Whether you’re a financial advisor, accountant, or real estate agent, there are certain certification exams and continuing education courses that you must pass in order to fulfill the duties of your position. However, if test taking isn’t a strength of yours, you may feel a bit lost.
The longer you’re out of a structured learning environment, the more difficult certification exams can become. Obviously, the content and structure of the exams is the same, but you’re no longer in a test-taking frame of mind. This presents unique challenges that must be addressed.
Whether you’re wanting to become a CPA, real estate agent, or something else, the best way to pass an exam is to plan ahead. The more proactive you are in your planning, the more likely it is that you’ll master the content and feel the confidence needed to conquer what can be a rigorous examination process.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips for you:
1. Research the Requirements
Start by carefully researching the requirements for the exam. This includes:
- Prerequisites for taking the exam
- Test day requirements
- Exam format
You don’t want there to be any confusion surrounding the exam. The better prepared you are upfront, the more you’ll be able to focus on the singular task of passing the exam.
2. Develop a Study Schedule
The sooner you can develop a study schedule, the better. Begin planning months in advance and create checkpoints and goals every few days. This will hold you accountable and ensure you’re tracking to meet the long-term goal of being ready on exam day.
3. Schedule Formal Exam Prep
In addition to studying on your own and putting in the repetitions, there’s also something to be said for integrating formal exam preparation into your study schedule.
Take the CPA exam as an example. With four distinct tests making up the exam, it’s helpful to work with a study curriculum that’s purposefully designed with each of these tests in mind. A CPA exam prep course gives you access to mock tests, bite-sized review courses, expert instructors, and an array of other materials that will help supercharge your studying and get more done.
Another example – the LSAT is an examination taken by aspiring law students to test their knowledge and competency to learn the law-related curriculum. It is helpful to know what a good LSAT percentile is and how it works to set realistic goals to shoot for on the day of the test and know how to interpret the results once they arrive.
4. Use Your Strengths
We all have a unique learning style that works best for us. Some people learn visually, while others are auditory learners. Then there are those who learn best by doing. You might have a preference for one or more of these styles. The important thing is that you identify how you learn best so that you can implement a study strategy that plays to your strengths.
5. Use Time Blocking
Time blocking is a method by which you turn your schedule into a series of blocks. Inside each of these blocks, you focus on one particular task. This helps prevent multitasking, which is highly ineffective.
Time blocking is especially important when you’re working a full-time job. It allows you to block off certain chunks of time for work and other segments for studying.
6. Develop a Test Taking Strategy
There’s very much a science to taking long certification exams. Developing a specific test taking strategy in advance will give you more control over the different variables and allow you to approach test day with a high degree of confidence.
Where Are Your Priorities?
Want to know the truth about most professional exams and certification tests? Discipline matters more than intelligence. In other words, it’s not about being the smartest person in the exam room. Many smart people fail to pass professional exams.
While it’s obviously important to learn the material, that’s just one element in the equation. In order to be successful, you also need discipline.
Studying for an exam while working a full-time job requires a purpose and intentionality. Without a conscientious and balanced approach to studying, you’ll find yourself ill-prepared come exam day.
So while the process of preparing for a certification exam might seem rather straightforward, it’s critical that you view it through the correct lens. Doing so will empower you to achieve far more than you otherwise would have if you tried to coast on your IQ.