Exam Tips

Study Tips: Maximize Your Study Time with Distraction-Free Studying (Video)

In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock offers some tips about how you can maximize your study time with distraction-free studying. Fewer distractions = more learning and more learning = passing your exams!

Some of the suggestions discussed in the video include:

  • Have all of your materials ready when you start studying.
  • Turn off all of your notifications (phone, email, etc.).
  • Wear earplugs or play soft music.
  • Try studying somewhere other than home or office (try the library!).
  • Try different study times (maybe early morning or later at night).

Learn more about the HOCK study materials for the CMA, CPA, and CIA exams and see how HOCK can help you prepare to pass your exams on your first attempt.

Study Tips: Setting Aside Time for Effective and Efficient Studying (Video)

In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock offers some tips for how to set up a study schedule for effective and efficient studying.

Some of the suggestions discussed in the video include:

  • Set aside time where studying is the only thing you do.
  • Make studying a priority in your schedule.
  • Study at a time of the day when you are alert and focused.
  • Use smaller blocks of time for studying rather than longer blocks.

Learn more about the HOCK study materials for the CMA, CPA, and CIA exams and see how HOCK can help you prepare to pass your exams on your first attempt.

The Only Question You Need to Answer to Pass the Exam

There is one question that you must be able to answer correctly in order to pass a professional exam. If you can answer this question correctly, you will pass the exam. If you cannot answer this question correctly, it is very unlikely that you will pass. Watch the video to find out the question!

So, before you start preparing for any question that is going to be on the exam, make certain you can first answer the question of why you are studying. Why are you studying?

5 Common Mistakes that Exam Candidates Make Studying For an Exam

1. Not looking at sample materials before making a purchase

We talk, email, and chat with a lot of exam candidates, and too often we hear from students who spent a lot of money – sometimes over $1,000 – on a competitor’s course only to find out that the materials are not easy to understand, not complete, or don’t come with teacher support. Fortunately, there is a very easy solution to this problem: thoroughly review the sample materials that each provider offers on their web site. Don’t just sign up and flip through the book, but sit down and read a section of the textbook, answer practice questions, and watch some of the videos as if you had purchased the materials and are using them to prepare. Ask the provider some questions, and evaluate if the answers are prompt, complete, and professional.

What should you do if a provider does not provide free samples? If a provider does not want you to see their materials, I would assume that it is because they know that they are not very good, and therefore you should not consider that provider. Here at HOCK, we are proud of our materials and want candidates look at them before buying because we are confident in the quality of our materials.

2. Overestimating what they already know

While relevant work experience and education are very helpful for passing the exam, many candidates assume that the questions on the exam should be answered the same way that they would be at work. This is not always the case, however, because usually the exams have to simplify the real world in order to make questions that can be solved in the time frame allowed by the exam. In the real world, almost every decision must consider quantitative and qualitative factors and everyone will assess those factors differently. On the exam, there is a correct way to make a calculation and a correct decision. Candidates with a lot of real-world experience still need to answer the past exam questions to understand how it is that the exam asks the questions and what the examiners consider to be the correct answers.

3. Underestimating the value of practice questions

Answering practice questions is critical to preparing to pass an exam, for a number of reasons:

  1. “Practice makes perfect.” While the goal is not perfection, practicing the questions will absolutely increase your understanding and therefore your exam score.
  2. You learn how the examiners have asked questions in the past.
  3. There is a learning curve in the amount of time that it takes to read and answer a question. For candidates who are concerned about running out of time (which is most candidates) taking the exam, you need to go through this learning curve months before the exam, not during the exam.
  4. You do learn from your mistakes. Learning from missed practice questions should not be your primary learning tool, but making mistakes can reinforce concepts and also show common mistakes and pitfalls. Again, it is best to learn these lessons while practicing and not on the real exam.

4. Underestimating the benefit of asking questions.

If there is something that you do not understand after reading the textbook, answering the practice questions, and making a reasonable effort on your own, there are three things that you can do with that topic:

  1. Research the topic and teach it to yourself.
  2. Hope that you will not be asked about that topic on the exam (a risky strategy).
  3. Ask your provider for help.

Not only is it more effective to ask an exam expert, it is also the most efficient use of your time. Most likely your provider will be able to answer the question quickly, or let you know that the question you are asking is outside the scope of the exam. In either case, you have received an answer without spending a lot of your time trying to do the job of your provider, or perhaps trying to learn something that is not on the exam.

5. Starting too late to prepare.

One of the most common questions that exam candidates ask us is “How many hours should I study?” Your material provider should give you a suggested number of hours. Of course, this is only a starting point and depending on your background, you may need to adjust the number of hours.

Let’s say that the recommended number of study hours is 100. On one hand, this is a simple math question: if you need to study 100 hours and you plan to study 5 hours a day, you theoretically will be ready in 20 days, or three weeks. On the other hand, there is a limit as to how many hours you can effectively study in a day or week on a long-term basis. Even if you can study all of the hours in a short period of time, some topics require additional time to “sink in” beyond just the hours you spend studying. So, not only is a certain number of hours required, but there is also a minimum amount of time for understanding.

Overall, most people have in mind 3-4 months to prepare for an individual exam, and that is a good rule of thumb to use. Yes, some people can prepare for an exam in 1-2 months, but for the vast majority of people, 3-4 months is a good amount of time to be able to prepare comfortably and pass confidently. You cannot cram 3 months of learning into 2 weeks, no matter how many hours you study per day.

Exam Tip: Taking a Step Back

We have written previously about the importance of having a study schedule and sticking to it (Exam Tip: Scheduling for Success and Peace of Mind), but sometimes you need to take a step back from your plan in order to move forward. If you’re familiar with soccer (football for our non-US readers), it is common for a team to pass the ball backwards in order to regroup and prepare again to go forward. Sometimes in studying you might need to do this, too.

What do I mean, exactly? When you are studying a topic that is taking longer than expected to learn, or is not making sense to you, sometimes the best thing to do is to leave that topic and come back to it later. By learning and thinking about other topics, you can give your mind a break and a chance to process the topic that you were struggling with.

I use this strategy when writing materials, too. Sometimes I get “stuck” trying to explain a concept or develop an example. I can tell that what I am writing is not as clear or concise as it should be. When that happens, I usually will stop, work on something else, and then return to the unfinished topic later. Most of the time this break is just what I needed to finish my writing in a way that is clear and concise.

Just like in soccer, the path to success on the exam is not one that always moves forward. Sometimes a step back today will help you move many steps forward tomorrow.

Brian Hock, CMA

I just sat for the CMA exam. How do I know if I passed?

During the CMA exam testing windows, we get a lot of questions from CMA candidates after taking the exam, such as:

  • “How many multiple-choice questions did I need to get right to comfortably pass the exam?”
  • “I got to the essay portion and thought I did really well, so will I pass the exam?”
  • “What was the pass rate for the exam in the last testing window?”

These all boil down to essentially the same question: “What are my chances of passing the exam?”

As much as we would like to be able to answer, we have no way of knowing. There is simply no way to predict whether or not you passed the exam. Spending time wondering about it, thinking about it, or stressing about it will not change the result, which you will receive approximately six weeks after the end of the month in which you took your exam.

If you still need to take the other part of the exam, the question you should be thinking about is whether or not to start studying for the other part while you wait for your exam result. This is a question that we can help with: https://www.hockinternational.com/waiting-result-start-other-parts/

So, what should you do instead of wasting time wondering if you passed? Our suggestion is, if you are not studying for the other part, that you should take a break and do things you enjoy that you could not do while you were studying. Rest your mind and relax your body. The results will come soon enough, and only then will you know the answer to your question, “Did I pass?”

Exam Tip: Take Your Studies With You

Having a study schedule and sticking to that schedule is an important part of preparing for an exam. We have written before about creating a study schedule and also how to recognize when you have to make an exception to your study schedule. However, there is another option to keep your studies on track when unexpected events threaten to disrupt your schedule – take your studies with you!

Every component of the HOCK materials can be used on mobile devices, including all popular tablets and smartphones. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading the PDF textbook on your phone, your smartphone is a great way to answer practice questions, review major concepts with the flash cards, or watch a few videos. If you have a tablet, the larger screen is perfect for reading the textbook, and most PDF readers even allowing highlighting or writing notes in the margins.

By studying on the go, you can be flexible when unexpected events pop up and stay on track with your study schedule.

CMA Exam Study Tips

In our 15 years of helping candidates around the world pass the CMA Exam, we have written a large collection of study tips. We’ve assembled all of these study tips into one master CMA Exam Study Tips document so that CMA candidates can easily read all of them in chronological order through the study process. We hope that these tips will be useful in your CMA exam preparation.

Download the CMA Exam Study Tips file here.