"Fortune favours the prepared mind" (Louis Pasteur, French scientist)
There is a reason VIVA Financial Tuition has dedicated the best part of a year to building the world's largest bank of CIMA objective questions. It's because the single best way to pass each of CIMA's challenging objective exams is for students to have access to high-quality, exam-style questions and to practice as many of them as possible.
The Importance of Using an Online Exam Tool
It's important to familiarise yourself thoroughly with an online test facility. So, buying books of questions and practicing with pen and paper is not optimal because it's very different to the exam experience. Practice in this way only and you run the risk of being unable to adapt sufficiently to the altogether different computer-based testing method CIMA employs on exam-day. Why run that risk?
This is why VIVA has faithfully replicated the official CIMA objective exam experience with our online testing tool. An objective exam is as much a test of how well you can perform a CIMA-style objective test as it is an examination of how thoroughly you know the CIMA syllabus.
Time pressure is a huge issue for many students when they sit the objective exams. Most of the time, the students who struggle with the tight exam timings have simply neglected to do enough question practice under exam timing conditions. This is why VIVA has added some unique clever features such as the option to practice exams not only according to the official exam timing but also in fast mode for those students who feel they need even more of a challenge ahead of exams.
Quantity as well as Quality
A key point to make right now is the importance of practicing as many exam-style questions as you can. In other words, quantity counts. For the musicians amongst you how many times did you play a piece of music for the first time and it came off perfectly? Or the sports people - how many times did you practice a new skill or technique only once and it came off exactly as you wished? It would be silly to expect wonderful results in those cases without multiple run-throughs. And the same goes for the objective exams. If you go in "cold" without plenty of question practice under your belt, you run a high risk of falling flat on your face. Don't take the risk. In running through interviews on CIMA Connect with world prize winners it's striking how almost without exception they highlight the fact that they practiced many mock exams and exam questions in order to do so well on exam day.
But please don't take my word for it. A recent academic paper on the effectiveness of different learning techniques showed that there is simply nothing like practice testing to enhance learning (well, almost nothing...."Distributed Practice" is also very effective - this is a formal term for...regular, well-spaced out revision!):
Accounting is a "Doing" Subject
Imagine a world in which professional football, tennis and basketball players prepared for major games and tournaments by reading as much about the theory of their respective sports as they possibly could. Of course, high-level sports people do nothing of the sort and would consider any coach suggesting such a theoretical approach as ludicrous. Yet this is the exact approach that has been blindly accepted for centuries in education.
The practical approach taken by top-level athletes is replicated by high-end musicians, surgeons, architects, and world-class accountants. Accounting is a "doing" subject. A student does not become an excellent accountant without rolling up his/her sleeves and actually practicing accounting. Theory is really only the initial jump-start to set you on the path of doing accounting.
None of this is to say that spending some time learning the theory is unimportant. Certainly, you need to familiarise yourself with objective theory but you do need to avoid the common error of spending most of your time repeatedly reading objective textbooks. Question practice has a way of clarifying theory in a way that simply reading the theory repeatedly never could. I always bet on the student who has biased his/her study in favour of question practice rather than theoretical review.
The other thing about question practice is that it is simply more interesting than mindlessly reading through dense textbooks.
Deliberate Practice is Smart Practice
But while lots of practice and repetition is important, the key is deliberate and attentive study as opposed to mindless repetition. A big part of what makes for smart, deliberate practice is effective feedback. VIVA's question banks provide you with detailed reports on how you do in each exam along with detailed notes on why certain answers are correct and others wrong.
Think of the musician who mindlessly practices scales and exercises for hours on end only to give an average performance on the big day. Now think of the world class musician. You know what it is that differentiates her from her average colleague? It isn't the number of hours spent at the instrument practicing. That has a surprisingly low correlation with her prowess. Study after study has demonstrated that the key differentiator is deliberate/active practice.
Let's demonstrate that with a concrete example. Pianist A and pianist B have a performance of the same difficult piece in 1 month's time.
Pianist A doesn't lack determination. He decides he's going to practice hard for 8 hours a day. The thing is, nobody can practice hard for 8 hours so that's his first mistake.
he launches into the piece repeating phrases again and again
he comes across 2-3 difficult areas but decides it's best to repeat and repeat the whole piece until they disappear
Pianist B is quietly confident. She knows the key is smart practice and does not want to burn out so she commits to 4 hours a day. But boy are those 4 hours well spent.
she decides to analyse the piece first before even touching her instrument marking the music into different sections
she practices the most difficult chunks first doing so extremely slowly at first, first with the left hand and then with the right hand
slowly she feels comfortable enough to try the two hands together. But very slowly
I know this because I am a keen amateur pianist and can attest to the veracity of this claim! So, study smart rather than studying loads.
You may ask yourself what this has to do with study of management accountancy!? The answer is, absolutely everything! In both cases you are looking to acquire complex skills that require planning, dedication, concentration and understanding. So, you'd be wise to learn the lesson and follow the lead of Pianist B.
Traditionally, high-quality, professional exam materials cost a small fortune. VIVA Financial Tuition leverages the power of internet technologies to lower production and distribution costs, and those cost savings in turn are passed onto our students. In short, our students get the best of both worlds - study materials of the highest quality for a fraction of what those materials cost with traditional, brick-and-mortar tuition providers.
So, do your future self a favour: want to get good at taking CIMA exams? Then practice CIMA exams...lots of them.
So, to sum up with what we've been saying, the key to objective exam success goes as follows:
a little bit of theory
a lot of question practice with quality feedback
ideally, replicate the exam experience (practice under time pressure with an online facility)
attentive, deliberate practice always
Once you've prepared well by revising relevant theories and got in plenty of question practice, you should turn your attention to the exam day itself. The right exam day approach can be the difference between a pass and fail. Check out this article on solid exam day technique: Exam Day Approach