What’s the IPA Foundation Certificate really like?

I’ll say this once and I’ll say it firmly: the IPA Foundation Certificate definitely requires more than 30 hours’ learning.

In total there are 7 Learning Paths, which are made up of 21 key readers, 20 videos, 10 e-lessons, 10 quick guides, 9 assignments, 3 background readers, 3 case studies (you only need to learn 1 or 2) and an audio file. If you want to take all that in and make good notes, it’s going to take you at least double the time the IPA suggests.

That said, if you’re organised about learning and revision and are willing to give up a few weekends before the exam (mine was on 16 February), you can start after Christmas and still do fine.

So, time estimations aside, what is the actual content like? Here’s a summary:

Learning Path 1 – Advertising and Communication in Context

(The history of advertising, theories, the regulatory system, managing client budgets, etc.)

Learning Path 2 – Understanding the Client’s Business

(The role of the marketing director, working relationships, the 7 P’s, marketing plans and objectives)

Learning Path 3 – The Strategic Planner’s Toolkit

(The history and ins and outs of planning, behavioural economics, choice architecture)

Learning Path 4 – Client, Creative and Media Briefs

(The importance and purposes of various types of brief, and tips on what should be included in each)

Learning Path 5 – Understanding Media Channels and Media Planning                          

(The global media landscape, pros and cons of certain media channels, considerations for planning a project)

Learning Path 6 – Creativity and Creative Development                                               

(Judging and implementing creative ideas, and developing a project)

Learning Path 7 – Effectiveness                                                                                    

(Measuring effectiveness and understanding what a great campaign looks like, with reference to case studies on Audi, Pepperami and John Lewis)

Personally, my favourite Learning Paths were 3, 5, and 7. Learning Paths 5 and 7 were most relevant and useful to my day to day copywriting job, while Learning Path 3 covered things like behavioural economics (which I hadn’t encountered before) so it was very interesting!

I loved the assignments in Learning Path 5 – picking the best media channels to use for imaginary briefs and budgets – and Learning Path 7 encouraged some extra research into effectiveness awards, which I found really enjoyable. Extra research might sound a bit laborious, but seeing work which had earned Dandad Black Pencils and IPA Effectiveness Awards was incredibly inspiring.

As for the exam itself, it was all quite relaxed. Held in Manchester’s beautiful Town Hall, it was a nice cosy exam location, and once we were permitted to turn over our papers, there were plenty of good questions to choose from. Everyone just picked their favourite topics and got down to some good-old-fashioned scribbling.

By the time the exam was over, my hand was cramping and covered in black biro ink, but I felt like it went quite well. They say that the only people who fail the exam (the pass mark is 50%) are those who have never bothered to look at the learning material and just try to wing it. So, future candidates: as long as you actually do some work, you’ll probably smash it!

All in all it was a great learning experience which provided the perfect foundation to working in the marketing and communications industry.

I’ll take much more away from the course than a certificate – the case studies alone gave me lots of inspiration to take forward – and it was a great thrill to return to the office and find a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco, a box of chocolates, and a voucher for a facial sitting on my desk! It all massively helped with the post-exam recovery – Delineo clearly takes care of its exam candidates!

If you got down to the end of this blog, well done and apologies. I got a bit used to writing essays. Still, if you’re looking to take the Foundation Certificate in the future, I hope this post was helpful. Good luck!