PCAM Case Study – What Should I Expect?

Taking the M-100 seems like a distant memory. The M200 series was finally completed. The next step in the process was taking the PCAM (Professional Community Association Manager) case study. The PCAM designation is the highest professional recognition available nationwide to managers who specialize in community association management.  Even though I had fulfilled the requirements and was technically ready to take the case study, my needless fear turned to second thoughts. Was I truly ready? I questioned when and where I should take it. Did I have the necessary time to devote to the project and would I even pass?  I took the plunge and I’m glad I did. It was a great experience! Hopefully I can share enough insight on the process, without breaking PCAM rules, to help you take the next step.

My PCAM application was approved, and I registered to sit for the study. The PCAM case study is held at various host communities throughout the country who have agreed to undergo intensive study and analysis by a group of PCAM candidates. I received a mountain of documentation on the host community for my study and general instructions on how to prepare for the two days I would spend onsite. It was suggested we read the documents and get to know the community before we arrived. I approached the case study as if I were a manager starting a new position – trying to learn as much as possible before walking into the new role. Trust me – I’m glad I did.  Not knowing what to truly expect I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

The day started with opening statements and instructions from the CAI facilitator. Presentations from the community’s manager, board of directors and committee members followed. All proceedings were confidential. They spoke openly and honestly about how their community functions (or doesn’t). Next up were the service providers for the community. Professionals from the legal team, auditor, insurance provider and a reserve specialist shared their role in the community along with facts, history, and insight. Students were bombarded with information and always had the opportunity to take notes and ask questions. At the end of a long day we reviewed what we heard during presentations and were given tips and suggestions for the following day’s session.

Day two began with a short review and a tour of the community. We traveled through the neighborhood by bus while the manager pointed out amenities and shared more community information. Students were able to walk around, take pictures and ask questions before heading back. Back in the classroom we had another quick review and a chance to ask final questions and then the much-anticipated sealed case study questions were distributed. Final instructions were given, and the class came to an end. After our goodbyes and well wishes we now had 30 days to roll up our sleeves and complete the exam: 10 questions in which we would need to apply what we learned through a detailed analysis of our host community’s strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for improvement.  The average PCAM case study exam paper clock in at around 100 pages. It is…a lot of work.

If you’re like me and are having second thoughts about the case study, do NOT fear!  WMCCAI has put together a NEW PCAM case study preparation session to alleviate fears and help you prepare for success in this next step in earning your PCAM designation. Professionals who have participated in prior case studies will share practical tips and advice to help familiarize you with the process.   You’ll learn how to observe critically, absorb information effectively and analyze documents and supporting materials to help you get the most out of your two days onsite, and then move on to writing tips to so that your exam paper earns a passing grade, and you earn your PCAM. Check the chapter website at to register for this session. The tentative date for the session is August 24th, approximately 30 days ahead of the PCAM case study scheduled September 29th and 30th in the Washington Metro area. We look forward to welcoming you to the PCAM club – a very elite, select group – the very best in the industry!

By Debbie Johnson, EBP, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Debbie is the client relations representative at King Contracting, LLC in Manassas, Virginia.  She has served the community management industry for 20 plus years as a homeowner volunteer, community manager and business partner.  Debbie serves on the WMCCAI Public Outreach, Membership, Events, Education and Conference & Expo committees and is a two-time Rising Star recipient.