over 60 Certified Six Sigma Green and Black Belts.

Though CapTech had a remarkable passing rate, the test is widely known to be quite difficult. While studying for the exam, I learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share. As you prepare for the Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, consider incorporating some of the following tips based on my own experience.

1) Learn the material

  • Review the Six Sigma Green Belt Body of Knowledge to identify key subject areas.
  • Buy a Six Sigma Green Belt Textbook – I would recommend either the Quality Council of Indiana CCSGB Primer or The Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook by Roderick A., Ph.D. Munro.
  • Create a study group with your peers and prepare a week-to-week study schedule. Your study schedule should review at least one chapter per week and leave at least 3 weeks before the exam for a combined content review.
  • Read each chapter before your study group session and mark key concepts or questions to pose to your peers.
  • Be diligent and stick to your review schedule.
  • Understand how to use and apply each tool or concept within each chapter. It helps to create hypothetical situations of where and when you could apply each tool, or draw from the group's previous experiences of when they have used a specific tool or concept.
  • After each chapter, summarize key takeaways and important topics. Combine this list for all chapters into a master summary that will help guide your overall content review.

2) Create an Exam Survival Toolkit

  • Mark up your textbook by adding tabs for each chapter, or break out each phase of the DMAIC methodology.
  • Create a quick reference guide containing popular terms and tools, brief descriptions, and textbook page numbers for referencing the terms and tools. This will become a critical go-to reference in order to quickly look-up and locate a topic within the textbook.
  • Create a textbook outline, which includes all sections and sub-sections for each chapter. This resource will allow you to identify in what stage of the DMAIC process and in which chapter you need to reference for more information.
  • Know how your materials are organized and how to use your materials efficiently.

3) Prepare for the exam

  • Create your exam survival toolkit (see # 2) and use your toolkit when studying.
  • Work through problems with a study group and, for each question, identify and understand both correct and incorrect answers.
  • Practice all problems using the calculator you plan to use on the exam day.
  • Identify your test strategy before the exam date. Different strategies include:
    • Review all questions when you receive the test, and circle the answers to questions you feel confident about. For questions you feel less confident about, mark "g" for a gut answer. Once you have reviewed all the exam questions, return to all the "g" questions for an in-depth review.
    • Take a first pass answering all ‘definition' style questions, leaving math questions for your second pass.
    • Group the questions into phases of DMAIC by writing the phase next to the question number. While doing this, be sure to answer any questions that you know, leaving the others blank or marking "g" as described above for your second pass.

While the ASQ Six Sigma Green Belt exam will prove to be a challenge, with the proper preparation and a great support system, it will be a rewarding and hard-earned certification!