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Practice Exam Strategy

March 1st, 2016

If you are taking the exam later this month, it is time to start taking practice exams. When you do that, you want to be sure that you are reviewing them carefully and learning from your mistakes. The reviewing process is both the most important part of a practice exam, and the one that people are most likely to overlook.

I’ve posted a video that talks about this, but the TLDW version is that the way that I would approach a practice exam is to spend 2, 3, or maybe even 4 days on it. I would take it one day, under strict exam conditions with no formula sheets, and find out what my raw score is. On day 2, I would redo the problems I missed with my formula sheet to see if I had any new ideas or if any formulas would help (if they would, then that is a formula I need to memorize!) Then I would review the solutions to all the questions I missed, as well as any questions that I got right but found hard.

Now comes the part that people skip: On day 3, I would redo all of the questions that I missed to help solidify the ideas I learned from the solutions. Passively watching a solution won’t help you remember something as well as redoing it, and this will give you your biggest improvement. If you can score 85% on the easiest 80% of the material, and guess on the rest, then you should pass, so you really need to learn from your mistakes and solidify that easy 80%.

Ok, but I said 4 days isn’t unreasonable. How does this stretch out that long? Maybe in doing these practice exams you find yourself missing multiple questions on core topics, such as normal approximations or computing moments or things about Poisson distributions. If so, then redoing a bunch of practice problems on those specific topics can really help. Only do this with the most commonly tested topics — if you miss a question on Chebyshev’s inequality or some other really obscure thing, then this close to the actual exam the best strategy is to not care very much. That will be part of the 20% that you can guess on, and you certainly don’t want to waste a lot of precious, last minute time cramming in material that probably won’t be on the exam.

Dave Uncategorized

  1. Ethan Edens
    October 31st, 2016 at 13:20 | #1

    Hello, so I am taking exam P in January. I am almost done with the multivariate moments section of the seminar. I was wondering if it would be okay, even though I have time, to skip the “MGFs of Multivariate Distributions” section. Thanks so much!

  2. November 2nd, 2016 at 11:13 | #2

    Yes, that is a rarely tested topic that you can skip due to time.

    Btw, questions like this are best asked on the forums, not the blog.

  3. Marco Greenidge
    May 1st, 2017 at 11:05 | #3

    Is there any way to recall previous practice exams that I have done? I wrote a practice exam at work and now that I am home I want to take the time to debrief and review my incorrect answers. However, I can’t see the record of where I’ve taken the practice exam. Maybe I am just being blind?

  4. May 3rd, 2017 at 07:04 | #4

    If you scroll down to the accordion menu on the bottom half of the page, and expand it, then it will list your ‘recent history’ under each exam. The underlined date is clickable, and will take you back to the results page from the exam. If you need more detail, try posting on the discussion forum — it’s easier for me to post screenshots there.

  5. Nicole Putre
    June 27th, 2017 at 13:25 | #5

    I am taking the P exam on July 23rd. I finished all of the units today, and was about to begin doing practice problems. I was wondering how many practice exams I should attempt to take between now and the actual exam? Thank you.

  6. July 3rd, 2017 at 07:03 | #6

    I would do all 7 since it sounds like you have time for that. I would spend 2-3 days per exam so that you have time to review and address your mistakes.

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