Chapter 3: Methods of Study
Part 5: Developing a Preparation Plan
What to Study, How Often and How Much
The next chapter will help you in determining those Regulations, procedures, trade and tariff legislation upon which you should concentrate your efforts. Some Regulations will require extensive study and re-study and will require a significant amount of memorization (19 CFR 142 comes to mind, as do the General Notes to the HTSUS). Other chapters will require the ability to locate information quickly, as opposed to memorization (19 CFR 181, or the NAFTA section, is a notable example of this, due to the size and complexity of this Part).
What to study depends largely upon your level of experience. It is best in the early stages to follow the guidelines established in the Lesson Plan of the Boskage Preparation Course program. Later, you will want to concentrate on the areas where you are least successful. The later stages resemble a “seek and conquer” method of preparation. By taking and retaking sample tests, you discover areas of the law with which you are having difficulty. Then, using the resource materials provided in the course, and the government publications, the purpose of your study is to overcome problem areas.
How often you should study is more problematic. For some students, preparation for the CBE is a full-time occupation. For others, preparation for the CBE is secondary to a professional work schedule, domestic responsibilities, and child- rearing. For the latter, how often you should study is not nearly as relevant as how often you can study. When determining how often you should study, remember these words: consistency and frequency.
To optimize your preparation plan, you must be consistent. Pick a preparation plan and stick to it. The following plan can be used as a guideline; you can modify the recommendations to accommodate your own schedule. But whatever you do, you must be consistent. If you schedule three study sessions per week, strive to sit down with your resource materials three times per week. Don’t convince yourself that if you have a busy week and choose not to study, you can make up the time the following week. Doubling up on the hours you study in an attempt to recover from a week away from study can only be effective to a limited extent. In general, lost study time resulting in long periods where there is no preparation cannot be recovered.
Should you lose a week, don’t plunge in all the harder the following week – stick to your schedule and attempt to make the time up gradually over the next few weeks. Extend your usual one-hour session to one-hour and ten-minutes, for example, until the lost time is made up. But doubling each session results in diminished retention. If you fail to meet a scheduled study session, make the time up gradually over the next few weeks and resolve to be more consistent in future sessions.
How often you study will directly affect your progress. Shorter, more frequent sessions are better than longer, less frequent sessions. The best schedules include a 10- to 20-minute intense review session, followed (usually later in the day) by 50- to 60-minute study sessions 2-3 times per week. On the weekend, schedule one 2- to 4-hour session. This longer session can be used for taking one of the practice examinations.
From the time you begin your preparation until the examination day, a student should not allow more than two non-study days to pass. This is especially important for students who are not working in the industry and who will have no exposure to the regulations during non-study time.
As a rule, consider the learning process as a series of repeated exposures to the same material, each time deepening your understanding, each time becoming more familiar with the facts. It is only reasonable then that frequent review of the same material will increase retention and recall.
This concludes today's excerpt from The Customs Broker Examination.