Creativity is more my forte, financial stuff, not so much. So I’m going to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing the CS® exam. As I look back on my experience preparing for my first exam, I would say I enjoyed it and found it to be a worthwhile experience
Hey everyone, Marina here in the Coach’s Hangout. Not as a study coach, obviously, but as an actual student. So while I do work for SeeWhy Learning, it’s not in a training capacity. But the company still wanted me to take an industry course to get a sense of what the experience can be like for students. So they figured this knowledge would help me in my role, which is more focused on marketing and brand awareness.
Creativity is more my forte, financial stuff, not so much. So I’m going to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I look back on my experience preparing for my first exam, I would say I enjoyed it and found it to be a worthwhile experience, but it was a little bit of a rollercoaster ride for me with tons of ups and downs along the way.
So I did a little research and I think what I found might help you stay motivated as you prepare for your exam, or at least stop you from giving up. So full disclosure, I walked out of my first exam thinking maybe I failed, but I actually wound up getting 81%. This video isn’t really about that though. Instead, I’m going to focus on my journey leading up to the exam day. In other words, the study process itself. If you want to hear about how I felt after the exam, I talked about that with my study coach in a different video titled, I Think I Failed My Canadian Securities Course Exam. I’ll put the link to that video in the description below.
So when I finally agreed to take the Canadian Securities Course, it took me a minute to get over the shock of bunking down $1,000 dollars for a course. But I reasoned I’m investing in my education and career, so it was all worth it. Fortunately for me, like many other firms in the financial services industry, my employer was going to reimburse me for the course, but only if I passed. So if I didn’t pass, I’d be out the money. And I thought to myself, “Okay. Yeah, fair enough. No problem, I’ll pass.”
So as you can imagine, I was super excited to get started, I’d learn a little bit and obviously get my money back. So with another credential under my belt, I was also hoping for a little bit of a raise. And even though I had no prior knowledge of most of the material as a university grad, I was feeling pretty confident that I could study and pass an exam without too much difficulty.
Well, I changed my mind about that one pretty quick.
Once I dove into the material, I got pretty overwhelmed because of all the concepts, and equations, and definitions I was supposed to… not even just memorize, but understand. I felt a little less confident than when I started, but I kept on going. You would think that after all that hard work, my confidence level would be higher than it was before I started studying, but no, that actually wasn’t the case for some reason.
Unfortunately, while I knew more, I actually felt a little less confident. I guess I also had a better idea of what I didn’t know, and that was scary. So for example, one of my scary spots was learning about derivatives. And I think this is where a lot of students kind of give up thinking they’ve bit more than they can chew, but you’re not alone. Many students, including myself will probably feel this way at some point.
To use an analogy, have you ever walked up to a carnival game at an amusement part? And they look so easy, so you almost feel drawn to them because you only have to throw one of three balls into a giant looking basketball rim to win a giant stuffed animal. So you step up and take your first shot and then you realize, okay, the rim is maybe smaller than it looks, or it’s oval shaped. The ball is super bouncy, and your first shot is not even close. So when you go to take your other shots, you’re obviously much less confident.
So I’m not going to lie, the morning of my exam I was a bit nervous. I remember going to the exam center super early, and sitting outside on the steps, pouring over my study guide, just trying to get any extra bit of knowledge in my head. A quick side note, don’t do that. SeeWhy actually has a specific tip to not do that in the video titled, Top 10 Exam Writing Tips. Of all people, I should have known better because I’m the one that edited the video. But just because I work for SeeWhy doesn’t mean I’m a perfect student.
So as I sat there, I texted my study coach and I told him, “Yeah, I’m not confident I’m going to pass. I studied really hard and I’m going to do my best.” But even after the exam, I was still on edge waiting for my result, thinking maybe I had failed. So two days later, I get my mark. And as I already mentioned, I passed with flying colors. So why did I become more nervous the more I learned?
So I did a little research and it can all be explained by something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. And no, Dunning-Kruger doesn’t have an evil brother named Freddy, but it can certainly cause you some discomfort. So I know this topic might sound a little bit boring and intimidating by the name, but just bear with me, I’ll make it super simple. And knowing how this works, and probably better help you navigate the ups and downs of studying.
So basically, the Dunning-Kruger effect states that the more you learn about something, the less confident you are in your abilities. This effect only continues up to a certain point, which is why eventually someone can become an expert and be super confident about whatever they’re doing. Before I started studying, I knew nothing about the material, but I was very confident in my ability to pass the exam. By the time I went to write my exam, I knew far more, yet I was less confident, and that doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Well, let me pull up a diagram for you. So here’s what happened. Before I started studying, I was up at the top of the curve thinking I knew everything, or even if I didn’t, I would learn it with a little studying.
Once I started studying, I realized it was a lot tougher than I thought. And my confidence fell, even though my knowledge was increasing. This continued for a while until it kind of bottomed out, and I began to build confidence again.
And after I completed a good chunk of my studies, I was down here, and I felt like I knew so little, even though I worked so hard. And I obviously knew more than I would if I had never opened my books, but my confidence was as high as I thought it would be or should be on exam day.
By exam day, my confidence had rebounded a lot though, as I had a good handle on most of the content, but it was still lower than when I started studying. When I started studying, I didn’t even think I could fail, but by exam day, even though I had learned a ton, I knew that possibility existed because now I was familiar with the material.
So some students maintained a high confidence throughout the entire study process and all the power to them. But I want you to know if you’re nervous going to your exam, I was, too. So after I got my mark back and I passed, I was so relieved. My confidence continued to rise for exam two, even though I went through the same ups and downs, but I felt more confident the second time around because I knew what to expect.
No different from a second ride or rollercoaster, because now you know where the loop is, and the drop is. So I hope that sharing my experience with you will help you the first time around.
So when you’re studying for your exam, just remember all these feelings are normal, and don’t get discouraged if you start to feel less confident as you work through the material. Just push through and remember that you are learning and you do know much more than you did before you started. So let me know in the comments section if you’ve ever felt this way in the past, or even if you’re going through it right now. And of course, be sure to check out the great suite of exam preparation tools at SeeWhyLearning.com, which are a jam-pack of memories, analogies, and even the occasional funny story to keep the content as light and as enjoyable as possible.