Thursday, 30 April 2015

Problems with the (new) P3 OT exam

John Costello wrote
Hi David, I am undertaking CIMA P3 and was hoping you might have some advice on how best to prepare for the OT exam. There has been a lot of negative comment from students on the chances of obtaining a pass as questions seem to be long in nature and subjective. The issue of multiple select all question also seems to be causing distress. Do you have any suggestions regarding a plan of attack. Kind regards, John

Thank you for your question, John.
Yes, I'm aware that many of you are struggling with P3. It seems to be a combination of three issues which, when you compound them, can become one big "I can't pass!" issue:
  1. Long scenarios, some requiring calculations, which take an age to read, understand and answer.
  2. 'Subjective' OT questions, where most/all of the answers 'might' be true.
  3. 'Select ALL that apply' questions, where it doesn't tell you how many.
OK. Here's my general preparation approach to study preparation, and it would be true for ANY OT exam:
  • Make sure you've read the textbook, and have good knowledge and understanding of the topics.
  • Make sure you've practiced all the OT questions you can find. There are some on CIMA's website (the practice exam), and others available through various publishers, either in their text/kit or online.
Now here's my specific 'exam technique' approach, for P3 (which would also work for other OT exams, but P3 seems to need it the most):
  1. The moment the exam starts, 'click through' ALL 60 questions, looking for ones that seem to fit into one or more of the 'issue' categories, above.
  2. Each time you find an 'issue' question, 'flag for review' (there's a button top right) and move on. Don't read the question in detail, and don't stop to try answering it. This should take you no more than 5 minutes in total.
  3.  Go back to the beginning, and do all the questions that you HAVEN'T flagged for review (i.e. the 'easier' ones). This makes best use of your 90 minutes, and ensures that you don't run out of time before attempting ALL of the 'easier' questions.
  4. Check how much time you have remaining, and divide it between the 'issue' questions that you flagged. There's a summary page at the end of the assessment, I believe? Hopefully, you'll get something like 2 minutes or more per question.
  5. Now start on the 'issue' questions, and try to spend no more than the new 'allowed time' on each.
  6. If a question has a long scenario, read the question (at the end, normally) first, so you know exactly what you're looking for in the scenario.
  7. If a question looks 'subjective', stop thinking too much. Look for what it probably says in the textbook. Try the 'simplistic' approach. It's normally the right one. If you over-analyse, you'll get more confused.
  8. If it's an 'ALL that apply' question, select the most obvious answers. It's least likely to be one or all of them, so 2/3/4 should be your 'favourites'. I've seen one question where it was 'all', but if there's only one correct answer, the writer would normally choose a multiple choice format, I think.
  9. If you find yourself using far too much time on a question, guess and get out!
  10. Try to attempt ALL the questions in the 90 minutes, even if you have to guess at a few.
I think that's what I would do, if I were sitting P3 or, indeed, ANY OT exam at the Strategic Level.
Does that make sense? Do any of you have any suggestions for improvements?


  1. For strategic OT, do we have to study the textbook thoroughly (almost to the point of memorizing every bit of the content) and do not have to go through past questions and answers

    1. Good question! The answer is "yes, and no". Let me explain...

      Yes, you need to study the textbook, 'almost' to the point of memorising it. OT questions will test your knowledge, understanding and ability to apply to simple contexts.

      No, you DO still need to practise questions. There are no 'past exam questions', because all the exam questions stay in CIMA's database for further use. You need to buy/find realistic practice questions. An 'exam kit' from one of the usual publishers? Online at CIMA there are also practice assessments for each OT exam (but only 60 questions). Some publisher, and all good colleges, also have mock exams.

      As usual, passing is about a combination of learning and practice.

      I think I'll make this a post...