H.T.S. Crest Holy Trinity School

Studying for Business Exams
Tips and Tricks

Studying for business exams - maximizing your brain's potential for learning, understanding, storage and retrieval. See tips and tricks related to:

Studying for a Business Exam


Many students open their books, read until they finish (lose interest, or fall asleep), and are convinced that their concentration, comprehension, and speed are poorer than everyone else's. If this sounds like you, the chances are better that your reading skills are about the same as most of your classmates.

Students must recognize that reading may be the most demanding work you do within business courses at H.T.S.. Many students report difficulty with the volume of reading required. Here's a few tips for assisting you in getting the most out of your reading.

Try This
Why it Works
Get into the material more often, but for shorter periods of time! Many people can read for ONLY 20 minutes without losing concentration. Also, learning is improved by changing tasks each hour, spreading the work over time, and dipping into it more frequently.
Read groups of words at a time - WITHOUT mouthing them! Your brain can read more than one word at a time, your MOUTH can't. (A single word has little meaning anyway.) Speed and comprehension will increase if you read in meaningful phrases.
Read the introduction, headings, charts, graphs, diagrams, conclusion, and summary, then take a minute to think about the material before beginning to read in depth. This establishes a context in which to read the new material by beginning with an overview of the material. Knowing a bit about what you're reading BEFORE you read it will improve your comprehension and retention.
Examine the test/exam outline associated with the particular chapter BEFORE you begin reading. This way you will recognize key points and concepts AS YOU READ THEM.
Establish a list of questions. Use the questions at the end of the chapter, or convert the headings into questions. Then, read to answer these questions. Reading with a purpose will help you maintain your concentration. Developing questions and making note of the answers is a good way to help yourself focus while reading.
Put ticks in the margins beside key points the first time you read through a chapter. It's better not to take notes, highlight, or underline the first time you read a chapter, as you won't know which are the most important points until you are finished.


You can increase the effeciency of your notes by organizing them into categories and subheadings. A wonderful approach to experiment with is the "mindmap" approach. Mind-mapping is a method of organizing and studying from your notes after they have been taken. The goal is to organize your notes into a system of inter-related concepts which reflect an "overall view" or the "big picture." It is not likely that you would be able to do this while you are initially taking your notes in class, since you would have lacked the knowledge required to see the "big picture" at that time. However, once you have learned a unit of material, it is possible to attempt to restructure your notes in order to reflect your new holistic view of the material.

Let's see how a mind map can help us to accomplish this task. A mind map starts as a central word or concept. Around this central word you connect the main ideas which directly relate to that concept. You then take each of these new subconcepts and again connect the main ideas that directly relate to each of the subconcepts. This process can continue until you have successfully linked every concept contained within a unit (ie. economic systems) to every other concept in that same unit. Once you have done this, you will achieve a clear impression of the "pig picture." You will find that your ability to memorize concepts and ideas will be greatly increased when you actually understand how those concepts and ideas relate to each other.

Once you have completed a mind-map you will have something that resembles a diagram. You can place this diagram at the front of the notes for any given unit. Your mind-map can even act as an index, as you can place reference numbers (ie. textbook pages, or page numbers within your own notes) beside each concept on your mindmap. Give it a try!

How is the information in your brain organized right now? Is it scattered everywhere, like files without a system of directories or folders? Try organizing it into a mind-map. Once it is organized in your notes, it will be organized in your mind!

Writing a Business Exam

Students also have difficulty in knowing what the difference is between an 90% answer and a 60% answer. Biggs and Collins (1982) produced a scheme to classify and describe different learning outcomes. It is known as the SOLO taxonomy (Structure of Observed Learning Outcome). The business department at H.T.S. uses this taxonomy to evaluate test and exam answers. Here's an oveview of the taxonomy that will hopefully assist you in getting the most out of your exam writing:

Style of Answer
Approximate Grade
1. Prestructural
0 - 10%
No correct elements are present. The question and response are confused. This may be because no serious attempt has been made at addressing the question, the question is merely restated or an incorrect "guesstimate" has been made.
2. Unistructural
10 - 40%
One correct and relevant element is present.
3. Multistructural
40 - 70%
Several relevant elements are present, but they are independent of each other - often in a list form. An unwarranted conclusion may be offered without considering all the presented data.
4. Relational
70 - 90%
The relevant elements are integrated into a conceptual scheme. The answer provides an argument rather than a list. However, a process of induction leads to a conclusion which is not qualified, i.e. an over generalisation. No alternatives are offered.
5. Extended Abstract
90 - 100%
The answer displays a wider appreciation of the subject. It extends outside the confines of the original problem and addreses related issues, perhaps citing other data and contexts. Inconsistencies are resolved, analogies are drawn, alternatives are considered, and conclusions are supported.

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