Off-season and pre-season training – making the most of the time between exams

So, the exams are done, and you’re now in that ‘gap’ before results come out. So that means you can just kick back and do nothing…right?

As you may know, I have recently been in training for a number of fitness challenges (Tough Mudder, The Moonwalk and Nightrider) and have tried to share my wisdom as a ‘born again student’ to help you with your exam preparation over the last few months. Well, just as you have finished your exams for this sitting, I too have completed my challenges. Go us!

I now have 3 months before my next challenges, so, like you, thought I also had the opportunity to relax, kick back, enjoy the sunshine (OK, well, the slightly less frequent rain anyway) and the odd pint of Pimms. But I know that I’ve put in a lot of work over the last 6 months, and I don’t want to lose the gains I have made and make it harder for me next time… So what to do?

Getting a balance

When I started researching ‘Off-season fitness’ I found this quote:

Maintaining 50-60% Fitness Takes Less Effort Than Starting From Scratch!

So it’s better (and easier in the long run) to keep doing something in the gym / on the bike before I start the focussed training in a month’s time.

And your ‘exam fitness’ or ‘knowledge fitness’ (whichever way you prefer to look at it) is no different. Remember when the tutor talks about the assumed knowledge from a previous paper that you should know that you swear you have never seen before… that’s the 50-60% fitness. So what do we need to do?

It is not feasible, nor realistic, to think that you can continue studying at the same intensity as you were (hopefully) just before your exams. Your brain, body and general well-being will be much happier with some time off. However, coming to a complete stand still for 2 or 3 months then starting to cram like a mad person is also not helpful in the long term.

The key is therefore to find a balance between “recovery” (allowing yourself some downtime and a chance to enjoy some free time not studying) and some sort of “maintenance” of your knowledge. So what we are going to do is cross-training!

All going to plan, you should hopefully know what papers you would like to sit next time. Not sure which ones they should be? You can have a look at the BPP recommended route to see what is best for you (or indeed get in touch with your tutor if you want to talk about it in more detail). And that means you can start to look at the resources available for that paper. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about sitting down to attempt past exam questions just yet!

A change is as good as a rest

Your tutor will mention the extra resources available on the institute websites – examiner reports, paper approach presentations, technical articles. But I know from experience that these are often the things you feel you don’t have ‘time’ to look at once you start actively studying. So now is a great opportunity to make the most of them!

Getting the heads up on the structure, syllabus, examiners tips for the next paper is a great way to prepare for the next sitting, whilst not expending too much energy. You can review the syllabus and identify any assumed knowledge or links to papers you have already sat. Maybe even have a quick flick through the study text / course notes from that paper to refresh your knowledge.

Want to try something a bit more targeted? You could sign up for a starter pack and get access to some online resources covering the first part of your next paper (including the assumed knowledge) and spend some time watching the associated lectures and introductions so you are ready for what is to come.

Reading technical articles on the institute website, or looking for interesting news articles that may be relevant can help your general business knowledge and awareness which will help when you are studying to link topics to real world examples. This is particularly beneficial for the higher level papers.

Train your weaknesses

Having just been through an exam sitting, you may have felt there were things you would have liked to have done differently, or things you found particularly difficult. Being able to identify these now gives you an opportunity to work on them before next time.

Did you struggle with time management? Was it structuring your answers? Or writing in a way to get the professional marks? Look for free online courses that can help you with these courses. If you studied two papers to the last sitting with BPP you would have had access to our ‘Career Development Guarantee’ modules – 10 online Professional Development modules that can help with your exam skills as well as helping you to build your CV. Ask your tutor about how you can improve for next time and then practice, practice, practice.

Plan your season

Being organised is the key to success. So even if you aren’t actively studying, you can think about how you will make the most of ‘next season’ towards the next exam sitting.

How are you going to study? Which course are you going to do? Does it fit around your work commitments / holidays? When will you be revising? Can you schedule some study sessions to ensure you have time to do your course exams and a mock exam? Think about any weaknesses you may have identified and build that feedback in too. And, if like me you are a bit of a stationery addict, it is a great excuse to get the coloured pens out and draw up a study timetable! A little bit premature you say? I would disagree – in the words of Alexander Graham Bell “Before anything else – preparation is the key to success”. And I reckon he knew what he was talking about.

So, hopefully that has given you a few things to think about. You have worked hard to get through the last set of exam, so congratulate yourself, have a bit of time off and enjoy not having to study every weekend! But get organised, plan ahead and you could find yourself a lot ‘fitter’ before the next set of exams, and put yourself in an even better position for exam success

For further information on any services that we offer at BPP then please visit our website

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