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Why technology is the way forward

Each July, since the introduction of CeMAP in January 1998, the Institute of Financial Services has updated the contents of its study manuals. This year is no exception. Exams set on and after September 1 will be based on the revised study manuals.

A more significant change is the move away from paper-based exams to exams that are delivered electronically in partnership with Prometric Thomson Learning. A further change is that paper three and the bridge paper are now based upon a multiple-choice (objective testing) format. The electronic delivery of the CeMAP exams means that candidates are no longer tied to exams that are held on certain fixed days in the year. Results are also provided at the end of the exam.

There are a number of practical differences in sitting an exam in a screen-based rather than paper-based format. The easy-to-use technology and the availability of a 15-minute &#39practice session&#39 before beginning the exam itself should relax and give confidence to the most technophobic of candidates. However, some candidates have suggested that the sitting of a two-hour exam in front of a computer screen can place a strain upon them. A couple of simple techniques can help in this regard. First, simple relaxation techniques such as taking slow deep breaths before beginning the exam are certainly helpful. Pencils and paper for rough working are provided to candidates and these can be useful for jotting down simple calculations or key words and phrases, particularly in relation to the case studies contained within the paper three and bridge paper exams.

The multiple-choice questions and the case studies used in the exams are taken from a bank of &#39live&#39 questions. Clearly, this means that actual past exam question papers and examiner&#39s reports are not available. If past question papers were to be made available, the entire bank of questions upon which the exams are set would soon be public knowledge. This would, no doubt, do wonders for the pass rates but little for the credibility of the exams! However, practice papers are available from the Institute and students are strongly recommended to obtain these and use them as an essential part of their exam preparation.

One area of concern that is frequently raised by candidates is whether, having completed an exam question paper based upon multiple-choice questions, it is good practice to go back and check answers. There are examples, many anecdotal, of candidates who have checked and subsequently changed some of their answers, only to find on going back to their study materials after the exam that they had changed a correct answer to an incorrect one. It has to be said that it is difficult to objectively verify the extent of this problem, if indeed it is a problem at all, because it is very difficult to recall the precise wording of questions in an exam having left the exam centre. However, there may be an issue here for some candidates. The following technique does seem to work for many candidates when sitting an exam based upon multiple-choice questions:

•Work through the question paper, reading carefully each question in turn

•Answer those questions to which you know the answer and leave those where you do not know the answer or are not sure

•Having reached the end of the paper, return to the beginning and repeat the process, answering those questions where you may now know the answer, or are not absolutely certain of the answer but can have a good attempt at it

•Finally, return to the beginning of the paper once more and answer the remaining questions. Where you do not know the answer, you will have to make an educated guess.

By following this process you are giving of your best in the exam, by giving adequate time to each question, reading each question carefully and making the most of your knowledge. To go back and check your answers may be of little benefit and will be counterproductive if you change correct answers. Ultimately, however, it is a matter of personal choice.

One final thought, which has been repeated frequently in this column and elsewhere. Knowledge of the exam format and procedures, together with good exam technique, is vital. However, they are not a substitute for an effective programme of study.

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