Kaplan Tutor Zoe Robinson offers some essential advice to structure your study.
The key to success in any professional exam is in your preparation. The time available for studying will always be limited, so it’s important that you use your time wisely when preparing for exams.
Professional exams all aim to test a mixture of knowledge and application skills – the balance between these varying as you progress through the levels. However, even at the lower levels you’ll still be expected to show you can apply what you’ve learnt.
Building a base
The approach often taken by students is to bury their heads in a textbook, working methodically through every part of the syllabus. While this will build their knowledge base, it does little to develop their application skills, and is therefore not time well spent.
A better approach is to focus more on the exam by completing practice questions. This ensures you develop the full range of skills, including softer skills such as time management and presentation that can be equally important in determining your final mark.
Start each question by reading through the scenario. Identify what area of the syllabus it relates to and what knowledge you already have to help you tackle the question. If you feel you don’t know enough, briefly go back to your textbook to refresh your memory on the areas required.
Applying your knowledge
Next you should apply that knowledge to the scenario given. Question why each piece of information has been provided and consider how you will use it to answer the question.
Look carefully at the requirement, and in particular at the verbs being used. These will provide a clue as to the required balance between knowledge and application, and will ensure you pitch your answer at the right level.
Finally, before rushing in to write your answer, take some time to consider how best to present your work. Think about the steps in any calculations, whether there is a need for separate workings, or whether your discursive areas would benefit from subheadings.
Reviewing suggested solutions
Once you’ve completed your answer, the real learning can begin as you review the suggested solution actively.
Make sure you understand everything, using the answers as a way of expanding your knowledge. Identify the key triggers in the question that should have prompted you to include specific points and take note of how the answer is laid out in order to maximise the marks.
Don’t restrict yourself to just the answer. A detailed review of the marking scheme will help to reveal patterns of where the easy marks are and how many marks are likely to be available for each point you make.
At the start of your studying, this process will take far longer than you would expect to spend on a question in the exam. However, as you move closer to the exam day, you should gradually reduce the amount of time you allow yourself until you are able to complete each question within the allotted period.
This ‘exam focused’ preparation maximises the impact of your time spent studying and will give you the best chance of achieving success in the exam.