There’s a simple little equation, based on a fundamental principle of thermodynamics which most first year senior pupils understand, but yet will spawn £billions of ‘alternatives’ to the physics of the universe: consume less energy and use more energy = weight loss.

It seems simple.
It isn’t. The brain doesn’t like changing habits. It doesn’t like working to develop new habits, it doesn’t like working to change and do new.

So we develop ways around it.
Keep eating = Lose weight. We like that.

But, it doesn’t work. Take a look around you.
It is physically impossible to consume more, be less active and lose weight.

The paradoxical thing is that we continue to strive for it.

The exam paradox does similar things to the brain.
The brain doesn’t like working. It likes old habits. It likes the easy route using old established pathways. It wants to get by on minimum effort.

So, it’s a natural thing to want take the path of least resistance. We are hard-wired to look for the easy option.
I have been (painfully) reminded of this very recently, with the exam results from the October exams we all got in December.
They could have been better (as the report card would say). They are going to be better in April 2016.

What did I learn from the October results?

I learnt that reading and watching videos isn’t enough. Being a passive participant doesn’t cut it.
Watching a live webinar might be fun, it might fit the diary and tick the box, but watching isn’t doing. The brain might like it because watching is easy. But, we need the doing bit on the end of the watching bit.

The key learn for me from the October results, is that we all need to do more doing; me and you.

We need need to do more doing for two reasons:

1. Learn to do the doing
The AF exams are doing exams; they require you to be able to apply your knowledge.

Why did so many (too many) of you get less than 50% in your ‘banker’ questions? I’m going to guess your feedback will say something like:
”….you didn’t read the case study and use the information in it to answer the question being asked; too many generic ‘factors’ and not how they would specifically change for each individual, named client….” or, maybe even ”…in this case a candidate could have scored half marks by listing the common biases, it is of little use knowing facts if candidates cannot apply them to real world situations.’’. These are direct quotes.

In other words, watching and listening to music doesn’t make you a musician. You know that.
Reading slimming magazines doesn’t make you slim. Watching people run 26 miles, doesn’t me you can run a marathon.

It’s not enough to know. The AF exams need you to apply the know; you need to be able to apply the know in a smart way. You need to know how to apply your knowledge in a way that gets you marks in the CII AF exam; it needs to be specific, it needs to be named and applicable to that specific case study. You need to learn how to apply your knowledge AND be able to apply that knowledge under exam pressure. You need to be strong, confident and expert.

My job in Q1 2016 is to get you there.

2. The exam chimp
I love holidays because they give me a chance to catch-up on some reading. I’ve recently read three books which have helped me plan and structure improved exam support from EPL in 2016. One of the books was the ‘Chimp Paradox’; as I was reading this, it became very clear to me that the ‘exam paradox’ is something we need to prepare for in 2016. We need to make sure that the exam chimp stays in the box during the exam and that we can all perform at the concious competent level, under pressure; how many of us still don’t know how to answer that FLUMP question in the October AF3 exam, never mind when under exam pressure? Or how many can do it now, but made a mess of it on the day?

It all means more practice, more practice and more practice…and under exam conditions. It means getting under the skin of the examiners.
It means more deliberate practice. It means having a process and methodology to tackle the problem-based questions in the AF exams. It means developing a process, having a template for solving each case-study and getting the marks that you deserve. It means doing, but smart doing. It means covering all bases.

It means being able to apply your knowledge under exam pressure and not panic. Don’t let the exam chimp take over, keep him in the box; make sure you are operating at a concious competent level ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE EXAM.

It means watching less live teaching webinars in Q1, but more new webinars on problem-solving and doing, doing, doing more questions…..videos on questions and videos tutorials on answers. I’ll be telling you more about that every week for the 12 weeks before the exams in April (yes, only 12 weeks….); every week we’ll all be doing more doing.

The support we’re going to deliver in 2016 is going to look something like this:

1. Weekly structured study plan starts w/c 11 January, but we’ll tell you more about the plan on 5 January

2. Updated Study notes and workbooks for the April 2016 exam, for all our AF support.

3. No more live teaching webinars every Friday, instead it’s going to be teaching tutorials on problem-solving Q&A’s and doing, doing, doing..

4. Invites to ‘live’ webinars (or any webinars) will be done through the forum

5. Bigger and better quizzes, more questions, more answers and more doing – from us all!

Over the next week, starting on Tuesday 5 January, I’m going to expand on each of these headings [1. The April 2016 plan; 2. Updated ESN and workbook; 3. Webinars; 4. Forum and 5. Quizzes] – watch out for all the blogs this week coming. This week it’s all about getting ready for w/c 11 January, with 12 weeks until the April exams (10 weeks x 10 modules and 2 weeks revision).

All the very very best for 2016.
Make a resolution to make time to do more doing.
The next AF exams take place on 12 and 13 April 2016: Start planning your Q1 2016 diary now.