How to manage your time during an OT exam

By Justyna Wachulka-Chan •  Updated: 11/15/22 •  5 min read
How to manage your time during an OT exam?

In the Objective Test style CIMA exams (professional level), you will get 60 questions and will be allowed 90 minutes in which to answer all of them (otherwise, for the certificate level, you will get 120 minutes and 60 questions for BA1-BA3 and 85 questions for BA4).

I’ll just concentrate on the professional level, but this strategy will also apply to the certificate level – you will just need to adjust the time. 90 minutes – 60 questions. This works out to about 90 seconds per question – but clearly, some questions will take longer to answer than others. 

That is why having your own exam answering technique is so important. 

You may now wonder: what is an exam answering technique, and how can I figure out which one will work best for me?

Let’s start from the top – your exam answering technique is the way that you approach answering questions during your OT CIMA exam. The simplest approach would be to go through each question one by one. That is NOT a good approach. Let me show you some more sophisticated options.

I was browsing through the CIMA website, and I came across this very short article about time management in the objective test exams

The article includes a 10-minute-long video from CIMA’s Senior Learning Development Manager Clancy Peiris. In the video, he provides some useful tips that will help you to manage your time during objective test examinations.

First, he gives you an introduction to OT exams in general, explaining that CIMA has a database of exam questions and randomly pulls, e.g., 60 questions for any professional-level exam from that database.

I think this video was recorded in 2015, right after the new examination structure was introduced, and there were no scaled scores at that time (they were introduced later), so you should ignore the part where he says that every question is marked equally.

There are 4 categories of questions:

  1. Shorter questions where you know the answer instantly (no calculations).
  2. Longer questions where there is more reading, but you know how to solve them.
  3. Short questions that will require more consideration (calculations).
  4. Longer questions with more complex data – more time required.

The explanation of the CIMA-recommended approach starts at 6 minutes into the video. It is suggested that you:

  1. Take 10-15 minutes to go through all the questions. Quickly assess whether you know the answer (category 1), otherwise press “skip”. By the end of this exercise, you should have confidently answered 10-15 questions.
  2. Use the review screen and review the incomplete items – you should focus on questions from category 3. You should spend 30-40 minutes on this step and should be able to answer around 20-30 extra questions.
  3. Use the review screen and review the incomplete items again, now focusing on question categories 2 and 4. Spend a maximum of 3 minutes per question. If you cannot come up with a firm answer by then, submit your most educated guess, click the ‘flag’ button, and move on.
  4. Use the remaining time to review the flagged questions.
  5. When the 5-minute warning window comes up, go to the review screen and make sure you have provided answers to ALL of the questions. Make an educated guess if you don’t know the answer – there are no negative marks.

You can try this strategy – you don’t have to. I always say that we are all different, and different things are suitable for us. For example, personally, I tried to go through all of the type-1, 2 and 3 questions in the first round, and it took me longer – 1 hour – but the end result was the same.

Now that I think about it, though, I reckon this method of skipping questions and answering only the ones you are sure of sounds like a better approach.

I didn’t have the opportunity to figure out my exam technique, as there weren’t enough online resources at the time I was taking my exams – but now you have PTA to help you out. Our mocks are designed in such a way that you can try any exam technique you think might work. If it does, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on and try another one. Each time, you will have a different set of questions, so the risk that you will memorise the answers is low.

Are you struggling with time management?

I do believe that you need to test different approaches to find out which is best for you. And in order to do that, you need to find a tuition provider that provides a wide range of mocks so that you can test your approach.

In addition to perfecting your time management, mocks have other benefits include testing your knowledge of the CIMA syllabus and giving detailed feedback on each question, enabling you to identify your areas for improvement.

Give Practice Tests Academy’s free packages a try to get a feel of how the exams will look and the possible ways you might tackle them.

Justyna Wachulka-Chan