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4 Tips for Acing Your Cumulative Exam

I despise cumulative exams and I personally think they should be banned permanently. Unfortunately, there are a number of professors and professional organizations that feel differently, and all of us have to take some type cumulative exam at some point in our academic or professional careers. As I finish up my master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, the time for me to take the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE) is quickly approaching. I’ll be taking the exam this May, and I’ve spent countless hours studying and preparing to ensure that I do well. While I still have quite a bit of studying to do in the next couple of months, I’m getting more and more comfortable with the material and feeling more and more confident. I’m sharing all of my study secrets to ensure that you ace your next cumulative exam.

Tips for acing your upcoming cumulative exam

4 Tips for Acing Your Cumulative Exam

Register to make it real

This may or may not apply to your test (if it’s for a college course, you’ll likely already know the date and won’t have much say in the matter), but the first step to acing any cumulative exam or exam for continuing education is registering for it. I put off registering for the CPCE for as long as I possibly could. My thought process was that I should start studying first and register later to ensure that I was ready when my test date came along. This outlook was totally wrong (I didn’t even open my test prep book until I registered for the exam) and I don’t want you to make the same mistake that I did. Registering for your upcoming exam makes it real. If you’re anything like me, you won’t actually start studying until you have the exam on your calendar, so go ahead and register so that you can make a study schedule with your exam date in mind.

Make a REALISTIC study schedule

As soon as you register for your cumulative exam, make a study schedule that is realistic for your lifestyle and attention span. Pick the exact date when you will start reviewing material and add it to your calendar in big bold letters with stars around it. My exam material covers everything that I’ve learned throughout my master’s program and is broken into 12 different topics. I registered for my exam in December and made a detailed study schedule with my test date in mind. I started studying in January and study 3 topics each month. I left the month of May open for practice tests and a bare bones review of all of the material. My study schedule may not work for you, but what’s important is that you create one that you can stick to. Between blogging, my actual grad school classes, traveling, and my other responsibilities and hobbies, I knew that studying more than 3 topics each month wasn’t realistic for me, but maybe you have more free time and can squeeze in 4 topics per month. Be sure to plan how much time each day you’ll spend studying. Whether it be committing to 3 hours a day, 1 chapter a day, or 25 flashcards a day, it’s important to set a daily study goal and actually pencil it in on your planner and to-do list.

Start studying early

When it comes to cumulative exams, it’s not at all wise to procrastinate. Start studying early. The amount of information makes it impossible to cram, so I recommend giving yourself plenty of time. I started studying 4 months before my exam for a couple of reasons. First of all, I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t just skimming over the material, but actually relearning in. I like to give myself at least a week to sit with each topic before I move on to the next. Secondly, I wanted to make sure that I had time for a review at the end and wasn’t just studying anything for the first time the week of the exam. While I don’t recommend starting to study too far in advance (I personally think 6 months out is about as early as you should start – if you start any earlier than that, you likely won’t remember much when the exam actually rolls around), time is your friend and you’ll feel a lot more confident with your material if you’re not rushing through it.

Diversify your study techniques 

There are a lot of great ways to study and the ways that you choose to review your material will depend largely on the topic and your learning style. No matter what style of learning you prefer, you should definitely study using more than one technique. There are a plethora of study materials available, and I recommend taking advantage of at least 3 of them to ensure that you know the material for your upcoming cumulative exam in and out. For the CPCE, I study using a test prep book, flashcards, and an app on my iPhone. I’ll add one more method when I start taking practice tests next month. Taking advantage of things like presentations and videos are great ways to study as well. I like to read a chapter of my study guide each Monday then spend the rest of the week going over the flashcards for that topic. I utilize the CPCE Exam Prep iPhone app when I’m on the go to test my knowledge and refresh my memory. I’ve found that using more than one study technique really helps me to take in information that I can recall later on.

CPCE Cumulative Exam Prep

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned in studying for my upcoming cumulative exam is that sometimes it’s important to work smarter, not harder. Exams like the one I have coming up cover a lot of information, and it’s impossible to memorize every single thing in detail. When studying for a cumulative exam, it’s usually best to focus on the basics and try to remember general concepts. If your upcoming exam is multiple choice, use the test’s format to your advantage and ensure that you can recall information and pick answers out of a list as opposed to being able to write out paragraphs of information about each topic. Use pneumonic devices and similar study techniques to make your job easier and always remember that an educated guess goes a long way. Good luck and happy studying!

What are you tips for acing a cumulative exam?

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