The other day, my friend and I were talking about the PMI exam. In case you haven’t heard about it, it’s the qualification for project managers and perceived as a rather difficult exam with quite an intensive preparation. While I toyed with the idea in the past, I couldn’t find the motivation. But in the spur of the moment, I decided to join her and signed up!
Since then, my enthusiasm has been on a small roller coaster ride. You see, an entry requirement is taking a 35-hour-long course either in person or online. I’ve chosen the online option and must have one of the most boring presenters. Combine that with a rather technical 619-page-thick study book and learning has become just a tiny bit more challenging. Or maybe it’s just me getting older and am finding it more difficult to get back into the formal way of learning?
Certainly, I can’t be the only adult learner. So what are others doing to maximise their study time and stay on track? How can you make studying while having a demanding job and family life as pain-free and as much fun as possible? Here are my suggestions for effective studying:
- Define your goal. Why are you taking this course and what do you want to get out of it? Is it a company required course or you preparing yourself for a career change? If it’s just for fun, what motivated you to take it in the first place and will you treat it as serious as a mandatory course?
- Chose the most suitable way for you to study. Are you the visual, auditory or tactile/kinaesthetic learner? If you don’t know your learning style, take this test.
- Identify the right time of the day for your studies. Are you an early morning person? Can you review some material before going to work? If you prefer studying in the evenings, how late can you stay up before it impacts your sleep and your performance the next day?
- What’s your reading pace? Knowing how fast you’ll read helps you predict how much you can cover in one study session. If you don’t know your reading time per page, use a stop watch, read a couple of pages and measure the time taken.
- What is all required to receive credit for your course? Do you need to just go to class? Are there any homework, assignment, models, presentations or projects due? Find out their due dates.
- Now that you know the basics, create a realistic study plan. Look at your calendar and work from the assignment dates and/or the exam date backwards. Identify how many topics or chapters you’ll need to review (this is where your reading pace will come in handy) and by when. Predict the effort required and schedule enough prep time. Don’t forget to include personal, family or work commitments in your study plan.
- Attend your classes, review the presentations and your study notes afterwards. Keep your class material organised in a binder or folder. You won’t lose oversight of your notes when keeping them together.
- Find a quiet study area. If you have a study or an office at home, use it and shut the door behind you. If there’s no quiet space in your home, consider locations like the local library or university library. Some towers in Dubai have business centres where you can review your materials. Another option may be your office at work.
- Block out interruptions. Yes, this means Facebook, Pinterest, TV and phone calls. Websites likes Freedom, SelfControl and Cold Turkey restrict internet access as defined by you.
- Disruptions from your family may be trickier to avoid. Speak with your family about your wish (or need) to pursue this course and your request for quiet(er) time while studying. If your kids are younger, can you study after they’ve gone to bed or before they get up in the morning?
- Set a time limit for your study session. Break your sessions into smaller slots. It’s more motivating to spend 25-30 minutes reading than 3 more hours in one go. Plus, you’ll remember more!
- Take a break from your books or computer. Give your eyes some rest and look into the distance while making yourself a cup of tea or watering the indoor plants.
- Alternate or supplement your study materials. These days, you don’t just depend on your text book. Remember your learning style (number 2)? Podcasts are a fabulous addition for auditory learners. You can listen to them on your way to work or when working out. Videos are especially effective for visual learners.
- A study group can keep you on track. Being part of a team makes us more accountable and by not preparing for the meetings, we’re letting the others down. It’s been shown that study groups encourage social learners and provide an opportunity to run through scenarios and questions within the group.
- While studying, it’s tempting to munch on little sugary snacks or to drink carbonated soft drinks. Unfortunately, their initial energy boost is short lived and your body (and brain) crashes quicker than you can handle. Have a healthy snack like an apple, which you can slice into smaller pieces, and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to get enough sleep or otherwise your next day may not be as productive as it can be.
My friend and I only a few more studious weeks ahead of us and the thought of receiving that PMI qualification certainly keeps me going. How do you study and prepare for tests? What is your motivation and encouragement to sit and pass that exam? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Until next time,