If you’re considering CIMA as a professional qualification or about to sit an Objective Test (OT) exam, follow these tips to hone your exam technique and improve time management.
This blog looks at 8 top tips to keep in mind when studying for an objective test.
As you may be aware, there are 9 OT and 3 case study exams within the CIMA professional qualification framework. CIMA OTs are:
- On-demand, all year round
- Computerised objective tests
- 90 minutes long
- Can be sat globally at Pearson VUE test centres (locations can be found via the CIMA website)
There are three objective tests at each level within the framework. These must be passed before progressing to any of the case study exams (unless you are eligible for exemptions, in which case your first CIMA exam could be a case study one).
Therefore, getting comfortable and familiar with OTs is key to achieving success in CIMA.
Question Practice is Crucial!
As CIMA OTs are multiple-choice exams, there is no room for error. You are either right or wrong; there are no in-between, no ‘attempt’ marks, and partial marks! The good news is that there’s no negative marking in CIMA, so it’s always worth guessing.
The trouble with OTs is that the most simple, basic logic can elude you when it comes to the pressure and time constraints of the real exam.
As time management is critical to OT success, the most crucial piece of advice when studying for any OT is to practice as many exam standards and exam-style questions as you possibly can.
Mock OT exams, in particular, can have the following benefits:
- Mocks tell students which areas they have not mastered and encourage them to focus future learning on weak areas
- The accuracy and fairness of exams can be impacted by some students’ fear or anxiety on the big day, so practice tests can reduce this anxiety as students know exactly what to expect
- Practicing mock OTs under time constraints allows students to get a feel for the pressure they will experience in the exam itself; it’s vital, therefore, when attempting any mock exam, to set aside the given time and sit the mock as if it were the real thing in order to get the full benefit
- Finally, doing mock exams doesn’t just measure how much a student knows (and doesn’t know); it also helps reinforce the learning and makes it more likely that the relevant information can be retrieved later
8 Top Tips to Pass your CIMA OTs
1. Determine the answer format
In most OTs, you will see a variety of different styles of objective test questions, including multiple response type questions where potentially more than one option is correct, drag and drop questions, and fill in the blanks and hot spots.
Practising tackling these different styles of questions before the exam is fundamental so that you know what to expect. Determining which type of answer is required can also save you valuable time in the exam.
For example, identifying that a question is multiple response question will save you time as you immediately know there is more than one correct answer. As such, you won’t waste time trying to eliminate the correct options to arrive at a single response.
2. Use the process of elimination
Using the process of elimination, cross out all the answers you know are incorrect, then focus on the remaining answers.
This is an excellent time-saving strategy, but it also dramatically increases your chances of selecting the correct answer.
3. Read every answer option
Read all the answer options before choosing a final answer.
While this may appear obvious, it is nonetheless an extremely common mistake students make when under time pressure in an OT exam. Don’t skim the answer options; be sure you have considered each option carefully.
4. Make an educated guess
As there is no negative marking in CIMA OTs, make an educated guess for any question you’re unsure about.
Use your common sense and select the most logical answer from the available options. You have nothing to lose at this point!
5. Answer the questions you know first.
If you’re having difficulty answering a question, move on and come back to tackle it once you’ve answered all the questions you know.
Answering more straightforward questions first can help get you settled and sometimes offer you insight into answering more challenging questions.
6. Pay attention to words…
Pay particularly close attention to the words not, sometimes, always, and never. An answer that includes always must be irrefutable. If you can find a single counterexample, then the answer is not correct.
The same holds true for the word never. If an answer option never includes a single counterexample will indicate the answer is not the correct one.
7. t’s usually best to stick with your first choice – but not always!
It’s usually best to stick with the answer you first chose after reading the question. It’s generally counterproductive to constantly second guess yourself and change your answer. However, this doesn’t mean your first answer choice is necessarily the correct answer choice.
While multiple-choice tests aren’t usually intentionally designed to trick or confuse students, they are designed to test students’ knowledge and ability.
To this end, the answer options provided will often include the most common wrong answer among the choices that seem logical but are ultimately incorrect, so be careful!
8. “All of the above” and “None of the above.”
You may have, at some point, previously been given test-taking advice along the lines of “always guess the middle answer if you don’t know” or “avoid any answer that uses the words ‘never,’ ‘always,’ ‘all,’ or ‘none'”.
However, according to research, this conventional wisdom doesn’t hold up against statistics. In fact, research shows that the answers “none of the above” or “all of the above” are correct a large proportion of the time in OTs, so when you encounter a question that you really have no idea about, choosing one of these answers gives you a better chance over random guessing.
Bear in mind, when you encounter “All of the above” and “None of the above” answer choices, do not select “All of the above” if you are fairly certain any one of the answers provided is incorrect. The same applies to “None of the above” if you are confident that at least one of the answer choices is true.
The tips in this blog should give you an indication that possibly the biggest limiting factor when it comes to OT exams is time management. The only way to improve this skill is to practice, practice, practice!
While this blog considers some time-saving strategies that you can use in the exam, the best advice I can offer is to practice as many multiple choice-style questions as possible in advance of your exam.