Optimising your study time
It may sound obvious, but the best thing you can do is get organised. Set a realistic and achievable timetable and find a quiet place to study. Don’t try to second guess likely exam questions, it is important to try to cover the whole unit content. You will need to focus on key issues, but you will also display a broad understanding of the subject.
Make clear notes from which to make ‘refresher’ points, use whatever form of notes you prefer - written word, colourful diagrams, flow charts, brain storming diagrams, bullet point lists etc. It is also a good idea to read widely.
The CIPS student forum is an excellent way of communicating with members in a similar situation to you.
Dip into journals and newspaper articles, or magazines such as Supply Management; online resources such as CIPS Intelligence or Supply Management online, as wider reading will help you deepen and expand your understanding.
"Signing up for the Supply Management daily e-mail was the best thing I ever did to help my studies. It provides me access to relevant and up-to-date procurement news which I relate my studies to. I was able to include relevant examples in my exam answers and my results improved". CIPS self-study student member studying the Advanced Diploma
Download a free copy of our Exam Techniques Guide to help you prepare for your exams. Tips to help you maximise your revision time include:
- Plan a timetable for revision and break up each area into manageable chunks. This will make your work less daunting and help you to revise more thoroughly
- Use the unit content learning outcomes as a check list of all the things you need to know before the assessment
- Practise doing tests with sample or exemplar questions - this will help build your confidence for the ‘real thing’
- Mark your own practice papers and work out which areas you need to revise a little more
- Avoid trying to 'cram' the night before your exam – this could just make you feel stressed and tired, it is much better to build up your knowledge over a period of time
- Look at your ‘refresher’ notes on the day - keep them simple and clear
Keep a positive attitude. If you think you can pass, you probably will!
"The CIPS Exam Techniques Guide really helped my students prepare for their exams. An essential read for anyone revising for exams". Tutor delivering CIPS units.
Tackling the examination (Qualifications 2006)
Check that you know what to do from the start
Qualifications 2006 refers to CIPS unit content launched in September 2006. Qualifications 2013 refers to CIPS units content launched in March 2013.
- Read the exam instructions very carefully. Make sure you know how many questions you have to answer, how long the exam is and which are compulsory questions. Familiarise yourself with the structure of each examination in advance of the exam so you know what to expect
- Before you answer an exam question, read the question carefully. Then read the question again to make sure you understand what is required. Make brief notes of the main points you intend to raise in the answer and plan your answer thoroughly
- Check the time allocation and make sure you leave yourself enough time to tackle the full number of questions in the exam.
Look at past exam papers and senior assessor reports to get an idea of how marks are awarded
You will need to answer all of the questions in the International Certificate and International Advanced Certificate exams. Section A offers multiple choice questions. Don’t leave any blank; even if you are unsure of the correct answer, make an educated guess. Section C carries 50% of the available marks so make sure you leave enough time to tackle questions in this section.
Most of the exams for the Levels 3 to 6 offer 50% of available marks for Section A. This is the case study. It is a good idea to focus on preparing for this case study during your period of exam preparation. In section B, you will be given the chance to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the subject.
The exams for the integrative units Purchasing in Action (L3-05) and Supply Chain Management in Practice (L6-03) have a case study approach. To maximise your marks for these questions, you will need to refer back to the case when answering the questions. Your answers must be within the context of the case study and demonstrate your ability to apply your knowledge to the scenario. The Level 6 exam, Supply Chain Management in Practice, issues the case study in advance of the exam. Don’t forget to devote some time on preparing it.
Tips for approaching questions
- When reading the question, underline or highlight the key command words and make sure your answer obeys them. See our Examination Techniques Guide for examples of typical command words
- Plan your answers based on the words you have underlined or highlighted. This will help you to improve the structure of your answer
- Try to make sure all of your answers are completely relevant to the specific questions and all irrelevant material is excluded (you won’t get extra marks for irrelevant material and it could take up precious time better used elsewhere)
- Try to support any statement with a brief argument with reference to a theory or example from experience
- If a question asks you to present the answer in a particular format (such as a memo or report), remember to do so as up to two marks may be awarded for presentation alone
- If a question requires a calculation, always try to show your working out as marks will be awarded for the accuracy and layout of your working as well as for the answer
- Essay-type answers follow a set structure - Introduce - Define - Conclude. Start with an introductory statement showing that you understand the question. Then write four or five well-argued paragraphs, each clearly making a separate point, and backing up statements with evidence as appropriate. Examples should be quoted and care taken to show why they are relevant. Conclude your essay with a clear final paragraph
- If you have time, check and edit your work. Re-read your answer and compare it to the question – do you answer the question?
- Don’t write out the question. It will use up valuable time and earn you no marks. Do remember to number each question carefully, however
- Assessors can only give marks for what they can read, so try to use your best, clear writing, a good pen, paragraphs and margins
- Make diagrams and charts clear and as large as possible and support these with suitable explanations and labels
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation can critically alter the meaning of a sentence. However tedious, try to pay attention to these little details
- Do not use highlighter in your answer booklets. It can make the highlighted text difficult and sometimes impossible to read. Use blue or black pen only.
How to tackle nerves
‘Keep calm and carry on’ can sometimes seem easier said than done. However, a lot can be achieved through positive thinking and relaxation techniques. Take deep breaths and, if possible, try to stretch. This can help clear your mind and relieve any build up of tension.
Eat properly before the examination to keep your blood sugar and energy levels up. Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
Be prepared. If you feel confident and know what to expect it can have a really positive effect on your state of mind and level of nerves. One of the best ways to prepare is to look at past papers and even test yourself under exam conditions.
Remember you are not alone. You might be able to gain a lot from someone who has already taken the exam. If possible, try to take advice from someone already qualified in the subject. This is your chance to ask some stickier questions.
How to overcome a mental block
Don’t panic, this is quite a common problem! If it happens to you, some of the following techniques may help:
- Leave space and move to the next question. This will give you confidence and give you time to 'clear' your head
- Answer questions you feel confident about first – just remember to clearly show the question numbers
- Use a ‘trigger’ sheet. You can make notes in your answer booklet once the examination has started. Jot down thoughts as they occur to you when you read through the paper
- Pace yourself - allocate a set time to each question or section and stick to it. There are hints on time allocation in the Examination Techniques Guide
Exemplar questions (Qualifications 2013)
Qualifications 2013 refers to CIPS units content launched in March 2013.
Exemplar questions are available to support examination preparation for CIPS Qualifications 2013 units. Exemplar questions have been prepared for a range of learning outcomes for each unit. They are designed to give you an indication of format and style of questions you can expect in an exam. Indicative answer content is provided which is designed to give you an indication of how to best answer the questions. The answer content also provides CIPS study guide references where applicable, and the relevant unit content reference.
The exam format for each unit is listed. Exams for the Diploma qualifications have a duration of three hours. Exams for the Certificate qualifications have a duration of 2 hours. Please note for there are ten exemplar multiple-choice questions (MCQs) for the Certificate and Advanced certificate units. In an exam, there will be 60 MCQs which must be answered in two hours.
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Professional diploma in procurement & supply
Advanced diploma in procurement & supply
Diploma in procurement & supply
Advanced certificate in procurement & supply operations
Certificate in procurement & supply operations
Past papers (Qualifications 2006)
Qualifications 2006 refers to CIPS unit content launched in September 2006. As a CIPS member you can benefit from exclusive access to past papers. Log in at the top of this page using your Membership ID and Password. Once you have done so, you will be able to access the papers listed below.
Various firewall protections can block these downloads. Please check with your IT service if this is the case. If you are still having problems with downloads, please contact us.