Saturday, 28 May 2011

7 Top Tips for Passing CIM Assessments and Exams

Here are SEVEN TOP TIPS for students studying for CIM Marketing Course. These are mainly based on my teaching experience with the Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing – but the concepts are equally relevant for their other courses.

These are my practical tips, based on some years of teaching experience – they are not (necessarily) endorsed by the CIM. But, I have found that they work.

Tip One – Read the CIM Course Syllabus

This document exists for all the CIM qualifications/courses and can be downloaded from the CIM website. In it you will find a description of how marks are awarded, section by section, and the criteria for achieving a given grade. 

It tells you what to do to get an ‘A’ – how fab is that?!

For assessments it details exactly what is required to be covered within each section and the number of marks you can gain.

Therefore make sure that the word count and marks are matched – a section worth 20% of the marks should (roughly) contain 20% of the word count. You may be surprised how many students overlook this fact. Don’t be one of them.

Tip Two – Look out for the Action Verbs and Required Content

The CIM syllabuses (syllabii?) gives you detailed and helpful advice on how to answer each question, clearly and succinctly. 

Follow the advice!
Look out (and even highlight) the ‘action verbs’. If the syllabus says; ‘critically assess’, ‘list’, ‘explain’, ‘compare and contrast’ etc. then do just that.

If the question says ‘List THREE factors affecting the industry', or ‘recommend ONE strategy’ etc. then do just that.

Otherwise you will end up answering questions that have not been asked. This is a bad thing.

Tip Three – PLAN!

Whether you are submitting an assessment, or sitting and exam, a major success factor is to PLAN, PLAN and PLAN some more.

This may sound obvious but I am constantly surprised at students who do not. Whether you use a ‘Mind Map’, Bullets, or Tree approach, you should take the time to plan your answer section by section, or question by question.

In assessments this helps you to get-it-right, first time. Your arguments will be clearer. You will really answer the question that have been asked - section by section. - (See Tips One and Two above.)

In an exam, spending time at the start to plan out your answer means that you will find it far easier if you use this plan as a template, to expand into a full answer.

Students who turn over an exam paper and immediately start writing out an answer are likely to waste time, miscalculate the length of the answer needed and may be forced to rush or rewrite at the end of the exam period.

Better to spend 10 minutes at the start, read the questions, plan the answers make a list of the arguments, the models and the answer content – then go on and write it up from these notes.

Tip Four – Make it Easy for the Examiner

The person marking your script will have a limited time available to review  your work. Therefore make it easy to read.

Use white space.

Use concise sentences. The longest I have found so far in an assessment was 57 words! It nearly made my eyes bleed and by the time I reached the end I had forgotten how it started.
So use….
  • ·         Tables,
  • ·         Bullet points,
  • ·         Indents,
  • ·         Diagrammes

…. and make it interesting, easy and appealing for the hard working examiner.

Tip Five – Don’t Just Repeat the Text Book (aka 'Theory Dumping')

CIM qualifications are about practical skills and not just academic theory, By all means use ‘Porter’s 5 Forces’, ‘Ansoff Matrix’, ‘PLC ‘or whatever…. But use them intelligently in the context of the case study, exam question or assessment.

This is especially important at Post Graduate Diploma level.

Simply describing what a model does, as if you were copying out the text book description is not what they’re after.

Use the theories in context!

Tip Six – Don’t be Bland or Clich├ęd

The examiner wants to see you add value and make cogent arguments that actually say something. The Post Graduate Diploma, for example is just that – at a level between a Bachelors and Masters Degree.

Therefore it needs answers that reflect this.

I have seen submissions like:

‘The Internet has caused a seismic shift in the world. This presents many opportunities and challenges to marketers. Companies need to react quickly to seize these new possibilities and use them to grow and develop their businesses and decide which markets they should be in.’

Bland! Boring! Content Free! …. (as well as ending a sentence with a preposition.)

No marks (from me anyway) and a waste of time and word count. 

It is so boring my blood has ceased to circulate and I may soon enter a coma!

Tip Seven – Don’t Waste Marks

Up to10% of marks are awarded for good presentation and 'admin'. Therefore bag them and you are 1/5 of the way to a pass.

Make sure that you follow all the guidance on ‘admin’ points such as ‘Harvard Referencing’ (where required), font size, spacing, plagiarism statement, student number etc.

Make sure that your submissions are with your study centre on time, in the correct number of paper and soft copies and in the correct formats.

If it's an assessment spoll check and grammarate it. (Irony intended)

Finally, don’t panic!

You have studied hard and revised well. 

The final submission of your assessment or sitting the exam is just the last hurdle - building on all of your previous hard work.

Go for it and Good Luck!

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