Focus Your Attention on Attaining Your Promotion
Everybody in his or her life, whether it is personal or athletic, has always wanted something extremely bad. You know the desire, the want, and the focus that you had when you wanted to attain this goal. You must have that same attitude when preparing for the promotional examination. You have to devote your time and your effort and it will require much personal sacrifice to attain this goal. During this time, many personal sacrifices will have to be made. These sacrifices include your social and family life. Remember that not only will you receive an immediate raise in salary, which will last the rest of your career, but it will also determine the pension that you retire with.
Many of you at some time in your life have put together a workout schedule for athletic activities. Included in this schedule were times when you were going to work out, what you would be doing and what your goals were. You should put together a similar study worksheet to help you in attaining your goal. Listed below are study strategies that can be used for the examination.
- 1. Time Management
- You should set aside a specific time and place to study each day. If your goal is to study 8 to 10 hours a day, you should begin by studying 2 to 3 hours a day for a few days. It is just like an athletic workout, if your goal is to run 15 miles, you do not run 15 miles the first day. You gradually build up to it. It takes a lot of mental preparation and discipline to be able to sit in one place over an 8 to 10 hour period. Gradually, as you build up your study time, your retention of the material will also increase.
- 2. Eliminate Distractions
- You should try to eliminate, as completely as possible, distractions from your study environment. These distractions compete for your attention and effect your attitude and memory of the material that you are trying to emphasize. You should also select an area with the least amount of distractions. Your study area could be a bedroom with a desk, the basement of your home, the attic, or anywhere else where you can devote your absolute attention to the task at hand. Proper lighting is important along with a comfortable chair and desk. Be sure that when you are studying, everyone else in your family knows that you are not to be interrupted.
- Everybody has a different time of the day when he or she has extremely good retention capabilities. This time could be from 6:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon, or from 1:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M., or from 9:00 P.M. until 3:00 A.M. Only you know that. As you begin to study, find out which time of the day is best for you, where you have absolute retention of the material that you are studying. It is highly recommended that you take a break every hour, whether it be for 5 to 10 minutes just to get up, walk around, get a breath of fresh air, get something to drink, and then go back to studying. For some people, these breaks might only be needed after 2 to 3 hours of studying. Again, this is a situation where you are the best judge of when a break is needed. Many times, an individual becomes fatigued while studying. At this point, the material is not absorbed as easy as it is when you are well rested. Sometimes the best thing to do is to step away from the material, get a good night's sleep, and start over the next day. Trying to force your mind to study will only hamper the progress you are trying to make.
- Also, remember that a sound body equals a sound mind. You should try to maintain a regular exercise program in which you feel good about yourself. This will put you in a better frame of mind, which in turn will enhance your studying.
- 3. Pinpoint Resource Materials
- It is extremely important that you have your own copies of the materials for the examination. We strongly suggest that you do not split the cost of the reference materials with another individual. This would mean that you will only have half of the reference materials at any given time. There will be a point at which you want to go on to study another reference material, and you will not have it close at hand. If you are serious about attaining your goal, you should have your own resource materials, used by you only.
- Look over the resource materials for the examination to get a general idea of the content and organization of the materials before putting together your studying strategies. Begin by scanning the resource materials from beginning to end. By scanning over the chapters in the book, this will give you a general idea of what you will be studying. In most reference material, scanning is made much easier through the use of chapter headings. Look over the major headings and also the smaller headings that describe important paragraphs in each chapter. Also take a look and see if the chapters contain summaries. By looking over these chapter summaries, you can get a quick overview of the important parts and reference points contained in the chapter. After you are done scanning the resource materials, you will come away with an idea of how long it will take to go through the book from start to finish. You should set a goal to study between 60 and 100 pages per day. When looking over the reference material, identify chapters that are job related. Examiners in this day in age are required to do a job analysis for the position. This job analysis will give the tester an idea of the most important elements required for the job. When you look over the reference materials and you see areas that are covered in your day-to-day job duties, these areas should be emphasized in your studying.
- 4. Reading and Studying the Reference Material
- After scanning the material contained in the reference book and getting an idea of what you will be expected to learn, you should now begin reading the material. The first time reading through the material it is suggested that you start with a pencil first and bracket information in paragraphs that you feel is important or star these areas. By doing this the first time through with pencil, when you reread the material the second time you can begin highlighting the material and can erase the pencil marks for areas that you now find are not as pertinent.
- It is important that you have an understanding of the material that you are reading. If you come across new or unfamiliar terms within the material, you should look up the definition in the book, if it contains a glossary, or in the dictionary. When studying, concentrate on gaining an understanding of the material that you are reading; do not try to memorize. When you memorize a fact, you will only get a right answer if the question is about a fact. One of the keys to successful test taking is understanding principles, not memorizing facts. If you understand all of the concepts and principles, you will get all of the questions right. Study as if you had to give a presentation of the material to a class. By doing this, you will concentrate better and will gain a more complete understanding of what you are reading.
- 5. Highlighting and Marking
- There are many different ways to highlight and mark material in your reference materials. One way is to underline material by using a pen or pencil, underlining specific sentences in a paragraph. Another way is to use a highlighter to emphasize sentences that you feel are important within the paragraph. Many times, we have seen individuals who take a highlighter and highlight 80 percent of the book. This completely defeats the purpose. In contrast, there are those who highlight only 10 or 12 points within the reference material. This also defeats the purpose. Try to find a middle ground where you are highlighting only the material that you feel will be asked by the examiner.
- After highlighting the material, you will find that there are certain areas that are extremely important. In your final days of studying, this is where you should concentrate your studies. Another good idea is to make notes within the pages. These notes, whenever possible, should be in your own words.
- 6. Study Sheet
- A study sheet is a notebook in which you take each reference material and note certain pages and paragraphs in each chapter that you feel you will need to review more thoroughly. By doing this, you target areas in the reference material in which you need a more complete understanding instead of just reading the book cover to cover. For example, the book you are studying might be IFSTA Company Officer. On a page in your notebook, you would annotate: Chapter 1, page 22, paragraph 3. You would then proceed to another area that you don't understand, which might be Chapter 4, page 29; another area Chapter 6, page 42, paragraph 2. By doing this, you will pinpoint areas in which you need to reread the material. As your studying increases, these areas should be down to zero by the time you are ready to take the examination.
- 7. Note-taking
- There are many effective ways to take pertinent notes.
- A. Outlining chapters in the book in your own words or making notes from specific statements within the paragraphs. This might be just one statement from a single paragraph, or it could be 2 to 3 sentences in the paragraph. Whenever possible, you should try to summarize and detail your notes in your own words. By doing this, you will gain a better understanding of the material.
- B. Use index cards for note taking. For example, you might write out a sentence that states, "What is the gallons per minute for an 1 ½" line at 40 psi?" You can write the question on the front of the card and the answer on the back. You may also make index cards from specific sentences contained within paragraphs of chapters that you have highlighted and you feel are important. When you make 100-200 index cards on a specific book, it gives you a quick way to review. Be sure to mark the chapter and page number on the back of your card for an easy reference. For example, you have now made up 300 index cards on IFSTA Company Officer and have gone through these cards 2 or 3 times. You should then start taking out the cards that you feel you have a complete understanding of and only concentrate your studies on the cards in which you are still having difficulties. By doing this, you are making most of your time management. There is no need to go over index cards or notes on material in which you have already gained an understanding.
- 8. Study Groups
- Study groups can be a way of increasing your learning ability by studying with others. If you are in a study group, be sure to pick only partners who are serious about obtaining their promotion. Do not pick individuals who are barely studying and will use your group as a way to increase their knowledge. Study groups should be used to increase your knowledge of a reference material that you find difficult but one that someone else in the group has a better understanding.
- There are many ways to conduct a study group. For example, you can emphasize one particular book at each study session or two to three. You may want to have an individual put together a 100-question test on the material that everyone in the group can take home after the session and complete. If you pick one reference material, you can go through the book chapter by chapter. If there are 3 to 4 people in the study group, each person can take one or two chapters and target questions to the group about the material contained within those chapters.
- By participating in a study group, you will prepare yourself more intensely and more thoroughly. Nobody likes looking like the "dunce" of the study group, and this will help you focus your attention better. If you find that individuals within the study group are holding back other individuals, it may be a good idea to ask these individuals to leave the study group. You do not want to be held back by individuals who are not serious.
- 9. Study Guides
- Study guides are important aspects of the studying process. These guides will pinpoint areas in which you are weak and will show you where you need to increase your studies in order to gain a better understanding of the material. Do not use these study guides as a single way of studying and forget about reviewing the reference material.
- 10. Cross-reference Study Book
- Many examinations will include 6 to 8 reference materials. Due to the nature of firefighting, many of the same topics will be covered in different books. If you find conflicting statements in different reference books, write down the conflicting information and from which book it is contained. For example, if one book states that 1 ½" hose at 40 psi will deliver 150 gpm and another book states that 1 ½" hose at 40 psi will deliver 175 gpm. Make a notebook containing these conflicting statements. Many times an examination will specifically quote one reference material. Even though another reference material may contain the same information with a slight variance, during your protest the only answer that will be correct will be the one from the specifically stated from that reference book.
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