Exam Guides

How to approach CIPS exam questions

Exams can be stressful and being prepared is the best way to manage any pre-exam nerves. All of our exams are computer-based* and you can expect to answer different types of questions depending on the type of exams you have entered. The following videos will help you to understand the different approaches you need to consider as part of your studies and exam preparations.



IMPORTANT NOTE:Objective Response exams are also used to assess the Level 4 Diploma, Level 5 Advanced Diploma and Level 6 Professional Diploma in Procurement and Supply


Accessing your CIPS computer-based exam account

When you book for your first CIPS computer-based exam, you will receive an email with a subject line CIPS CBE New Account.  This gives you access to you personal CIPS computer-based exams account. Check Junk/Spam mailboxes if you don’t receive the email. Here’s a quick video to show you how to login to your account and start practicing.

Watch these short videos to see how to use the computer-based exams platform for CIPS Constructed Response (CR) and Objective Response ( OR) exams.  


Download the following PDF guides that will help you to prepare for any of the exam formats that you’re likely to encounter.

Improve your exam techniques

Learn how to improve your exam techniques for Constructed Response (CR) exams.  The way that you structure your answer can mean the difference between pass or fail.  Take at look through the following guides to improve your exam technique.

Download your computer-based exams CR exams techniques guide 


Our paper-based CR exams (PBEs) are only available in specific countries. To find out if we hold PBEs in your country go to our online exam finder. 

Download your paper-based constructed response exams techniques guide.

    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 sample exams
    When you're practising with a sample 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.

    CIPS Social Media group on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter 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

    I took over as President on 1 November 2014. However, my involvement goes back to 1994 when I began studying for CIPS qualifications while with Shell in Nigeria.

    By 1996 I was a qualified member, and went on to serve as an examiner for two years from 2002. In 2006 I was honoured to be made a fellow. So, as you see, I am strongly grounded in CIPS as well as in procurement.

    Some of you may also know me in my current job as MD and CEO of Nigeria LNG Limited, which currently supplies 8% of the global liquid natural gas market and with annual revenues exceeding $10billion, but my career in procurement began in the storeroom. The tools and techniques gained from CIPS enabled me to reach the heights as CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. I think this shows that the sky’s the limit, because CIPS and the profession enables you to aspire to the very top.

    What qualifications do you have?

    • BSc (Industrial Chemistry) from Nigeria University of Ilorin, Nigeria.
    • MBA (Operations Research) from Nigeria University of Ilorin, Nigeria.
    • MBA (Supply Chain Management) from the University of Leicester in the UK.
    • CIPS Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Professional Diploma.

    I loved manufacturing as a child and being quite good in the sciences, led me to choose my first degree in Industrial Chemistry. I later understood that businesses bottom lines required more than just the manufacturing and so I pursued an MBA for wider knowledge. It was when I started working for Shell as a buyer in the warehouse that I realised I needed a deeper procurement knowledge and MCIPS was the obvious choice for me.

    What was it like studying and balancing your work and home life?

     It was very challenging to balance everything, but the determination to succeed meant that I had to make some tough choices and my social life had to take a temporary back seat at times. Weekends were a good opportunity to read and study. I used study centres and made the most of quiet moments at home both after the children were in bed and before they woke up in the morning. I was very lucky that my wife was very supportive of me; it’s important that your partner understands how important it is to you, what you need to achieve and why.

    I planned my leave entitlement around exam periods so that I had a few days before the exam to revise and interact with fellow students who were also writing exams. The support network you can now build via social media is so valuable, I would urge you all to join the CIPS Facebook group if you need support or if you can offer it to fellow students.

    The study centre I joined put me in touch with a support group of both students and tutors helping me prepare for the exams. I found one of the most valuable activities was going through past question papers.


    What did it feel like when you achieved your MCIPS?

     I had a real sense of fulfilment and satisfaction when I obtained my MCIPS. I felt like I had received a ‘licence’ to practice from an internationally renowned institute which instantly makes one more marketable globally. The knowledge I had gained through studying became very useful in bringing changes to processes and I started to see results in the organisation. Understanding the importance of the value chains and how bringing innovation and creativity to maximizing it can change the bottom line has been instrumental all through my career.


    Why do you look for employees with MCIPS and what does it mean to your organisation to have professionally qualified procurement people in your teams?

    Candidates that are MCIPS qualified bring professionalism and the highest ethical standards in procurement into the workplace. They bring expertise, knowledge and are able to implement global standards and best practices to all procurement activities. They also bring a deep network of professionals that ensure that they have access to best practices globally and are able to bring such knowledge and practice into the organisation.  I also find that MCIPS professionals bring more in terms of innovation and creativity to contributing to the main objectives of the company. MCIPS combined with a commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) ensures that they are always up-to-date with modern practices.


    Do you have any tips for raising your profile both within your organisation and with your peers?

     Seek out opportunities in procurement to improve the organisation's bottom line as well as contribute to solutions on societal issues. An example from my own organisation is where we recently signed a $1.4 billion contract with Samsung and Hyundai in South Korea to build six new LNG ships. This followed a transparent and fiercely competitive tender, which ensured we got value for money. Having so ensured shareholder value, normally that is where the story would have ended.

    I would also urge you all to get actively involved with your branch network. Attend events and help to shape events by offering to present a case study or inviting members into your own organisations. Where possible share your experiences with others both internally and externally. We are often not very good at blowing our own trumpet, but you cannot leave it to others to do it for you.

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