Study Tip: How Should I Study?

Once you have made the decision to study for the CMA or CIA exam and received your materials, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information that you need to learn. This makes the question “How should I study?” an important question.

Understand the goal

Remember that your main goal is to pass the exam. To achieve that goal, there is a syllabus of material that you need to learn. The syllabus tells you what you need to study, and by process of elimination, what you do not need to study. You should not get distracted by reading outside of the textbook or searching for other sources that are not written specifically for the exam you are studying.

Overall strategy

The two main study tips that I offer for preparing for an exam are:

  • Remember that preparing to pass the exam is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that you need to have a long-term plan when you start studying. You should plan on studying 1-2 hours at a time, three to five times a week, for several months. It is OK if you miss one session occasionally.
  • Making a specific study schedule will help reduce the stress of the study process. Without a schedule, you always have studying hanging over your head. If you know that you will study Tuesday evening, Thursday evening, Friday morning and Sunday afternoon, it makes it a lot easier for you the rest of the time because you know that it is OK to not be studying.

How many hours do I need to study?

The not very helpful answer to how many hours you need to study is that you need to study “enough.” How much is enough is determined by several factors:

  • Your experience in the areas that are being tested.
  • Your education in the areas being tested.
  • Your level of fluency in English.
  • How well you study when you study.
  • What preparation materials you use.

As a general starting point, most people need to study around 120-150 hours per part for the CMA Exams, and about 60-80 hours for CIA Part 1, 50-70 hours for CIA Part 2, and 120-140 hours for CIA Part 3.

Actually studying

The most important thing you can do to prepare for the exam is to study! Having a schedule will, by itself, not help you pass the exam. Reading motivational quotes and books will not help you pass the exam. You must actually have productive and quality study time, and reading the book and watching TV at the same time does not count.

If you have our Textbook, Questions, and Videos, this is how I would study:

  1. Skim through the textbook for a topic and look at the main points and examples.
  2. Watch the video(s) about this topic.
  3. Do the practice questions in ExamSuccess for this topic.
  4. If you are uncertain about any particular concept within this topic, read the detail that is in the textbook to help you understand the topic and/or re-watch the video(s).
  5. Ask us questions! If there is something that you do not understand, ask us. We are here to help you and we can almost always help you more quickly than you can figure out an answer yourself.
  6. After you understand the topic and can answer the questions, you should start using the flash cards. This will put that topic’s cards into rotation so that you can review the topic on an ongoing basis as you continue into the next topics.

If you do not have the videos, replace step #2 with carefully reading the textbook and working through all of the examples and questions in the book.

Do I need the Videos?

The short answer is that no, you do not need the videos to pass the exam. Many people prepare successfully without the videos. While we think that the videos make your studying more efficient (and perhaps more enjoyable), all of the information in the videos is also in the textbook. What the videos do is to bring my many years of teaching experience directly to you, making the topics much more alive than you just reading out of the book. If you have not yet watched a sample of the videos on our web site, I would encourage you to do so. You will see that our videos are dynamic learning tools that bring the topics to life, helping you learn and understand the materials more than other exam prep videos on the market.

Reviewing – a critical step

Any one individual topic on the exam is not difficult by itself. If you could study one topic and have a test over just that topic, you could do very well on each test. Some of the difficulty on any professional exam is the amount of materials that you need to retain at the same time. You have to remember everything you study, starting from the first day through the last day, which is likely several months later.

In order to help you retain information as you move through the materials, you should:

  • Use the flash cards on an ongoing basis as you move through the material.
  • Spend 30-60 minutes every week reviewing 15-25 ExamSuccess questions from topics you have already completed.

How do I know when I have studied enough?

While it can be difficult to know when you have studied enough, some things you can consider when you assess your readiness for the exam are:

  • When you are answering questions, do you confidently know what the answer is, or are you sort of guessing or hoping that you’ll get it correct?
  • Can you explain why the incorrect answers are incorrect?
  • When you go through the flash cards, are you able to answer each question quickly and correctly?
  • Were you able to score at least 80% on the mock exam?

What should I do the last few weeks before the exam?

After you have spent several months studying, you may get to the point where you have studied everything and there are still 2-3 weeks before your exam. For the last few weeks before the exam, I recommend that you:

  • Continue using the flash cards
  • Practice multiple-choice questions from all of the topics on the exam. By this time you may have done some of the questions a few times, so you may have partially memorized some of the answers. To make reviewing these questions worthwhile, you can a) make certain that you understand why the incorrect answers are incorrect, and b) think about what could be added or changed that would make the question more difficult, and how you would solve that more difficult question.
  • Skim through the textbook and look at the main topics and the examples. For the examples, read through them and make certain that you understand not only what is being done, but also why it is being done.
  • Relax! I know it is difficult when the exam is getting closer and closer, but you will perform better on the exam if you are well rested. This means that you need to be certain to sleep enough for the three nights before the exam and eat well so that you are not hungry during the exam. If you exercise regularly or have a hobby that you enjoy doing, continue to do them even during your last weeks of preparation.

On exam day

Finally, here are some tips for the day of your exam.

  • Be sure to get a good night’s rest the night before your exam. Eat and drink enough so that you will not be hungry or thirsty during your exam.
  • Allow plenty of extra time to travel to your testing site – there are no excuses for a flat tire, the bus being late, or bad traffic. It is much better to arrive early and be calm than end up having to rush in with stress from traveling.
  • Because the test center could be warmer or cooler than you might expect, dress in layers so that you can adjust what you are wearing to be comfortable.
  • Watch the tutorial at the beginning of your test session to be certain that you know how the exam computer works and that your keyboard and mouse work properly.
  • After all of your months of preparation, remember that you are prepared to pass the exam. It is time for you to relax and answer the questions calmly and efficiently using the knowledge that you learned during your studies.

If you have any questions while you are studying with HOCK, please do not hesitate to contact us – we are here to help.

Brian Hock