How to approach exams

The Burren College of Complimentary Therapy will be posting a series of blogs on suggestions on how to become an accredited qualified complementary health therapist.  The blog will cover topics such as:

Getting an Accredited Qualification in Complementary Therapies.
How to approach a case study plan to get the best possible result.
How to approach exams.
Professional Indemnity/Membership
How to set up a home practice.
How to build a clientele.
Ways to self care.

Multiple Choice Test

By now you have studied, practiced and have completed your case studies.  Hopefully you have had practice at doing Multiple Choice Questionnaires (MCQ’s) to prepare you for your theory exams.

I have found that six weeks of preparation before the exam date will have the student well and truly confident heading into exams.  The trick is practice, practice, practice as it will all make perfect on the final day. Make sure that there are no surprises waiting for you in the exam!

For the theory part of your exams, your college should have a selection of MCQ’s to practice the technique of answering papers.  I have discovered some good techniques and tips to answering questions that I use to prepare my students:

  • It may be simple but read the question before you look at the choice of answers. Don’t just scan the question – take the time to fully understand what is being asked.

  • Come up with an answer before you look at the possible answers.  This way the choices won’t throw you off or trick you.

  • Underline the keywords in the question and pay special attention to any capitalized or highlighted words.

  • Watch out for words in the exam such as not, correct, incorrect, true and false.

  • Delete the answers that are obviously incorrect – elimination of erroneous options is particularly helpful when the answers that you are given are very close to each other.

  • Make sure you have blank paper to draw diagrams or to write lists. This is very helpful especially with anatomy and physiology – for example, drawing a quick diagram of the heart will clarify functions between the left and right side of the organ that may be confusing if you are picturing it in your mind’s eye.

  • In “All of the above” and “None of the above” choices you must be certain that all options presented fit in either category before selecting as an answer. If you are unsure about all options but know at least two of options fit in a category it may give an indication of the answer to choose.

  • A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.

  • Usually the correct answer is the choice with the most information.

  • Make sure you answer all questions. There is no penalty for guessing and you have a one in four chance of getting it right.  A question with no answer given cannot be marked correct, so give an educated guess.

For Practical classes like Massage, Reflexology and Aromatherapy I tend to do a number of pre-assessment exams with students.  I will try to get a teacher from another school to examine students or I will get a past pupil who has some years of experience in to assist and give feedback to students for areas to be mindful of.

Consider pairing up with a fellow student coming up to exams to give you feedback on areas that you need to improve, and who in turn you can give feedback to.

Listen and take on board what your tutor says, and ask what areas you may need to pay special attention to.  That is what your tutor is there for, so don’t be afraid to ask!

On the day of examination have everything prepared from the night before – leave nothing to chance.

 Remember that there are marks going for your appearance, hygiene and client care: make sure your appearance is perfect, follow correct hygiene procedures and most importantly take time to connect with your client. Your client care and attention is the focus of your treatment, even at exam time.

Take your time and do not rush any of point of your routine or sequence. If you think or feel that someone is ahead or behind you in your sequence ignore it and stay focused on your client. If not the examiner will take note and you will lose marks. Try not to look at the examiner to gauge how they are marking you – you will draw attention to yourself and to the fact that you are not focusing on the client.

For oral questions, you should have had practice in answering conclusively any questions that may come up.  Give the examiner as much information as you can in your answer.  The examiner is not there to trick or confuse you – they want you to pass so you have to give them every reason to mark you at a high standard.

If you cannot think of an answer or you have drawn blank from nerves, take a deep breath and ask the examiner if you can have a minute or two to think.  It is then up to you to approach the examiner with the answer or to tell them you can’t provide it. Do not let the fact that you can’t answer a question upset you. In ITEC exams there are five marks going for the oral part of the exam, so you won’t lose more than this for not answering.

When you are finished your exam, be proud of all you have learned in your chosen course.  Remember what you do in examination is only one aspect of what you have learned throughout your course.  You have learned so much and you have met some wonderful future colleagues that will journey with you throughout your career.  The friends I made when first I qualified and when I first started working in the complementary therapy area are still my closest friends thirteen years later.



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