How to Crush the M-100 (Or Any Other Course)

If you’re intimidated about taking a Community Associations Institute test because the other students in your class look like they are fresh out of college, fear not! You can boost your confidence by developing your study skills!

Make the Knowledge Your Own

You can hone your skills by deliberately practicing these methods. Over time, they may influence the way you absorb information, becoming second nature. The goal is to make the knowledge your own. Once that happens, taking the test is easy!

Define: First off, rote memorization of definitions isn’t as effective as you might think. Many people will mindlessly recite words from their textbook without ever understanding what they mean. Think of the definition as a jumping off point from which you can understand the basic idea. Then you have a foundation that allows you to dive deeper to fully grasp the concept.

Rephrase: When you come across a new concept, rephrase it in your own words as if teaching it to a child. This will clarify the fundamental elements and may help you communicate concisely with clients in the future. No one at work will ask you to define “special assessment,” but you’d better be able to explain the concept and its impact to a homeowner!

Use a Lifeline: If rephrasing the concept doesn’t come easily, it may help to seek a trusted friend or mentor. This could be a boss with more experience, a business partner with expertise, or a colleague who can help you identify resources. Your answers won’t always be black and white. Sometimes the response requires you to think critically or do further research. It might spur three new questions! Though it may sound like a lot of work, it’s worth it when a tough concept finally clicks.

Make It Real: Once you have a decent grasp of the concept, start making connections. Apply it to something you experience at work, hear at a conference or read in an engineering report. It will help ingrain new concepts so that they’re readily accessible when needed. Integrate this practice into your daily work life instead of restricting it to your study time.

There’s no reason to compartmentalize your learning time to your few hours of studying. When you make connections to the forty hours of work you do every week, not only do you benefit, but so does your employer. When applied correctly, it helps you do your job better.

Conquering Test Anxiety

You might understand and apply concepts effortlessly but still suffer from test anxiety. Here are a few strategies to get the answers from your head onto the computer screen.

Create Your Own Questions: When reviewing material for tests, immediately check your understanding by asking yourself what a good test question would be. Then make sure you can answer it, looking back at your notes if necessary. This exercise should help you with recalling information, better preparing you for test time.

Mnemonic Devices: A memorization technique like a song or an acrostic can help your brain encode and retrieve information. Let’s use the Great Lakes as an example:

Huron Ontario Michigan Erie Superior

Summarize: There’s nothing wrong with the summaries at the end of each chapter, but they aren’t your own! Developing your own summary, verbally or in writing, will force you to rephrase everything so that it makes sense to you.

Making Education Work for You

Passing all the CAI courses won’t help you become a better manager if you forget everything right after the test. Reinforce what you’ve learned in the classroom with everything you do on a daily basis. Chat with other managers about concepts that you want to explore.

If they go off on a tangent, soak it in and consider expanding on what you’ve learned. Curiosity about a specific topic may blossom into a new passion or niche within the field.

CAI’s PMDP courses will help you grow as a professional. Focusing on this broader perspective can help motivate you to master the material.

P.S. If standardized test taking still makes you anxious, remember— you only need a 70% to pass. Don’t worry. You got this!

A person with dark hairDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Chantu Chea, CMCA, AMS, is a "Creative Collaborator & Resident Contrarian" at Association Bridge, LLC. After tutoring a nervous M-100 student to help her pass the course exam and then acing her own M-205 test (a perfect 100!), it was clear she could help managers prepare for exams and face down test anxiety.


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