Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Why can't students just answer the question?

I was chatting, earlier today,to one of the markers who is currently busy marking Strategic Level scripts for the recent (November 2009) exam. She was complaining that most (yes, she did say "most") of the students whose scripts she saw were failing the exam because they just weren't answering the questions. Her two main complaints were:

1. That many students just couldn't make any kind of decent attempt at questions with 'higher level' verbs, such as "analyse", or "evaluate"

2. That many students were actually writing the answers to previous exam questions on the same topic, as they'd obviously practised those questions on 'revision' courses.

The first point brought to mind an article that I wrote for CIMA, way back in 2005.

The second just illustrates the fact that students have a tendency to think that they can prepare answers in advance. It used to be (up to about 5 years ago) that most students would just write the memorised content of the textbook, and hope that the answer to the question might be 'in there somewhere'. Many students still do this, of course, but an increasing number seem to have stopped 'learning' the textbook, and started 'learning' the suggested answers to previous exam questions.

When I do presentations on exam technique, I always start with a 'why students fail' slide, and most people in my audience don't believe me. It turns out still to be true, I'm afraid. Here's the slide I use...

Are the CIMA exams 'too difficult'?

I was just thinking - students often say to me that the CIMA exams are too difficult, and I always ask what they mean. The normal answer I get is a series of complaints about poor pass rates (either personal or general) closely followed by the student's life story (I work hard, have no social life, spend all my time studying...). I always reply by saying "don't worry, it's worth it".

What I mean by this is several things:
- when you qualify, you'll be glad the qualification is difficult as that gives it more status in the marketplace
- I'm a CIMA member, so I don't want the qualification to be any easier to get today than it was when I got it (back last century sometime)
- the CIMA qualification gives you opportunities you didn't expect. I'm a lecturer, an author, a consultant... None of this would have happened if I hadn't become a CIMA member. I didn't plan these things - they just happened

I guess the message is "if it's all getting a bit too much for you, just keep working at it". It's easy to become disillusioned with chasing exam success, but it really is worth it in the end.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Birth of the Guru

"Well, about time", you may be saying. The CIMA Guru now has his own blog, and you can use it to get answers from the Guru himself.
If you're not sure who the CIMA Guru is, check out his book (in the sidebar).