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Top 3 Study Techniques for the Associate and Certified Systems Engineering Professional Exam

Most of us go through school either never being taught study techniques or ignoring the ones we are taught. This doesn't hurt us too badly when we are young. We have the time to overcome our lack of technique with the brute force of repetition. Now that you are a working adult your time is at a premium. It has become much more important to rapidly memorize the key information you need to advance your career. That's why the following three methods are essential tools as you prepare for the CSEP



1. Lecture to the wall

Sounds strange doesn't it? This technique is a modification of the general learning method taught in medical schools and residencies - Watch one, Do one, Teach one. The act of teaching another person solidifies the knowledge in the teacher's brain. Knowing that you will be responsible to teach another person motivates your own study. What if we don't have anyone else to teach? There is an easy answer. Simulate the other person. Simply imagine they are in the room and lecture to the imaginary student(s). I learned the technique at the public section of Gary North’s website:

"Read a passage in your textbook (the INCOSE Handbook) -- maybe only a page. Then close it. Lecture to the wall. You summarize in your own words what you have just read. If you can't remember what you've just read, re-read the passage. Then try again."

It really is that simple. The hardest part is to get over your own resistance to feeling a bit foolish. The rewards are well worth the small amount of psychological discomfort.



2. Use Images

"We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words."
"Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half our brain's resources."
"Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School." by John Medina.

This technique requires you to associate images with the topic you are trying to memorize. A great example of this can be found on page 298 of the Handbook, section Quality Management Concepts. A key concept in Quality is that it is everyone's job to build it in to the product and not try to inspect it in later. The Handbook authors chose Ford's memorable "Quality is Job 1" banner to illustrate the concept. Picturing the banner immediately reminds us of the underlying concept.

It is this concept that is embodied in our CSEP Study Guide.



3. Take a Test

Taking a CSEP sample exam or practice test might be the single best study technique. The value of this technique is summed up in the New York Times article by Pam Belluck:

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.
The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.
One of those methods - repeatedly studying the material - is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other - having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning - is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.
These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do.

Source: The New York Times
Article by: Pam Belluck
Published: January 20, 2011

Applying the three techniques above will absolutely improve your study efficiency. You will be ready for the exam faster and you'll have greater confidence when you enter the exam room.