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An Exam Strategy that has worked

I really enjoy hearing success stories from candidates who wrote the regulatory exams.

On Tuesday, Andries B. phoned to thank me for the advice given which he thinks helped him pass.

A week or two ago, he phoned to enquire about postponing his exam date as he did not feel properly prepared for the exam. This was four days before he was due to write. As the “more than ten working days” period of grace for changing one’s exam date could not be met, he had the option of forfeiting his exam fee, or writing.

I suggested the latter. Even if he did not pass, he would still gain the opportunity to get a good idea of what the standard of the questions were, and be able to prepare accordingly for the re-write. Having written before the first deadline of 30 June, it would also qualify him for the extension to 30 September.

We also discussed the FSB Preparation Guide and, in the end, this helped him a great deal. He passed both the KI (68%,) and Rep’s exams (74%).

According to the FSB preparation guide, there are four levels of questions:

1. Knowledge

2. Comprehension

3. Application and

4. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

The first two will be easiest for those who know their material well. Levels 3 and 4 are normally longer type questions, requiring more thinking to get to the right answer.

A simple bit of arithmetic will show that 35 of the 50 questions in the Rep’s exam are taken from levels 1 and 2. This constitutes 70% of the questions.

In the case of the Key Individual exam, it is 54 of the 80 questions, or 67.5% of the questions.

Old fashioned common sense tells me that a longer type of question will take more time to read and answer than a shorter one, yet a right answer for either type of question will only score one point. According to the exam tips from the regulator, the following is a guide to the time allocation per type of question:

• Knowledge: ½ – 1 minutes per question

• Comprehension: 1 – 1½ minutes per question

• Application and analysis: 1½ – 2 minutes per question

This is obviously just a general guide, but it helps to know where you can save time, and where you are likely to spend more time.

A further hint contained in the preparation guide shows that the level 3 and 4 questions are located in the middle of the paper. This is a fixed formula for all papers. In the FSB’s DVD presentation on preparing for the REs, It actually specifies the following in terms of the Rep’s exam:

Questions 1 to 18 consists of level 1 and 2 questions, as does questions 35 to 50. Questions 19 to 34 contain only level 3 and 4 questions.

Andries first wrote the KI exam. He started at question 1. When he reached the more time consuming questions, he moved to the end of the paper, and worked backwards.

As we pointed out, Andries was not as well prepared as he would have liked to be. This meant that he took longer to read and interpret the questions, resulting in him being pushed for time at the end. He had to skim through the remaining questions, but was not overly concerned, for two reasons.

Firstly, he had spent sufficient time on those questions that he was more likely to get right.

Secondly, as there is no negative marking, guessing would constitute, at worst, a 25% chance of getting it right, and no penalty for a wrong answer. Intelligent guessing, which entails eliminating obviously wrong options, could increase your chances of getting it right even more.

Two final tips:

1. Read the questions carefully to make sure what is required.

2. Make very sure that you answer the correct question on the answer sheet, particularly if you skip some questions.

The FSB preparation guide consists of 73 pages, but the above information is covered in the first 12 pages. Believe me; you will not waste your time, working through just these 12 pages. It may just make the difference between passing or failing. Ask Andries, if you don’t believe me.

Better still. Phone Andries, not me!


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