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How one administrator learned new ways to pass exams

19 September 2020

Micheala Hawkins, Professional Paraplanner’s Administrator of the Year 2020, failed a number of exams before she adapted her studying process to best suit her way of learning. Here, she describes her exam experience and how at Navigatus, supported by the firm, she broke through the barriers that had been holding her back from achieving her potential.  

First published in the September 2020 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

Micheala says: “I had taken exams in the past and failed them. When you work for larger companies it can be the old school method of here’s the textbook, learn it and take the exam. That didn’t work for me. I hadn’t studied since I was at school, so I needed to go back to the basics of how to learn – but there wasn’t that support. Then when you fail, you look around at the people who have passed the exam and you begin to compare yourself to them. It can knock your confidence.

When I joined Navigatus, the first thing we did was to assess my strengths and weaknesses. I had to admit that maths wasn’t my strong point, so Aleks Sasin, the founder, started me off with an Open University Maths course, to bring me up to speed. That also got me back into studying in an easy way.

Then, when it came to studying for exams, Aleks told me to forget everything I’d ever done before and pointed out there was no-one in the firm with which to compare myself. She told me to take my time, write notes on plain paper, do four pages a day from Monday to Friday, and not to work at the weekends. It gave me a structure and a schedule.

It completely worked because I knew exactly when I would finish the book, I knew exactly when I would take the exam, and I always left enough time before the exam to go over my notes. I was also give access to the Wizard Learning and Brand Financial Training courses.

More importantly, I had support. I knew that if I had any questions I could ask them and get an answer. That support makes so much difference. In bigger companies I found I felt less confident about asking questions or saying I didn’t understand something in case it made me look less competent than I was.

What also has helped me is starting with the basics, taking the certificate in financial services rather than aiming straight for the diploma qualification. People often want you to go straight for the diploma because it suits the business. Not everyone can take that big a step, especially if they haven’t studied for a while.

Now, through structured and regular learning, I have achieved FA2 and CF1. Those passes, have given me greater confidence that not only can I tackle the studying but also pass the exams.

It has also made me want to take courses that will help with my administration role. Currently, I’m taking online courses on Word and Excel to improve my knowledge of the software programs and my skills in using them.

And I now have the confidence to start studying again for my next qualification in the 2020-2021 examination year.

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