Exam Techniques and Combatting Exam Nerves

Exam NervesMany people taking professional exams are understandably nervous.  Many delegates are in their 30’s and 40’s  so haven’t had to take any kind of exam since college or school days and feel out of practice.

Delegates shouldn’t be concerned for the following reasons:

  • The examination institutes are not trying to ‘catch delegates out’ – they want people to be members of their institutes and the exams are therefore straightforward. All live examination papers / questions have been independently verified as being fair.
  • Our experienced classroom trainers and eLearning courses emphasise key aspects of the syllabus that are likely to feature in the exams
  • Make sure you are prepared in your subject and take advantage of every aid that Balance Global offer, which includes:
    • For classroom courses – pre-course study aids to help maximise time in the classroom, on-course delegate booklets and participate in exercises
    • For eLearning – there are many embedded interactive exercises and additional resources. Make sure you review them all.  You can also re-do them as many times as you like!
    • Ask the trainer (also available for eLearning) to clarify any aspects of the syllabus that you are struggling with
    • Make full use of exam practice papers – which will help clarify your understanding of the examination subject matter and build confidence / familiarisation with the exam format and timings.
  • For practical & economic reasons, many examinations are now multiple choice. You may find it easier to pick the right answer out of a list of potential answers than to have to come up with the right answer from ‘cold’
  • Pass marks are usually very attainable, for example:
    • PRINCE2: 55% for both foundation and practitioner
    • Change Management: 50% for both foundation and practitioner
  • Extra time can be applied for if you have a disability, such as dyslexia
  • Exams can be taken in different languages if English is not your first language, or extra time maybe given if you are taking an examination in a language that you have been using in a business capacity for 2 year or more

Here are some tips and techniques that may help you during the exam:

Read the Questions VERY Carefully – Read every word.  Whilst the exams don’t contain any trick questions, missing a single word I the question (or potential answers) can make a big difference.  It is therefore important that you take in every word of each question and try not to speed read which can give rise to assumptions.

Highlight mark the Question Paper if you are taking a paper exam – whilst the question paper will be collected in at the end any markings on it will not affect your result in any way.  It is surprisingly easy to lose focus on a question so highlight key words – like ‘Senior User’ so you don’t get mixed up with Senior Suppliers.

If you are taking an exam based on a scenario (usually practitioner level examinations), only read any Scenario Additional Information when prompted to do so – usually the scenario builds and changes as you progress through the paper.  Some questions will have additional information relevant from certain points in the paper.  If you read all of the additional information at the beginning you may confuse yourself with the questions and get ‘out of sync’ with the questions.

Move on if Stuck – If you find a question particularly difficult don’t spend too long on it and risk not answering easier questions.  Either mark the question as one to come back in the margin to or take a ‘best guess’.  Some delegates take a first pass of a section in the paper, or even the whole paper, and return to the questions that need more thought.

Don’t Look For Patterns – there aren’t any.  The questions are randomly selected by computer from a databank.  Therefore some papers may have a higher incidence of a particular number / letter answer.  This is fine so don’t be put off, for example, giving ‘b’ as your answer because it is the answer you have selected for the previous few questions.

Use the Answer Sheet Carefully – If you do skip a difficult question make sure you also skip a space in the answer sheet!  Many of the questions have different numbers of answers which should give you a clue if you have got ‘out-of-sync’.  If you do make a mistake on your answer paper, try not to panic!

For open book exams – make sure you are familiar with the allowable text and tab / annotate it.  For the courses we offer we provide a guide to help with this.  Of course do this BEFORE going into the exam.

Remember to actually use the allowable text during the exam!   Needless to say there will not be time to read whole pages / sections from scratch during the exam, but the answers ARE there.

Of course, keep your mind in the right subject/ syllabus area the question is asking about and apply the theory you have learnt from the course, instead of relying on any previous working practices / experience, which may not have been based on best practice.
Don’t Leave any Blanks on the Answer Sheet – There is no negative marking on this paper so if you are struggling to finish the paper, a couple of minutes before the end it is worth just filling in any answer for the remaining question(s).  An extra couple of points could make all the difference.


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