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Assessment Guides

Our guides will help you to prepare for any of the CIPS assessment formats that you’re likely to encounter.

New Guidance Brochure

Improve your approach to answering exam questions

Make this a favourite when preparing for CIPS exams.  This new guidance will help students to understand what assessors look for when marking exam papers.  Read actual example answers provided by students taking a case study assessment, the mark allocated and comments from the marker.  


Guide to Certificate assessments

Guide to Certificate assessments

Guide to Diploma assessments

Guide to Diploma assessments

Top ten tips for revision

1. Manage your time effectively
It's a good idea to set out a timetable for your study. Try writing down when your exams are to help you priortise your study and block enough time out for each exam. Or plan in your assessment submissions so that you can work out how much time it will take to research, write and edit. Make sure you include scheduled breaks and that you stick to your plan!

2. Find a study environment that works for you
It could be a tidy quiet space or a cluttered space with music, just as long as you're comfortable and can work well with enough light and as little distraction from others as possible.

3. Learn as you study, don’t cram at the end
If you can understand the information as you cover the topic and make linkages at the time, when it comes to preparing for an exam it will be more of a refresher rather than understanding and learning the subject from scratch.

4. Write your own notes
Re-writing your notes and using your own words and concepts puts information into terms you understand and helps you to relate to them better by linking the information and topics.

5. Study together
Forming a study group with friends lets you share what you've learnt and gives you a chance to ask or answer questions to support your learning process.

6. Use your senses
Visualising your notes in picture format sometimes helps to form linkages in information, aiding recall in exams. Also, reciting information while you're writing it or after you've written it involves another sense when learning.

7. Teach someone else
Once you've learnt a topic, test yourself by teaching the topic to someone who doesn’t know anything about it, like a family member. This will help you to understand if you know the subject as well as you thought and whether there are any gaps to review.

8. Practise taking past exams
When you're practising a past paper, time yourself so you get used to making sure you spend the right amount of time on each section.

9. Keep healthy
When studying and on exam day drink plenty of water and eat healthy, nutritious food and snacks to maintain your energy levels and focus. In your planned breaks go for a short walk to get some fresh air or do some exercise, and make sure you get enough sleep.

10. Plan exam day
Make sure you know what you need to take along with you, double check the location and time, and plan your journey so you're well prepared and not panicking on the day.

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 KnowledgeSupply Management online and the In the News section of the website, 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

How to deal with 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.

Tips and hints for tackling exams

Check that you know what to do from the start

  • 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.


Tips for approaching questions

  • When reading the question, underline or highlight the key command words and make sure your answer obeys them.
  • 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 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. Time allocation for types of questions can be found in both the certificate and diploma assessments guides.

Babs Omotowa learning experiences

We interviewed Babs and asked him about his learning experiences. Read the full interview here.