In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock offers some tips for how to study segregation of duties, a usually very difficult topic for CMA, CPA, and CIA exam candidates to master.
In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock offers 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 an early morning or later at night).
For almost 20 years, I have been writing study materials and teaching exam-based courses for the CMA, CIA, CPA, CFA, ACCA, and CIMA exams. While writing materials and preparing for classes, I have recognized three stages of understanding that a person goes through when learning something new.
The first stage is what I call “memorization.” You have memorized the key terms, the steps that need to be performed, the formulas, and maybe some of the unique details for the topic you are learning. However, you may not understand exactly why the formulas work, why the steps are what they are, or how this topic connects to other topics, but you have memorized the basic facts. You would not be able to teach the topic to anyone else at this stage because you would only be stating facts that you memorized, and would not be able to explain anything.
I call the second stage “excessive understanding” when you understand all of the “whys” and “hows” about the topic. However, your understanding is not focused and you know a lot more than you need to. You start to understand that this topic is connected to other topics, but you may not be sure how. You would be able to teach this topic to someone else, but it would take a long time and the person you are teaching it to would be overwhelmed and confused because you would not be presenting information in a concise, logical, and progressive manner.
The third stage I call “efficient understanding” because you have taken all of the information that you knew at the second stage and condensed it down to what is important and can structure it in a way that is clear and understandable to someone else. When you have efficient understanding, you know why the formulas are what they are, you know why each step is important, you know how this topic is connected to others, and you can draw comparisons between this topic and others. Teachers who have efficient understanding are able to take a large topic and explain it in a clear and concise way. I would imagine that the teachers who you liked the most throughout your academic career likely had this level of understanding.
Bringing these stages back to your studies, you might be asking, “For an exam, what level of understanding do I need?” There will be some questions that you need only to have memorized the basics. However, there are not enough questions for you to pass that require only this level because many of the questions will require a deeper understanding.
If you understand the material at the second level, you should be able to answer most of the questions, but it will take you longer to answer than it should. Your biggest risk would be that you run out of time taking the exam because it takes you too long to answer each question.
When you have learned the material to the “efficient understanding” stage, you are in a great position to pass the exam. Not only do you know the material that you need to answer almost all of the questions correctly, but you will be able to answer the questions quickly and with enough time left over to review any questions you were not certain about.
At HOCK, we write our materials at the level of efficient understanding. This means that our materials will be shorter than materials written at the second level of understanding and longer than materials written at the first level. We focus on efficient understanding rather than page count so that all of our materials will prepare you to pass the exams on your first attempt.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
After taking an exam, students frequently ask if they should start studying for the next part right away, or if they need to wait for their results first. If you feel that you did well on the exam, I suggest that you should start studying the next part, and here’s why:
- Even if you do not pass, you will not have a lot to re-study, so you would be able to re-study while you continue studying for the next Part.
- Once you have studied for an exam, you are the habit of studying. If you take more than a week or two off, it will be harder to start studying again later than if you just continue studying without a long gap.
- You will need to take all of the Parts eventually, so there is nothing to gain by waiting.
If you leave the exam knowing that you failed or did poorly, then I recommend you take a short break (no longer than a week) and start preparing to re-take that same Part, and then you should retake that same Part as soon as possible.
During your break, you should also think about your study materials and try to determine if your study materials contributed to your poor results. If there were questions on the exam that you did not think that the material covered, or covered poorly, then you might want to consider looking into other study materials for your second attempt.
If you determine that you need some additional materials, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Most of the question banks are going to be very similar among all of the providers because all providers should be using the same previously released exam questions as the basis for their question bank. Therefore, you normally should not purchase a second question bank.
- If you have a textbook from one company, it might be a better investment to purchase videos from another company instead of a second textbook. If the videos cover the entire syllabus (like the HOCK Videos do), the Videos will not only provide a different approach to some of the topics but also provide a different style of learning, which may be useful.
- If you decide to purchase HOCK materials as additional materials, be certain to take advantage of our “Switch to Hock” Discount. We know materials are expensive and want to help you when you are purchasing a second set of materials.
The time period after you take the exam and before you get your results is a period of anxiety. But, you can use this time wisely by preparing to either take the next exam or prepare to retake the exam that you just took. Whether it is the same exam or the next exam, we are confident that HOCK can help you pass the exam. Learn more about our CMA, CIA, and CPA exam materials and start studying today!
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
When we talk about professional certification exams, we generally think of people with jobs taking the exams to advance their career and increase their earnings potential. However, if you are a university student in accounting or finance, you should seriously consider taking a relevant certification exam while you are still a student.
If you would like to be an internal auditor, you should take the Certified Internal Auditor Exams (3 exams). If you would like to work in management accounting or finance, you should take the Certified Management Accountant Exams (2 exams). If you would like to go into auditing, you should take CPA or ACCA (or other similar certification), depending on the required certification for auditors where you live.
No matter which exams you take, there are three reasons that you should start your Certification while you are still at university:
- You save money. Registering for the exams is cheaper if you do so as a student. For example, the costs of taking the 2 CMA Exams as a professional is $1,325, but the cost of taking them as a student is only $849. Additionally, some of the certifications have scholarships for students that make the registration for the exams free. You should contact the local Chapter of the organization that gives the certificate and ask if there are any student scholarships available for you.
- It is easier to study. While you are a student, you probably have studied many of the topics on the exams in your classes. This means that your studying for the exams is more of a review of these topics, and you can prepare more quickly while everything is fresh in your mind.
- It will help you get a job. It is a very competitive market for graduates in accounting and finance, and anything that you can do to differentiate yourself will help you get a better job and/or the job that you really want. By taking the exams (even if you have not passed them all yet) you are showing a prospective employer that you are serious about your profession and that you are also making a positive distinction between yourself and everyone else who graduated but did not take any exams.
We welcome any students (or professionals) with questions to contact us and we will be glad to discuss certifications and how to prepare to pass the exams. The sooner you start your professional exams, the sooner you will benefit from them.
If you are a university student, send us a copy of your unexpired student ID at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the 35% discount.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock discusses preparing for CMA Exam Essays and Problems and why you shouldn’t be intimidated by the essays and problems.
In this video, HOCK international President Brian Hock discusses two of the main benefits of having professional certifications:
- Provides a differentiating factor when competing for a job
- Offers networking through a professional organization
The written essays and problems on the CMA Exams are a source of anxiety for many candidates, but having proper time management strategies will help reduce your stress level and earn the most points possible on these questions.
Candidates usually have one of two problems when writing answers on the essays or problems:
- You know the topic of the question very well, and don’t have time to write everything that you know.
- The question requires a lot of calculations (for example, preparing a financial statement), and you need more time to finish it and make your answer perfect.
The solution to both of these problems is budgeting your time. When you get to the essay or problem portion of the exam, briefly scan through all of the questions so that you know what is required, and then roughly allocate your time for each question. This will ensure that you do write something for each question. It is critical that you have some time for each part of each question because, unlike multiple-choice questions, you cannot just quickly guess on the last essay or problem and hope to get it correct. Earning zero points on just a couple of tasks will significantly reduce your chance of passing the exam.
Your budget will also keep you moving through the essays so that you do not spend too much time writing everything you know about a topic. There is usually a diminishing return in points with the more time you spend on a question. If you spend 20 minutes on a question that has 20 available points, it is likely that you will get 10 of those 20 points in the first 5 minutes. In the next 5 minutes, you might get 6 more points. In the last 10 minutes, you are working for only 4 more points. If you exceed the twenty minutes, you may get an extra 1 or 2 points, but with that extra time, you could have earned 8-10 points by answering the next question and getting the easy points in that essay or problem.
To give an example, let’s say that a question requires preparing a short balance sheet and you are very comfortable with your answer, but the balance sheet does not balance. Do not panic! You probably got (for example) 18 of the 20 points with the work that you did and only made a simple math error or transposed two numbers. If you spend 10 minutes trying to balance your balance sheet, you might get those 2 extra points. But, in those same 10 minutes, you could have started another question and earned a substantial portion of the points available on the next question. Since you have a limited amount of time, you need to be make certain that you get the maximum number of points for each minute that you have available.
By managing your time and sticking to a time budget on the essays or problems, you can be certain to maximize the number of points you earn, which will lead to your passing your CMA Exam.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
Making the decision to purchase exam prep materials is the first step in preparing to pass the exam. Once you have purchased your materials, what should you do first? For the purposes of this exam tip I am going to assume that you purchased HOCK Complete materials, but the same general ideas apply to any materials.
In the first week, you should familiarize yourself with the materials, in a sense an installation and fact-finding week. I suggest that you do the following, though it doesn’t have to be in this order:
- Read the different study tips that we have written at: www.hockinternational.com/category/exam-tips/. These tips and ideas will help you understand what you will be doing and how you will do it.
- Download the textbook, and page through the textbook to familiarize yourself with the topics and layout. Read a couple of pages in a few topics that interest you and look at some of the examples.
- Look at the videos that are available, and watch the first video. Then, watch part of a few videos from different topics to get a sense of the style and content of the videos.
- Access the question bank, and do a few practice questions. It does not matter now if you understand what the question is asking. Spend some time experimenting with the interface and learning how the questions are organized.
- Download the flash cards, and familiarize yourself with how the flash cards work in PowerPoint. The flash cards are an excellent review tool.
- Set up your PassMap in My Studies with your target exam date. The PassMap guides you through using the materials, one topic at a time, and gives you target dates for studying each topic. See www.hockinternational.com/exam-tip-scheduling-for-success-peace-of-mind/ for more thoughts on why a schedule is important.
Once you have your schedule and have studied for a couple of weeks, you should stop and evaluate your studying. Are you staying on track with your study plan? Has it been working like you thought it would? Are your blocks of study time too long or too short? Are you trying to study too much each week? If necessary, revise your PassMap. Re-evaluate every month or so to see how you are doing with your schedule and make further adjustments as needed.
Remember that the study process for any professional exam is a marathon, not a sprint. It does not matter how fast you start studying, but rather that you study fully and completely so that you pass the exam. Having and following a study plan will ensure that you are successful in passing on your first attempt, which is why you purchased materials in the first place!
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
One of the most frequently asked questions from CMA candidates is, “What percentage of the questions do I need to get right to pass the CMA exams?” Yet even when candidates understand how the exams are scored, they often try to calculate the percentage of MCQs and essays that they need to get right to pass the exams. After you watch this video from Brian Hock, you will understand how the exam is scored and why you don’t need to waste time figuring out exam percentages.