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Biggest Mistakes – Umpteen re-sits 

By  Lysette Offley

Biggest Mistakes – Umpteen re-sits - photo of exam roomYou might be very surprised by the number of ‘phone calls I get from Financial Advisers who tell me they’ve taken and failed the same Diploma or Advanced exam up to 5 times. You might be even more surprised to hear what they say next, which is usually, “But only by a few points each time!” As if that makes it okay!

It staggers me that people are prepared to put themselves through that over and over, always getting the same miserable result.

You’ve heard the expression: if you do the same thing again and again, you can expect to get the same result and again and again. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Of course, the reason they’re not passing the exam is because they don’t have a good revision strategy. Instead of wasting time re-sitting the exam, taking the time off work to do so and, what’s more, paying the exam fees each time, why not put your energy into finding out what revision strategies successful people use?

So what are the revision strategies of successful people?

Well, they pay attention to the 3 keys to learning. They know that they need to:

  1. Spend enough time with the information for their brain to make a pattern of it and send it to their long-term memory.
  2. Make brain-friendly notes, which they can still see in their mind when they close their eyes.
  3. Test, on a regular basis, revision already learnt.

There is no shortcut to learning. You have to do the learning yourself if you’re the one who wants to retain the information. There are of course quick and effective ways of doing this, but you’re the one who has to do it. It doesn’t matter what style of revision notes you make when you are studying. Different people will make different sorts of notes. All that matters is the style of notes that you make, works for you. And while you’re making those notes, you are automatically spending time with the information allowing it to sink in to your long-term memory. You’ve got to actively manipulate that information in order for your brain to make a pattern of it, in other words for you to ‘get your head round it’.

And there’s no one else can do this for you. It’s as though somebody else takes driving lessons and get lots of practice in, driving in real situations on public roads, preparing for the driving test, being familiar with what the car will do and how it works – only for that person to jump out of the car, and for you to climb in, behind the wheel, as soon as the driving test begins! You’ve done none of the work. You’ve got a vague idea of what the car will do for you and an even vaguer idea of what to do with the various pedals, levers, dials and switches. You’re going to make an absolute botch up of the test. You’ve not put the time in to get familiar enough with driving for it to become automatic and easy.

You wouldn’t dream of doing that for a driving test, because it’s so obvious you’re the one who has to prepare yourself. But isn’t it funny that when it comes to taking exams, we look for all sorts of ways of getting out of doing the requisite work! I reckon, the best way to deal with any huge task that you find a little intimidating, is to roll your sleeves up, and face the monster head on! You can organise yourself sensibly and also organise the information that needs to be learnt in such a way that you bite off a little chunk at a time. That’s the way to make good solid progress. And it feels really good when you begin to achieve little successes, one after the other.

What do you need to bear in mind when making revision notes? Well, remember that the brain processes images 60 000 times faster than text, and make sure you make notes that are so strong – visually, that you can still see them in your mind, when you close your eyes. Use colour to group similar ideas together and to separate them from other ideas. Use bullet points, numbered lists, pattern, space, diagrams, charts, pictures. You know the score!

If you want to find out more about how you can cut hours off your revision and pass your financial exams easily, take a look at Genius Material, the complete revision system for exam success.

Lysette Offley


With 40 years of experience, Lysette Offley is a Memory and Mindset Coach to women and men at the top of their game in the Financial Services Industry who recognise the value of continual personal and professional development and support to achieve a healthy work-life balance, along with satisfaction and fulfilment.

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