As a tutor at Professional Academy, I find it vitally important to arm all my students with as much relevant information as possible. One thing that can be easily overlooked is preparing to actually take an exam. Now this might sound an obscure statement, but when you consider the various components that you need to cover and learn for just one module then it is easy to forget the exam basics, so here are a few hints and tips that may give you that extra advantage in one of life’s more stressful situations:
No matter how long your exam is time management is a fundamental prerequisite. Giving yourself the appropriate amount of time to answer each question to the best of your ability is vital. Below is an example of how time limited an exam can be:
Marketing Exam 1
Combining this with the fact that most questions will be divided into (a), (b) and sometimes (c), this doesn’t leave much time for waffle. In this example you have under two minutes for every mark available, so be concise in your answers.
Read the Questions
Make sure you read the questions carefully, especially if there is a case study involved or a small preamble. It is so easy to answer your own questions rather than those that are set. Planning your answers (below) will help.
Keywords are featured within questions for a reason, they act as sign posts as to what the question is looking for so don’t ignore them. Report, Examine, Explain, Justify, Recommend, List, Compare, are just a few of these keywords. If the answer requires you to ‘list’ three types of… then list three (additional marks wont be given if you list four).
Plan Your Answers
Although you don’t have the time to do any extensive answer planning or mapping within the exams, writing a brief layout of your answer in bullet form can help keep you on the right track, avoiding deviation from answering a different question to the one that is put in front of you.
Use the back of your exam paper for this planning if necessary, remembering to put a line through all your working out to show that this section of your paper isn’t to be marked.
Use the Space Wisely
Another useful tip when planning an answer is to consider utilising the space within the exam answer booklet. I am talking about both how an answer is structured, with the use of tables and diagrams where appropriate (these can be great when describing a marketing model or perhaps outlining both the positives and the negatives of marketing theory) and the use of ‘white space’. If you consider the role of the examiner, then they will be marking numerous exam papers, so why not make it as easy as possible for them to give you top marks by laying your answers out in a spacious way (the rule of thumb here is to have around 20% of each page as white space). Remember to structure your answers with the use of headings to break them up into sensible sections
Always start a new answer at the top of a new page, this makes it clear to an examiner where your answer starts and finishes and also provides some room at the end of each answer that, if you have time, you can come back to if required (this should only be done if you feel you have the time and that all other answers are as comprehensive as they need to be).
Applying marketing theory to real-life examples is an excellent way of highlighting your knowledge of particular areas. Do your research before the exam and start to build up a portfolio of well-executed real-life marketing projects that could be used to back up the theory in your answers.
They say that practice makes perfect and in this instance it couldn't be truer. Like baking a good cake, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to practice, practice answering the past papers that are available (https://www.cim.co.uk/MyCIM/PastExamPapers.aspx - you will need an account to view), this will get you use to the time it takes to answer particular sections and back into the habit of actually writing with a pen and not a keyboard!
Remember to plan your answers, in bullet form if necessary, taking the time to read the questions set in front of you, structuring your answers so that they are easy to read including plenty of real life examples to back up your well-known theory. Make sure that time is on your side by working out how long you have for each section and above all, good luck!
This blog was created by Pete Sumpton the very knowledgeable Marketing Director for moocreations.co.uk and a Marketing Tutor for Professional Academy. For more of his insights in to the world of Digital Marketing follow moocreations on Twitter or download a prospectus for a Digital Marketing or Marketing Qualification accredited by the CIM!