Certified Tour Guide Test
The Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association (CTPA) Certified Tour Guide Test was developed by the founding Board of Directors of the CTPA. Passing the test requires fundamental knowledge of Chicago history, geography, transportation, museums, cultural attractions, landmark buildings, sculpture, neighborhoods and venues of interest to visitors-the kind of information given on a three-hour Chicago city highlights tour.
CTPA certification was designed as a "mastery" test, not a "qualification" test. The theory is that until one has worked as a guide for a period of time, it is not possible to know all the public desires to have presented during a city highlights tour. Therefore, in order to be eligible to take the test, the applicant must be a current CTPA member and have given their first tour at least one year prior to the Part I (written test) date.
There is no CTPA approved or authorized reading list or formal course of study. Individuals wanting to become guides may elect to participate in classes offered by local colleges; in tours organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, museums or sightseeing companies; or in training courses offered by individuals or companies based in the Chicago area or elsewhere. Of course it is also recommended that potential guides attend as many CTPA meetings as possible in order to take advantage of the educational components and networking possibilities. In most cases, tour guides learn their job through self-study, by observing others giving tours and on-the-job training.
In order to take the CTPA Certified Tour Guide Test, each applicant must:
- Live in or near Chicago and be an active tour guide
- be able to prove he/she has one year of active guiding experience. This may be done by presenting one year old pay stubs or a letter from a CTPA member company on their letterhead attesting to more than one year of experience.
- have paid CTPA dues for the current year
Please note, CTPA Associate Member (company) owners who are active guides may take the test!
The test consists of three parts, which must be taken in order. Once you pass one section, you may take the next section. Part I is the Written Test, consisting of multiple choice, true or false, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions. One must answer 80% of the total points correct to pass. Part II is the Slide Identification, consisting of ten slides. One must correctly identify and give detailed, accurate commentary for two to three minutes for eight out of the ten slides. Part III is Routing. The guide must correctly give directions between various points of the city without consulting a map. The directions must use the streets correctly and be accurate two out of three times.
Further notes about each section can be found below.
Part 1 - Written Test
- The test covers material necessary to give a comprehensive 3 or 4-hour Chicago highlights tour.
- There are 126 questions (133 total points) consisting of fill-in-the-blank (19), multiple choice (95), true-false (5) and matching (7) questions.
- To pass, the applicant must earn at least 107 points (out of a possible 133).
- The test is not timed. In the past, the test has taken from 30 minutes to 90 minutes to complete.
- No reference materials may be used.
- One CTPA Certified Tour Guide acts as proctor during testing.
Part 2 - Slide Identification
- The second section of the test covers things encountered on a comprehensive Chicago highlights tour-outdoor sculpture, key city buildings, public squares, parks, museums, and/or enlarged architectural details of important buildings.
- Without viewing the contents, each applicant chooses an envelope with ten (10) slides. There is a slide for each of the following areas/topics: Sculpture (easy-could be anywhere), Sculpture (more difficult-could be anywhere), Loop (easy), Loop (more difficult), River North or North, Prairie Avenue or South, Near West, Museum, Park or Garden, Anything (hotel, nightclub, theater, sports arena, restaurant, lake, river, etc.).
- The applicant then must tell about each slide-basically providing interesting, accurate, detailed commentary about each thing-speaking for two to three minutes about each slide. Architect or artist, architectural significance, history or anecdotes about the structure, films made at the locale, etc. may all be presented.
- The applicant must correctly identify and give detailed, accurate commentary for eight out of ten slides.
- No reference materials may be used.
- As judgment is somewhat subjective, two or three Certified Tour Guides serve as proctors and grade each applicant. (At least one proctor must be a member of the Certification Committee. The other proctors may be any Certified Tour Guides.)
- The test takes 20 to 30 minutes per applicant to complete.
- Due to equipment use and scheduling of proctors, all eligible guides are tested on one day.
Part 3 - The Routing
- The third part of the test covers things encountered on a "standard" Chicago highlights tour.
- After a starting point is determined (e.g. Palmer House Hotel), each applicant takes his/her turn drawing a Chicago location out of a hat.
- The applicant must give directions to get from the previous location to their location, using all streets correctly. (e.g. The first applicant must tell the routing from the beginning point, Palmer House Hotel, to the location they drew from the hat, United Center. The next applicant must tell routing from the United Center to the place they drew from the hat, Art Institute of Chicago, etc.)
- It is not necessary to use street names-buildings or visual landmarks may be used to give directions to the next location as long as landmarks a bus driver would recognize are provided for turning. Routing must use streets correctly-that is, not go down the wrong way on a one-way street or not use roads that are under construction or closed (e.g. 23rd St.). A scenic route or direct route may be used.
- The applicant must be judged to be correct for two out of the three routings.
- No reference materials or maps may be used.
- Test may be given inside the room of a building or on a moving vehicle.
- As judgment is somewhat subjective, two to three Certified Tour Guides grade each applicant and all eligible applicants must take the test on the same day and time. (At least one proctor must be a member of the Certification Committee. The other proctors may be any Certified Tour Guides.)
- Test duration depends on the number of persons being tested.