Exam Tip: What is the best way to study?

Exam Tip: What is the best way to study?

When I was in the fifth grade band, the trumpet section had a piece that we needed to play all together from memory, without our music. I decided that instead of memorizing it by playing it many times, I would memorize it by writing the notes down and memorizing the list of notes. After I could repeat all of the notes in my mind, I thought that I was ready. However, as I started playing a couple of days before the concert, I quickly learned that there was a big difference between knowing the notes and being able to play them on the trumpet. Unfortunately, I ended up being the weak link in the trumpet section for that piece because my method of preparing was not effective.

Like with the trumpet, there is a difference between theoretically preparing for the exam and actually preparing for the exam. You can read how to study, and you can read where to study, and you can read motivational quotes for hours and hours, but unfortunately none of these will actually help you get even one question correct, let alone pass the exam.

Students often ask me, “What is the best way to study?” The very short answer is simply, “Study!” Read the book. Watch a video. Do five minutes of flash cards. Just like the only way to learn how to play the trumpet is to actually play the trumpet, the only way to prepare for the exam is to actually prepare for the exam. Don’t spend too much time studying how to study – just study!

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

1 Comment

  1. Michael on April 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Excellent advice.

    Too often students tend to believe that there is some magical formula as to how to study. The truth is our brain is already wired to learn things and this will be achieved by just rolling up our sleeves and getting down to business -practice, practice and practice until it becomes second nature.

    Remember when we were young. Remembering and learning things came naturally through doing. As we got older this skill became dull and must be sharpened. By taking a keen interest (focus and concentration) in the stuff we are trying to learning the sharpening process begins.

    Finally as an accounting student view yourself as a consultant being paid to provide advice to a client (on say an investment project using NPV/IRR ). If you were to earn your living as a consultant you would need to be on top of every concept (well above the exam pass mark) View the different exam questions as real world problems and apply your knowledge to advise your client, you would be surprise how you are able to retain the information after that. Your report is like the answer to the exam question.

    Using this technique after a while learning any subject will become almost second nature.


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