Writing the PRK

September 3, 2018
Kim Zarzuela

While we hear a lot about the APR there is very little out there published about the PRK. Created to be a benchmark exam for new practitioners in public relations, the PRK, or Public Relations Knowledge Exam, flies under the radar.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the exam, as my deep dive into Googling the PRK didn’t yield many results. However, I knew it was a valuable accreditation to have as a new graduate in the field.

Even so, doubt still lingered in my mind. Was I prepared for it? Did I know enough to pass?

The PRK is a two-and-a-half hour test that consists of multiple choice, short answer and long answer questions. The four sections test you on theories and concepts, fundamentals of the practice, workplace readiness, and strategic analysis. While some answers, particularly in the first two sections, are pretty cut-and-dry, others stretch your creative muscles with ideas for campaigns and media writing or allow you to express your opinions when it comes to case studies or workplace scenarios.

It’s an open book test, which means any notes, textbooks or style guides can be used during the exam, but that is not license to say that you don’t need to study. On the contrary, the more you know off-hand, the better use you will make of your time.

Getting Ready
While CPRS offers a study guide for an additional cost, I opted to rely on the materials I already had from my program. In addition to doing a deep dive into all the lecture notes from my program, I made sure to familiarize myself with a few key areas:

  • The Canadian Press Style Guide: Knowing the rules for writing in Canadian media and marking key pages for rules that I was unsure about came in handy, especially in the short answer section where you’re tasked with rewriting several sentences in CP style.
  • Key Terms and Acronyms: Can you accurately describe what a byline is? What is the difference between earned media and owned media? Can you concisely describe the function of a hashtag or S.M.A.R.T. objectives? Be sure to brush up on these things.
  • CPRS Code of Professional Standards: While you may have touched on these with regularity in your school or work lives, being readily familiar with these codes will help you give informed answers when dealing with questions on ethical practice.
  • Research Methods: Be familiar with different forms of research and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Planning and Evaluation: Do you remember the various elements of a communications plan? Remember the steps in both planning and evaluation are key in the short answer section, so having a breakdown of the elements required may be to your benefit.
  • Writing for Media: While you (thankfully) won’t be asked to write a whole media release during the exam, the ability to write a headline and lead for any given scenario will come in handy. The same goes for social media writing. Don’t forget to keep it in CP style!

The one thing you can’t prepare for in this test is your personal response to the case studies in the strategic analysis section. The best way to be ready for these long-form answers is to know your basics well.

Writing the Exam
Two-and-a-half hours seems like a pretty long time, but it actually went by quickly. When I finished the test I had only three minutes left to spare, and plenty more I could have been writing about. I dedicated my last 10 minutes to proofreading my own answers instead of writing more in the long answer sections.

I walked out of the test feeling confident. While the test itself wasn’t necessarily difficult, it was certainly challenging. It challenged my ability to think on my feet and be creative in my writing without much time to brainstorm. It pushed me to render concisely into words terms that I was familiar with but couldn’t exactly define. It motivated me to use all my knowledge and skills in public relations to create mini-communications plans and media campaigns, showing me that I knew more than I realized and proving to myself that my hard work at school and work has paid off.

Should you write the PRK?
This answer depends on what your goals are in the world of public relations. As someone en route to their masters in communications, with an eye on their APR in the future, the PRK was a logical first step for me after my post-grad. It is an excellent addition to my resumé and LinkedIn profile, and a professional accreditation that I can bring to the table in job interviews.

The PRK is tangible proof that you are a capable practitioner with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workforce. It might not land you the job of your dreams, but it will certainly help you stand out in a sea of new graduate applications.