That Four Letter Word – EXAM – Part 2

That Four-Letter Word Exam (Part Two)

  • Kalpna Solanki BSc MBA CPHIC(C)

In preparation for my exam, I used many of the skills I identified in my last article on exams, but of course, as many of us do, I procrastinated…and had to take some time off to study.  The end result was worth it though…I got 91%!

Along the way, and after attending the ABC Conference recently, I realized that some additional tools can be utilized to succeed at exams.

While people often read and reread material over and over again, a more effective method is to quiz yourself.  An article that discusses some tips for retention is from the New York Times: How to Improve Your Memory (Even if You Can’t Find Your Car Keys) at

Practice exams are great for recalling what you have learned.  Sometimes, Operators do practice exams in the hope that one or more of the practice questions will be on the actual exam.  Trust me, that won’t happen, but practice questions will help in many ways, including:

  • for Operators who have not written exams in a while, practice questions will help reduce the fear factor;
  • training you to read a question thoroughly; and, if you are lucky,
  • testing your ability to answer questions that may be similar.

Another method that I have used and did not know that it had a name was to ‘fill in the blank’.  This method of learning is called Cloze Reading at whereby you create their own study guide with questions such as:

The radius of a circle is one-half the ___________________________________.

  1. circumference
  2. chord
  3. diameter
  4. arc

Regarding math (that other four-letter word!), if you look at a math question, and it looks like this to you:

Q: If I have 10 ice cubes, and you have 11 apples; how many pancakes will fit on the roof?

A: Purple, because aliens don’t wear hats.

Help is on the way in the form of an excellent math workshop from Sidney Innerebner on ‘Math Strategies for Success’ which is at:

In addition to that though, as pointed out by a couple of training providers, is the importance of thoroughly reading the exam question – every single word of it!  Just simply scanning the question and picking out key words to formulate an answer could result in ignoring some key concepts, such as:

A treatment plant has two clarifiers 30m wide and 2.5m deep. The flow is 12 ML per day. What is the detention time?

The speed-reader picks out the words ‘clarifier’ and ‘detention time’, immediately looks up the formula for detention time and realizes the volume needs to be calculated. The word ‘two’, is essential, and is missed entirely.

Related to this is the importance of reviewing the exam at the end in case you have missed any questions, or have inadvertently put in two answers for one question.

Lastly, a tip from a training provider: “The second thing I tell my Level III and IV students is to trust their gut when they select an answer.  I always ask a student who tells me they failed their exam by two or three questions: “How many answers did you go back and change?”.  Humans have this amazing power of second guessing themselves, usually to their detriment.

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