Story of Richard Acheampong
Below I will share with you my journey from woefully failing CeMAP 1 at first sitting and going on to pass all 3 cemap exams with distinctions in all modules.
With this I hope to inspire you future Cemap test takers and re-takers, to believe in yourselves. I also intend to warn you that the road ahead will not be an easy one, it will require that you really immerse yourselves into the journey and re-focus every aspect of your routine if you want to pass CeMAP first time (or at all!).
30-year-old male with 5+ years’ work experience working in car sales department of a well-known brand.
Even though I had recently invested my time studying and passing a Sales Diploma programme I soon found out that progression prospects were looking extremely limited. Final straw was when I was told that the overtime hours were now being completely scrapped companywide (without overtime I can barely keep my head above water). On top of that our standard working hours were now 9-6pm as opposed to 9 - 5.30pm, the company was getting half hour more out of us without any compensation for same. That was taking the mick...but the economic climate means companies can get away with this.
For me, it was time for a rethink of what I was doing with my life.
Being a mortgage broker had always appealed to me. I'm outgoing, like talking to people, and have a keen interest in property (I should also mention that my Dad has a property maintenance company). Also, maybe I'm a bit nosey. I'm particularly intrigued with seeing how well people do (or don’t) manage their finances. Probably makes me feel better as this has always been a struggle for me too...but I'm aiming to get on top of all that.
The beginning: I wish someone had warned me.
CeMAP is absolutely no joke, so don’t make the mistake that I did and think because I recently passed a few professional sales exams that I will breeze through it.
Even though its a level 3 qualification it is an extremely demanding exam that requires you to rewire your thought processes and even to forget some of your previous mortgage knowledge up to the point to even question the way you understand and comprehend English. That being said, it can be done with disciplined action and smart practice.
When I made my mind up that I was definitely going to become a Mortgage advisor I saw the regulatory exam as a mere transaction given that I considered myself a strong test taker. However, its necessary because without this qualification or its equivalent then hardly any employer is going to look at you apart from the fact that you just can’t provide mortgage advice without it.
There are 3 Cemap exams that one must do to become a mortgage advisor. My plan was to do 1 exam per month so I registered for the first one (CeMAP 1) with libf paying the compulsory exam/registration fee of £185
I received a bulky manual a few days later; I had a quick flip through and something which I now recognise as a panic button was tripped at the back of my mind. 550 pages? Anyway I put the book down after a few minutes. Its no wonder that I didn’t return to it until about a week later when I decided its time to get going with this.
Long and short of the matter was nearly 3 weeks passed and I really hadn’t got past page 30. This book is not an easy read. I'm reading then having to re-read because I don’t understand what I just read. And even after re-reading I still don’t get it. There's got to be an easier way.
So I go online and start looking for any resources or guides that may help break it down. I'm not looking to spend any significant money so my search terms would have been something like "free cemap resources", "learn cemap free" "cheap cemap training" before long I'm following a trail through to a load of eBay sites with exam papers, and other resources that didn’t cost a lot. in fact, quite affordable! only 10 quid for a 1000 cemap one questions! I didn’t know it at the time but this is where I started to go wrong. Eventually I found out that I was spending valuable time going over material that seemed much more simplified, but it was from years preceding 2015; this was old, very old material which had been through various changes.
I discovered this just a few days before the scheduled CeMAP1 exam. I happened across an Instagram post of a successful candidate who was happy to share some of the resources he had. this was only for cemap 1 unit 1 50 questions. I my first attempt I got only 24 out of 50. I didn’t really recognise any of the questions....and the 24 I got right. Pah! half of them was pure luck as I was just guessing. I messaged the chap and asked where he got the questions from. They were specimen papers direct from the awarding body. I told him that I had thousands of CeMAP questions but none were similar to these. After a bit of back and forth messaging we safely concluded that I had been studying from old study guides and taking past question papers which were no longer relevant. Sugar FC$*%!
Well, I now had a day to go be for my exam. what to do? Too late to cancel; besides I had already booked the day off work. So my best bet was to try and read as much as possible from the official text book and see how far I got.
On test day I woke up early got out the house. took the tube down to Liverpool St. test centre was a stone throw away. I was early but I was also a bag of nerves. I also hadn’t had breakfast; didn’t have any drinks or snacks with me. In the first 7 questions that came up not one of them had ever been in any of the CeMAP test papers I had been using. Even the topics they were questioning on seemed alien to me. At this point I stood up and thought I am just going to leave. this is so pointless. The lady facilitating the test watching in the other room was then about to approach thinking maybe there was something wrong with the equipment. I waved her away sat down and looked at the next question. this one seemed familiar. at least it was in the ballpark of an area that I had read taxation. so I persevered. I finished both sections but I flagged at least half of unit 1. Cemap unit 2 I must have flagged about 30 of them. All in all I spent my full time allocation in there trying to read the questions properly. Naturally, I was confused by so much as I hadn’t come across most of the concepts I was being tested on. It was no surprise when I finally submitted, I was greeted by a very mediocre score. I had failed both units 22/50 unit 1, 20/50 unit 2. not even close to the 35/50 pass mark required. I slinked out of the test centre slouched shoulders, utterly disappointed in myself.
Summary of my mistakes:
- Reading old CeMAP material. Learning answers to old cemap questions
- Underestimating the depth of understanding required by the exam; apparently the Libf cemap question writers can get very creative and make every effort to trip you up!
- Focusing on doing so many past question papers, thinking that the more I did the better I got.
- Not doing enough prep tests under test-like conditions and failing to really learn from the ones I did.
- Not preparing correctly for test day (snacks, water, sleep, breakfast, etc).
- Failing to prepare myself physically and mentally for the exam fatigue.
After that episode I had to take a long hard look at my aspirations and goals.
I found myself thinking I was not good enough to tackle the exam and doubting myself in other aspects of life that didn't relate to a mortgage brokers career. The failing of CeMAP 1 had really gotten me to a near-depression state and I was afraid to start studying again. If you ever find yourselves at a similar point, set a weekend or at least a day off to do some soul-searching and define the real reasons behind doing what you are doing. It will give you the necessary strength and drive to make the adequate and sometimes painful adjustments to do well in the exam. I did that and got to a binary decision: I would either completely forget about CeMAP and focus on the sales career path I had in front of me or I would keep going and attain the qualification; nothing more, nothing less. I chose the latter. That meant that some tough decisions and changes were required, it was an all-in. I applied for and was granted study leave from the company for 1 month in advance and prepared myself financially to withstand zero income that month. I would use that time to define my long-term goals, study, apply and ideally get a role as a trainee mortgage advisor.
I read a bunch of success stories like this one and figured out all the mistakes I mentioned above. I resolved not to study this time on my own and set proper conditions to maximize my study effectiveness. I reckoned that as each cemap book was about 550 pages I really needed this broken down into bite size chunks that would help me put everything into context.
So I signed up to a 2 week, public course (60 hrs total) with a specialist Cemap training provider who had been delivering this same training for over 15 years and seemingly had a good reputation for getting students to pass first time. I also did my due diligence and saw they were approved by the awarding body (Libf) The course was quite comprehensive and covered at least 80% of the syllabus.
During the course I did 2 timed mock exams and 2 untimed ones. I practiced with the official up to date specimen papers (around 1000 questions) and with the online interactive question bank which is more or less the same but randomised (which is good so you don’t memorise the order of the answers) All these were supplied as part of my course fee.
Another important thing is that I managed to secure 3 weeks study leave from work so I could be fully focussed on getting through this Cemap hurdle. I was definitely getting better because during the training I was already hitting 80% and with the extra 2 weeks I would surely get a higher score. My tutor said as soon as I started hitting distinction level 90%+ then I know that I'm ready and go for the exam. The other thing is the knowledge isn’t sticky so important to strike whilst HOT!
My Goals Starts Now
So my study and exam strategy was divided my into four sections: 1) two weeks of coaching to help study and understand the full cemap text 2) one week total recap self-study revision of all cemap modules 3) take mock exams 4) take the exams
I had an overall good experience with training provider because the training comprehensively dealt with the basic knowledge required for each section of CeMAP. I could also email questions if I did not understand something. I also prepared flashcards for every new concept I learned and took notes on it as well.
I learned the importance of dissecting every question, spending some time understanding the traps being set by examiners and studying from there if I found a foundation hole. That dramatically decreased my careless mistakes and helped me to develop more effective educated guessing capability.
During this time, I was obtaining about 80% accuracy on Mock CeMAP exams exercises. I still made several mistakes but I did notice fewer foundation knowledge gaps.
I meditated daily (highly recommended; 10 minutes a day will have a huge impact down the road on anxiety control and focus during the exam) and started practicing yoga; I also tried to have a balanced diet and to sleep 7 - 8 hrs per day. All of those good habits did help with my mental speed and my memory retention capabilities (night and day difference, believe me). I used the Pomodoro technique for my study time to avoid burnouts and to maximise my focused study time and also started to write a study journal in order to determine why some days were good study days or bad study days.
At the end of this period, 3 week I went for the CeMAP 1 exam again. I was very calm and quietly confident. The anxiety that I felt when I appeared for cemap before; completely gone. After I completed the 100th question and went back to the 5 I had flagged I still had about 30 minutes left. So, I spent 10 minutes re-checking everything. and with 20 minutes to go I hit the final submit button… I was overjoyed to be presented with a score of 46/50 unit 1 and 42/50 unit 2!
Notes about the test day:
* Choose the time and day wisely; find out what time of the day you are at your most productive and schedule your exam accordingly
* DO NOT STUDY THE DAY OF THE EXAM.
* Be sure to monitor your breathing during the exam, your brain needs oxygen.
* Do some breathing exercises before starting the exam to get rid of nervousness and settle into the moment.
* Bring a couple of energy bars or a bag of nuts to eat during the breaks, you need to maintain maximum focus and mental stamina until the end.
* Drink enough water.
* Use the bathroom prior to starting to avoid needing to go during the exam.
* To get a complete picture of a question read it at least twice. Do not let your eyes stray to the multiple choices
My exam prep for cemap 2 & 3 was practically rinse, repeat cemap 1 process.
My scores? pretty good. Cemap 2 I average 22-24 in each of the 4 modules (receiving 92% distinction) and cemap 3 I scored 56/60 (again which is a distinction). My new shiny CeMAP certificate from the LIBF arrived in the post 3 weeks later
I didn’t write this to boast about my achievement (satisfying as it may be) but because I really hope that this will inspire some of you to achieve your CeMAP qualification. And, I know first-hand how close I came to just giving up.
I'm currently a mortgage advisor for a reputable firm and business is good.
Richard Acheampong CeMAP.
More stories to come soon
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