Canadian Securities Institute, Moody's Analytics Training & Certification Services
Mobile Menu

Exam Study Tips

Tips On Studying For Your Exam(s) | How To Approach Your Exam(s) | Tips for Answering Multiple-Choice Questions: | Differences Between Short-Answer and Case Questions | General Tips For Answering Short-Answer Or Case Questions | Case Study Guidelines |

 Tips On Studying For Your Exam(s)

Being successful in your course requires you to study effectively. If you have been out of school for some time or if your study skills are rusty, you may find the following comments useful.

  • Study Environment: A quiet location, with good lighting, a solid desk or table and a comfortable chair makes it easier to concentrate on course material. Of course, from time to time you may want to take advantage of the time spent travelling to work on the bus or subway and study under these less than ideal conditions.
  • Study Schedule: Success in your course will require good organizational skills and commitment to a study schedule. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Most people must actively re-organize their priorities and set aside regular time for study. Some students like to keep a log of study time to check if they are meeting their study goals.
  • Study Methods: Studying for a course involves active reading that is different from reading a magazine or novel. It may help to first scan a chapter very quickly (in the printed text or online). Spend five minutes looking at the title, quickly reading the introduction and looking at the main headings to get a feel for what the chapter is about. If your course includes a workbook, scan the section on your chapter to get additional hints and insights.

After the general direction of the chapter is understood, you can then go back and begin to read it in more depth to get a detailed understanding of its content. It helps to be an active reader: highlighting important information, making notes and jotting down questions.

It may be helpful to prepare a list of technical words, phrases, formulae and ratios that are unfamiliar when you are reading course material. Beside each item on the list, write a brief definition and page reference to the text where the item is discussed. This glossary will help you memorize terms and definitions required for your exam(s).

It may also be helpful to prepare brief, point-form summaries of complex course concepts. These summaries will reinforce this information and help you prepare for your exam(s).

To enhance your learning and help you understand and remember key concepts, online courses include interactive lessons and quizzes. Some print-based courses include workbooks that include chapter summaries and review questions. It is recommended that you utilize all available learning resources for each course.

You should not attempt your exam(s) until you are fully prepared. Attending a seminar or reading the material once does not constitute full preparation. It is essential to focus on the course text(s) supplied by CSI. Notes or guides produced by third parties may be helpful as a supplement to CSI materials however, they are not a substitute for diligent study. Please note that CSI is not affiliated with any outside providers and does not endorse their products.

 How To Approach Your Exam(s)

  • Come to the exam well prepared: Arrive early to avoid last-minute jitters. Make sure that you have all the materials required, such as pens, pencils, and calculator(s). Use the washroom before the exam.
  • Allocate exam time wisely: We suggest that you bring a watch and leave it on the desk where it can be easily seen. Before answering any questions, scan the entire exam and determine how much time should be allocated to each part of the exam and to each question. For example, in a two-hour multiple-choice exam containing 100 questions, an average of 1.2 minutes should be allocated to each question (120 minutes divided by 100 questions = 1.2 minutes per question).
  • Move along: If you don't know the answer to a question, it is better to move along and answer the other questions than to struggle to complete an answer that is doubtful. If time permits, you can come back and try to answer the question after you complete the remainder of the exam questions.
  • Be calm and confident: Trust yourself to know the right answers. There are countless reports of incidents where students, although well-prepared and proficient in the subject materials, obtained a low score or failed an exam because of anxiety or panic.

If nervousness is interfering with your ability to focus during the exam, take ten deep, slow breaths. This will only take about 60 seconds and should help you regain your calmness for the remainder of the exam.

  • Read the question carefully: Many errors on exams are caused by students not taking the necessary time to understand the question and selecting an incorrect answer as a result. Keep in mind that each of the selections presented in multiple-choice questions could be the correct answer to some question, so each option may appear plausible if the question is not well understood.
  • Flag uncertain responses: If one of the questions has not been answered, or if the answer is uncertain, flag it so that you can return to it at the end of the exam if time allows.

 Tips for Answering Multiple-Choice Questions:

  • Don't waste time trying to 'beat the system': Many students are convinced that there is a set pattern to the way correct answers are sequenced in multiple-choice exams. They spend time trying to figure out what the pattern is instead of using their knowledge of course content to identify the right answers. The pattern of correct answers in CSI exams is random - there is no hidden sequence.
  • Don't waste time looking for tricks: Some students may spend too much time analyzing the questions to find hints that will supposedly lead them to the right answers. The multiple-choice questions used in CSI exams are carefully designed and reviewed to be accurate tests of students' knowledge - they do not contain tricks or hints. Usually, when students believe that they have identified a trick, they have misunderstood the question. The best thing to do is to re-read the question carefully.
  • Cross out incorrect answers: It may help to cross out answer options that are obviously incorrect (do not do this on your answer sheet). However, only use this approach when you are certain that a selection is incorrect.
  • Use the answer sheet correctly: Make sure that the number of each answer on the bubble sheet matches the corresponding question number in the exam booklet. Please note that the bubble sheet may contain space for more questions that appear in the exam booklet.

To avoid wasting time and potential transfer errors, make sure that you enter your answers directly on the bubble sheet rather than circling answers in the exam booklet and then transferring them to the bubble sheet.

 Differences Between Short-Answer and Case Questions

A short-answer question is typically focused on a single topic. In some instances, a scenario or other data may be provided, followed by several short-answer questions.

A case is a complex, multi-faceted scenario, accompanied by questions that help guide your answer. Cases generally provide relevant and irrelevant information - you must determine which of the information is important. The questions that accompany the case may be relatively direct and focused or of a more general nature. An example of a general question could be to evaluate the situation presented in the case. In this example, you would apply general case guidelines to structure your response.

 General Tips For Answering Short-Answer Or Case Questions

The following general tips can be applied to exams with either short-answer or case questions. A more detailed structure for case analysis can be found in the academic support section of the CSI Web site that pertains to your course.

  • Review the entire exam: Start by quickly scanning the entire exam to identify the nature of the information and the questions.

In a case exam, it is recommended that you approach the questions in the order presented, as the information often builds from one part of the exam to the next.

For short-answer questions, start with the questions you feel most confident about, and leave the ones you are unsure of for later in the exam. That way, you will build your confidence with the early questions while your mind starts working in the background on the other questions.

  • Read each question carefully: Before answering a question, determine exactly what is being asked. Underscore or highlight information that is of particular relevance, such as dollar amounts. Make sure that you do not miss important information or nuances in the question.
  • Plan ahead: Take a few minutes to think about each question and plan a response before you begin writing. For more complex questions, it is recommended that you draft an outline of the major points in your answer.
  • Organize your work: Take the time to organize your ideas and develop them fully, but leave time to re-read your response and make any revisions that may improve your answer.

Marks and recommended time allocations are stipulated for each part of a short-answer or case exam and for each question within a part. Please note however, that the time allocation for each question is only a recommendation based on the complexity of the question and on the mark assigned to it.

Each question usually has more than one required element - make sure to address all aspects of each question in your answer.

 Case Study Guidelines

1. Working with others

You may discuss questions with other students and consult experienced investment industry personnel. However, each student must write his or her own answers. You are fully responsible for the final preparation and wording of your work. This applies to all students, including those who are related or who work for the same company.

The following are considered to be unethical practices:

  • Copying the work of others.
  • Using one file to make two versions of answers, even if the wording is changed.
  • Using one spreadsheet or computer file to produce a portfolio or other tables.
  • Special care must be taken when case studies are prepared on computers. Do not share files or diskettes with other students.
  • Copying all or part of another student's case study may result in termination from your course. See the Student Code of Conduct for more details.

2. Preparation

  • A realistic timetable for preparation of case studies is of utmost importance. This timetable should take into account the number of days to the due date, your educational and employment experience, and any personal and employment demands.
  • Please note that students report spending, on average, 40-60 hours preparing CSI cases.
  • Photocopies will not be accepted. Retain a copy of your case study in case the original is lost in the mail.
  • Please review the format instructions included with your case study. Presentation of answers must follow format guidelines given in the question. It is not necessary to submit spreadsheet printouts as supporting documentation for answers that are otherwise complete.
  • Grades will reflect both final answers and a demonstration of analysis and logic.
  • Answers are not required to be long or elaborate but should contain sufficient detail to indicate a clear understanding of basic concepts and to answer the question. Some questions may specify the maximum acceptable answer length. You will be penalized for exceeding stated limits.

3. Due Dates

  • Please carefully note the period of time that you are given to complete your case study. The exact due date will be provided when you receive it. If your due date falls on a weekend or holiday, your work must arrive in our offices no later than the next business day after that weekend or holiday.
  • Do not delay working on your case study, as extensions to due dates will not be granted.
  • Each case must be submitted as a complete unit. Corrections and supplementary submissions will neither be accepted nor returned even if received by the due date.
  • If your case is not handed in by the due date, it is considered a fail. An upgrade can then be requested.
  • Marked cases will be returned two to three weeks after submission. Those submitted via email are generally returned in as few as five business days.
  • Re-marks may be requested for failing case studies. Re-mark requests must be made in writing, specifying where the you feel the inadequacy in marking exists.
  • CSI must receive this request, in writing, within two weeks after the case study has been returned. The request must include the re-mark fee. The case study will be sent to a different marker. If the review results in a passing grade, this fee will be refunded.