Objective based assessment: study tips

Why you may need to change your study preparation for OBA and three effective approaches you could take


Your study preparation for an objective based assessment (OBA) may need to be different to how you prepare for the current written exam papers at the IFoA.

We’ve put together some hints and tips that can guide you in learning the material and meet the challenge of sitting an OBA.

Why change study preparations for OBA?

The questions we ask in many IFoA exams often cover multiple topics from the syllabus and can be answered in an essay style.

With OBAs, each question assesses a very specific area of the syllabus, with a group of questions combining to ensure the syllabus topic is fully assessed. This is why there are many more questions in an OBA and your answers must be completely correct for you to score the mark.

Examiners can ask questions from across the breadth of the syllabus, and you’ll need to apply your knowledge in different scenarios. When preparing for an OBA exam, we advise you to study the IFoA core reading and any referenced resources. Don’t rely on past papers alone.

Where to start

To begin your study preparation, please read the subject’s:

  • syllabus: what you need to know for the assessment
  • core reading (including textbooks): from which examiners source question topics

The core reading is a guide to the depth and breadth you need to understand for each topic.

Study and revision: three effective approaches

Given the breadth of targeted knowledge required within an OBA, last-minute cramming is unlikely to be a successful approach. You should plan to revise each section of the syllabus in detail.

Everyone has a different approach to study plans. Evidence shows that the following approaches are effective ways to help you retain information.

Spaced practice

Using regularly scheduled study sessions rather than marathon cramming sessions will help you recall information better.

Divide the syllabus into smaller sections. Then plan a schedule where you return to a section several times in between learning other topics.

Interleaving (switching between subtopics)

Studying a variety of sub-topics in short, intensive bursts, rather than mastering one at a time, can help you see connections between them more easily. This type of study may also help during the exam when questions may not appear in an order you recognise.

Try switching between viewing a worked example and practicing one yourself. While you may make more mistakes early in your study journey, the subject may coalesce quicker.

Practice questions

Some people like to start the study process by doing practice questions to test their level of knowledge. Others like to wait until they have knowledge to test. But it’s important to remember that doing practice questions in isolation and no other revision is not enough to grasp the depth and breadth of the content.

Our bank of practice questions draws from each major topic area but does not provide a question on everything that might be examined.

A suggestion is to end each study session by:

  • writing your own questions on what you have learned
  • using those questions in the future to re-enforce learning and to practice remembering the information

You can find CB1 and CB2 OBA practice questions and familiarisation exams on our Business curriculum web page.

Open book exams

OBA exams are open book, meaning you can access your textbooks, study notes, and the internet. However, questions are written to be answered within an average of 100 to 120 seconds, so you should not rely on these resources.

We recommend that you use your study notes as a tool to check or confirm answers where necessary, rather than as a source for looking up the answer or subject area.

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