We were on Episode 4 of The VERY UNofficial AICP Study Guide Podcast talking about our tips and tricks for structuring your study time, managing your time and anxieties on test day, and getting yourself as ready as possible to pass the exam (and add those 4 coveted letters to the end of your name!).
To listen to our advice, catch the podcast episode here.
Without further ado, here are the highlights from our sit down with Jonathan:
How far in advance should someone start preparing for the exam?
We HIGHLY recommend shooting for the expedited review window and once approved to take the exam, start formulating a study plan as soon as possible. If you apply in the general application window, start studying as soon as you can - don’t wait until the official approval letter to begin. Start identifying what study resources you’re going to use and mapping out your study time in the months leading up to the exam. This will give you the most time possible, which we believe is the most important study strategy.
Is it better to pace out studying a little every day or set aside full days to load up on material?
We recommend pacing out your studying time to avoid getting burned out. Mix in various study methods to keep things fresh: study guides, flashcards, timelines, practice quizzes, practice exams, and so on. Changing it up will keep you from getting overwhelmed (or bored).
Pacing also lets you study in between things, like on your bus commute to work, instead of dedicated 3 hours stuck in a library.
We’ve tried to mix and match our product offerings to match the highs and lows of your studying process. For long-form study content (aka over 100 pages of AICP study material), we offer the Comprehensive Planning Study Guide. If you need quick, digestible material, we’ve provided supplements on the most important (and harder to memorize) information like case law, significant people, and planning dates. Check them out in our store. And just recently, we launched practice exams and practice quizzes.
Do you have any tips on how to budget your time?
Study the big topics first. The way our study guide is set up, users get a comprehensive understanding of each of the big five study areas. Once you have a general understanding of the big five areas, start mixing in new study methods. (flashcards, quizzes, etc.)
Exams and quizzes are great ways to test yourself on your retention and memorization of the study material. Or you can start your studying journey by taking a test to analyze your knowledge of the topic areas which helps you know which Big Five categories need more or less of your attention
Designate a few days in your study plan as “mock test days” to check your progress on the topic areas and try to mirror the real test-taking process as close as possible. Time yourself and take it in a quiet room.
Do you have any tips on how to organize the material for studying? By topic? By timeline?
Organize studying by the Big Five categories. Plan Making and Areas of Practice make up 60% of the exam alone, so start there. With the Leadership category only comprising 5% of the exam, that’s a lower priority.
Understanding the timeline and general planning dates will also be important to focus on that next. This rote memorization pieces will not only give you a general understanding of the material but also helps put it all into context. For instance, cases help linear path through concepts.
Do you have any advice for test day?
In order to anticipate what to expect at the testing center, know that you will be required to leave your belongings (except for your ID) in a locker. A pencil and scrap of paper will be provided by the test center. Calculations will be completed on your scratch paper or the calculator on the computer (this means the math questions can’t be too hard). Remember to eat and drink prior to the exam. You won’t be allowed snacks as you test, which can take up to 3.5 hours!
Everyone is taking a different exam so when they finish has no bearing on you. When I took my exam, people were leaving faster than I was and it made me nervous that I was doing something wrong. Then I remember that people are in the room taking the LSAT, GED, and really any standardized test. So keep your head down and focus. Don’t judge yourself against the others in the room.
Don’t second guess yourself. Answer a question and move on. If your hesitant, mark it as “Review” which is a feature in the testing platform. This way you’re progressing in the exam but you can go back and check your work. Most times, you’re right the first time so don’t spend time overthinking.
When it comes to the Ethics questions, remember to think of the best response based on the Code of Ethics. This is not just what YOU as a planner would do. Since the test is multiple-choice, the right answer will always be in front of you. You’re looking for the BEST answer.