By AHRA Staff
September 2013—AHRA recently polled the May 2013 class of CRAs to get an idea of how they studied for the exam. If you’ve been thinking of taking the exam, but you’ve been out of school for a few years and aren’t quite sure where to start when it comes to studying, read on.
Test takers recommended studying anywhere between three months and one year before the exam, depending on how much time you are able to dedicate on a nightly or weekly basis. Reading the five textbooks that AHRA offers to prepare for the exam was a nearly universal theme, as was taking the practice test online several times until they felt confident with the material. Many members of this newest group of CRAs spent a few hours several days per week reading the books and creating outlines and flashcards to help them absorb the material as they read.
Several test-takers also attended a CRA Exam Workshop at an AHRA conference. One CRA commented that it was “great for test development info and test-taking tips (tearing apart the questions does help).” Finally, an important method of studying for the CRA Exam is something you’re already doing anyway: your job. “A lot of the exam has to do with your experience in the profession,” one CRA noted. If there are any domains you don’t have a lot of experience in with your day-to-day duties, make sure to focus on those.
We then asked the group of CRAs what they didn’t know going into the exam that they wished they had. Though they all passed, many wished they’d spent more time on certain subjects that they wound up testing weakly in. One CRA gave some great advice: “Remember you are answering the question how the study guide teaches you. There are several questions you could answer differently based on your background or your institution’s policies, but that is not necessarily the correct answer for the exam.” So while your background as a manager will help to prepare you, make sure you study from the exam prep materials, as well – even on the domains you think you have down. Another CRA advised to expect the unexpected, such as starting a new job and having a new baby born in the middle of your study period like they did!
When you’ve completed your studying and your scheduled exam date is coming up, someone remarked: do not try to cram studying in the days leading up to your exam! “You should have a pretty strong grasp of the material and you will benefit more by relaxing and going in being well rested, with a clear head.” Other tips for going in with a clear head include getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, getting to the testing center early so you don’t feel rushed, and if possible, taking a day or two off work before your exam so you can go in feeling refreshed and focused.
During the test, if you encounter a question you don’t know the answer to, flag it and go back to it later. Answer the questions you do know first, and you can go back to the more challenging ones at the end, instead of spending too much time on them at the beginning. Another piece of advice is to read the questions carefully – the answer is not always obvious. “Pay attention to what is really being asked. Not that they were trying to be tricky, but one does need to really read the questions.” When you’re going back and reviewing at the end, try not to have too much self-doubt. “Do not go back and change answers after you have finished the exam. Your first response is usually the best one,” another CRA advised.
The final piece of advice when taking the exam is to, above all, relax. You know more than you think you know.