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CRA Chronicles | Part 3: Waiting

By SRAI News posted 03-13-2024 08:54 AM


CRA Chronicles | Part 3: Waiting

This is the final installment in a three-part series sharing my experiences with the Certified Research Administrator (CRA) Exam. Click here to read Part 1: Facing My Fears, and click here to read Part 2: What Not to Wear. You can learn more about becoming a CRA on the Research Administrators Certification Council website

I tried not to tell many people I was planning to take the CRA exam because I can’t keep my fingers crossed 24/7 for weeks and weeks while I wait for my results. No one likes to fail (at least no one I know), and it’s even worse when there are witnesses. 

It’s hard to keep a secret, though. People will find out. And when they find out? They will be awesome. It’s true. They will tell you not to worry, “You’re gonna do fine!” They’ll give you some advice, “Be sure to double-check your math!” They may even offer to loan you their lucky penny. 

Then, after the test, they are going to follow up. Especially if they are research administrators because you know how much RAs like to follow up on things. Heck, they probably made a note on their calendar, “Check in w / Carol re: Exam.” You need to be prepared for that follow-up. 

Here are some things I somehow managed not to say when I was asked, “How’d it go!?!?”

  • “They wouldn’t let me into the test center because I wore earrings.”
  • “It started out well, but then I fell asleep.”
  • “When it’s your turn to take the test, whatever you do, don’t lick the dry-erase sheets clean. It makes the proctors cranky.”
  • “Wait. Was that yesterday?”

Eventually the post-exam debriefs will end, and then The Waiting will begin.

You may not have heard anyone mention The Waiting because most people are so focused on The Preparing. In my experience, however, The Waiting is far worse. It’s worse than The Studying. It’s worse than The Testing. It’s anxiety that has no relief because there is nothing you can do. You can’t take a pre-test or do some Quizlets. There are no seminars to get you through. All you can do is wait. 

Wait… Wait……. Wait………….

And while you’re waiting, your brain is still living in pre-test mode. Every time you see an acronym, you are going to ask yourself, “Do I need to know that?” You’ll get an invitation you need to RSVP to ASAP, and before you realize what’s happening you’re doing a Google search to remind yourself which government entities use ASAP for payments.

Then there’s the realization as you go about your daily work, that, “I MISSED THAT QUESTION! ARRRRRG!” Which you now know because you are staring at the answer as you review the NIH guidelines for a proposal due tomorrow.

As horrible as The Wait is, it will pass. 

Unfortunately, you may not. Pass the exam, that is. I know no one likes to talk about it, but it could happen. If you don’t pass the exam this time, go read The Importance of Sitting for the CRA Exam by Kristen Lemma. The article beings like this: “In May of 2019, I sat for the CRA exam for the fifth time. Yes, you read that correctly for the fifth time.” Kristen passed the exam, and so will you.

Remember, you’re gonna do fine! Be sure to double-check your math! And don’t forget your lucky penny


  • Virginia Tech CRA Study Team – I highly recommend Virginia Tech’s CRA study sessions. Virginia Tech, and several collaborating institutions, have been providing this service to the research administration community for a number of years, and the materials are very thorough. In conjunction with the weekly seminars, the University of Michigan also emails a “CRA-A-Day” study sheet. There is no fee for this program.
  • RACC: How Do I Prepare For An Examination? – The Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC) offers study sessions and an online practice exam. There are fees for both the study sessions and exams, but your institution may cover the cost as part of your professional development.
  • SRAI Training Programs – SRAI offers a number of educational programs. These may be a good option if you are newer to the profession or if you want a more in-depth review. There are fees for the programs, but your institution may cover the cost as part of your professional development.
  • Quizlet – Search on “CRA Exam Practice Questions” on the search option. A number of fellow test takers have created Quizlets that you can use, and you may find this tool useful for creating study tools of your own. You can use Quizlet for free or choose to upgrade for more advanced features for a fee. 

Authored by Carol Volker, Pre-Award Associate
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University