Exam Passing Skills and Strategies for Professional Designation Candidates

High Marks Insurance

For sure, you are going to access the resources and tools available from the certifying, licensing or accrediting organization that is offering your professional designation. But what if you could get extra insights into how exam-creators and expert exam-takers think?

Real people prepared the exam you are going to take. They have looked at the same content you are learning and decided what to turn into questions and what not to include on the exam. There are certain types of content that they focus on. Understanding their perspective will definitely help you be better prepared for the exam and greatly increase your marks on every multiple choice exam you take.

Expert exam-takers have learned a set of exam-taking skills and strategies to give them an exam-taking advantage. Here's an overview of the top five exam-taking skills:

Exam-Taking Skill 1: Testing Your Exam Readiness

There are two primary exam-readiness strategies you can use to ensure your exam success. First of all, take time to identify Potential Test Questions (PTQs). Ask yourself what the exam-creator would want to include on the exam. Flag, mark up or capture the key PTQs so you can focus your energy on what are the high priority content areas you need to study.

Secondly, take time to complete as many practice exams as you can. Exam-taking is a skill just like any other skill. So, the more you practice specific exam-taking skills the better your exam results.

Exam-Taking Skill 2: Interpreting the Questions

Learn how to correctly read and interpret the stems, i.e., the question part of multiple choice questions. The stems can be fairly straightforward for some questions but very complicated for others, like scenario-based questions. Gain insight into how to handle different types of questions, even the really tricky ones by looking at existing questions to see how they've been constructed.

Exam-Taking Skill 3: Selecting the Correct Answer

Increase your probability of selecting the correct answer. There is always one right answer. Exam creators who are trained well make sure all of the options for each question are the same length. However, a lot of exam creators are not trained well. In reality, the correct answers they write will typically be longer than the other options because a longer answer clarifies the correctness of the option. So, take advantage of this inexperienced exam-creator quirk. Again, look at practice exams to see this quirk in action.

Exam-Taking Skill 4: Eliminating Distractors

Learn how to identify and get rid of the options (distractors) that aren’t correct! There are different types of distractors that are designed to mess up your exam mark. Distractors are meant to be distracting! There are specific tricks and techniques you can use to quickly focus on the correct answer! Always eliminate the 'not correct' distractors first so you narrow down your choices and increase the odds of selecting the correct answer.

Exam-Taking Skill 5: Managing Your Time

Know ahead of time how many questions are on the exam. You have a limited amount of time to read and answer each one. Focus on answering the easier questions first so you leave more time for answering the more difficult questions. Make the most of the time available to get the best marks! Time yourself as you complete practice exams in the same way a professional runner or race car driver uses time as a performance benchmark. Achieving the best results in the time available is the goal.


You know you are going to study hard to pass the exam. Your career depends on it. Friends, family and colleagues are waiting to hear if you achieved your professional designation. Being more skilled at reading, interpreting and correctly answering multiple choice questions as an exam preparation strategy will significantly reduce your anxiety and support your exam success.

Learn More About Get Great Marks! Master Multiple Choice Exams

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About the Author

Valerie Dixon, M.Ed., CTDP, President of Learnware Design Inc., is a leading expert in the field of Talent Development. Valerie has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of performance needs analysis, learning strategy development and learning design and development for all types of media. She is a recognized thought leader for how to  accelerate time to competence. 


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