Studying: last minute advice from Ann Prayle

Some descriptionIt’s not too late to fit in some effective study time, as CIM tutor and CIM London Board member Ann Prayle explains. She should know. Before becoming a CIM course manager and trainer at The Marketers’ Forum in London, Ann completed each and every CIM qualification level to achieve the Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing. See her five top Marketing exam tips and checklist for the Strategic Marketing exam.

You have attended your classes, done your course homework, read some books, done some revision, panicked, drank coffee whilst burning the midnight oil and are running around like a loony as you are now seriously worried about the pending exam doom?

Perhaps you are suffering from (strategic marketing) analysis and plan paralysis and leaving yourself short in prep time for the exam?

Am I right?

Hopefully you haven’t done all of those!  However, you may be a little bit guilty of some of them. The clock is ticking seriously loudly and so now is the time to get organised and ready for your CIM exam. So, if you are taking Marketing (Certificate level) or Strategic Marketing (Diploma) in April then grab a coffee and read on.

Some descriptionSome descriptionYour tutor probably said a lot about time management early on in your course, well now is the time to do it properly. Map out what time you have (err, not much…) between now and the exam and properly plan some time to revise. Not to procrastinate and find other things to do but to revise. Cry off other plans that are not as important as your exam and get stuck in.  You need quiet time to do it properly but also factor in some downtime, for example on your commute to work, where you can also get some extra time in.

The Marketing Exam – top tips!

  • Condense your revision down – so you are working with more manageable sized chunks. The marketing mix is the biggest chunk of syllabus so there’s a lot to look at there, so you could start with that.  Another (better) way is to start with what you don’t like and don’t know.  So, if it’s the mix or the really theory-heavy buyer behaviour that you don’t like, find out exactly what bits you don’t know – and start there. Don’t keep re-reading stuff you do know. It’s pointless.
  • Soak it up - use mind maps, lists, recordings that you can soak up – whatever works for you but do it little and often. Staying up all night is probably not going to work so don’t assume you will be able to do one all night-er in the place of doing something each day.
  • Practice and practice questions – even ones you’ve done before. There are loads of practice papers on your MyCIM portal.  Find several slots where you can have two hours of uninterrupted time with just an alarm and a black pen for company and practice.  It’s the only way that works.  As you get better, you will take less time and so can do more papers!
  • Apply that knowledge – some of my candidates really do rejoice (and I do too!) at the fact there is no need to write long-hand answers to long questions, but they can get a little complacent. The best revision tool out there is to apply each bit of theory to different organisations or sectors. How would this work if I were Boots? A charity? Made tables or tablets? Whatever the scenario, it’s a great way to learn the theory and tackle the exam and puts you on the way to being a great marketer.
  • No cramming or post-mortems – it’s tempting to cram the night before but try to avoid this. Be confident and get a good night’s rest beforehand. And finally, don’t indulge your inner panic button afterwards by discussing the exam. Forget about it and move on to your next module.

Your Strategic Marketing checklist

This is a bit of a beast of an exam as there’s the small matter of an audit, a plan AND the exam questions themselves. 

Time management here is not just about managing your revision time (as I said at the start) but correctly allocating your time in the exam to ensure you max the marks. Typically, you will gain 70% of your marks in the first 30% of your answer, so allowing additional time for one question takes time away from the next with very little gain. Allocate the required time and then be ruthless and move on when it’s up.

How’s your handwriting? Yes, it’s not a presentation exam but the examiner needs to be able to read it! Practice writing quickly but neatly in the run up to the exam because if they can’t read it they can’t mark it. 

There’s a lot to cover so here’s our checklist for you.

  1. Exam technique - CONTENT
  • Theme it - do a bit of research into any current trends for customer/user service experience, or read up on the topic on the CIM website, Marketing Week, etc so you are walking the walk. Have a definition ready for customer service, the link between positive service and customer loyalty, etc. or a couple of theorists up your sleeve that might be relevant.
  • Signpost - Refer the examiner back to the content in the Marketing Plan. A simple 'see section X.X of the Strategic Marketing Plan' 'Table X on page X shows a SWOT analysis of (insert organisation name).
  • Don’t be nice - If you are asked to review/analyse/critically evaluate, don't say that everything is super - this is your opportunity to demonstrate that you can make well thought out recommendations.
  • Apply, apply, apply - You wouldn't be asked to regurgitate theory/dates, but it helps to know the general theories/frameworks from the module so that you can refer to them/apply them correctly. Definitely don't use your time to tell the examiner what a SWOT/model is in great detail - they know what the models are, what they don't know is how they are applied in YOUR organisation.
  1. Exam technique – SENSE CHECK
  • Use the number of marks as a guide for how much to write, and how long to allocate to each answer (as above).
  • Go back and do a quick read through to make sure you have addressed the command word that you had obviously underlined on the exam paper!
  1. Exam technique – FORMAT/LAYOUT
  • Don't forget to address the format that CIM stipulate. It is generally a report, so best to go in with an idea of how you can address this.
  • Make sure that you adequately address the 'command' word. This is the verb of what you are being asked to do. If you are asked to analyse, but you have simply explained, you will not get full marks. Refer back to the list of command words.
  1. Exam technique – STRATEGIC MARKETING PLAN
  • Don't forget to print out a copy of your Strategic Marketing Plan and take it along with you to the exam (believe it or not, some do forget). 
  • Hole punch it in advance, ready to treasury tag it to your exam script.
  • Print in colour if you have used any colour coding/key anywhere in your pre-prepared strategic marketing plan.
  • All answers need to be anonymous, so remove any references to your name.
  • Put your CIM and module name in the header of your Strategic Marketing Plan and put page numbers in the footer.
  • It’s 9 sides of A4 in total only.
  • Ensure you have adhered to the font style and size stipulated.