The 3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently When Preparing for the Energy Risk Professional Exam

Energy-Risk-Professional-lessons-learned

Energy-Risk-Professional-lessons-learned

When I took the ERP exam, I was overwhelmed with the preparation like almost all candidates. The sheer amount of reading material (and the lack of preparation material) next to a demanding work schedule seemed almost too much at times, to the point where I was wondering whether enrolling for the ERP had really been such a brilliant idea.

I was lucky enough to pass the exam at the first try, but getting there was stressful, to say the least. In my preparation period, all of my free time was spent reading and learning, with little left for my family and friends. A few times I was tempted to postpone the exam to the next year, but I somehow managed to stay motivated and pushed through. I am very happy I did, but there are a few lessons from my experience that I learned during this time that could probably help future Energy Risk Professionals to design their exam preparation successfully. Even though I think I approached the ERP quite well, there are a few things that I would change to increase my learning effectiveness. Here they are:

    1. Start earlier. I reserved about six months practice time for the ERP. As it turned out this is really the minimum, and I should have allocated at least eight (or even ten) months, including solving practice questions. So if you decide to attempt the ERP, start immediately with your preparation, no matter how early that seems. You can do it in six months (perhaps even less if you have a lot of free time), but for working professionals, ten months would be somewhat comfortable.
    2. Read faster. When I started reading the GARP material, I took much too long to read the original material. In later levels I figured out speed reading and SQ3R, so this helped me tremendously to get through the reading material faster. While I read the ERP study material, I simultaneously took notes in question-answer format (which I turned into my ERP study notes), so this slowed down my process even more but was really a lifesaver in the review phase. Faster reading techniques will help you to have more time available for solving practice problems and to review the syllabus, so I think familiarizing yourself with cursory reading techniques can help you quite a bit in your ERP exam preparation, but also in all your other reading tasks.
    3. Solve as many questions and practice exams as possible. When I took the exam, there were only about 60 practice questions or so out there, which is really not enough to seriously practice for any exam. I also used my ViveraRISK study notes to review, but had I not had those, the exam would have been much more difficult. I know there is still a real scarcity of practice material for the ERP, but make sure you get at least all the available free practice exams from GARP. I also created a realistic ERP Practice Exam, which I think gives you a good impression of what to expect at the exam. Solving practice questions is excellent practice and repetition at the same time. It will also give you an honest assessment of your preparedness for the exam. Make use of all the resources you have to prepared in the best way possible!

These are the main lessons that I learned, and the things I would do differently if I took the ERP all over again. At the moment, I am studying for another finance designation, and I am using these techniques to speed up the process and learn faster. You can do the same to get through your ERP exam preparation faster and more effectively!

Energy Risk Professional Exam Strategy: Speed

I hope you are well on the way in your preparations to take the Energy Risk Professional exam! If you have already solved the GARP sample exams or the full-length Practice Exam, you know that timing is essential to score well. It’s too easy to waste time reading through exam questions again and again, and before you know it, five minutes have passed. This happened to me when I prepared, and I will share with you a strategy to increase your speed when you write the examination.

Note: The ERP exam used to contain 180 questions, but as of 2014, GARP has changed to format to 140 questions spread over 8 hours total. The Practice Exam and this article have been accordingly updated to the new format.

In order to keep track of time, make sure you don’t spend more than 3 minutes and 30 seconds on each question. The morning and afternoon session are four hours each, but you will want to have at least one hour for review in each session, this will leave you with 180 minutes / 70 questions = 2:40 minutes / question in the ideal case. On some you will be faster, on others slower, so a good rule of thumb is to move on after 3:30 minutes. A good way to ensure you don’t spend more is to allocate about one minute to reading the question, and the rest of the time to solving it. I usually put my wrist watch in front of me next to the exam sheet, so I always see where I stand in terms of timing. For example: If you’re at question ten, you should not be more than 25-30 minutes into the session.

The questions are sometimes worded in a lengthy way. Make sure you quickly get the point of the question. A helper may be to quickly glance at the multiple choice answers, so you see whether you have to calculate something or if the question is qualitative. If you have to calculate VAR, make sure you quickly isolate the core components needed for the calculation and perform it as fast as possible. The mark off the answer you found to be correct and move on.

Some questions will be short, so make sure you blaze through them and thank GARP for the present. Quickly browser the answers before you start reading the question, and mark off the right answer, then move on.

There will always be the case where you simply cannot find an answer. Either the calculation does not match any of the answers, it does not make sense, or you simply have no clue. This happens to everyone, so don’t despair. Just select the most likely answer, or guess if you must.

Your speed will greatly increase if you go into the exam well rested. I therefore suggest you take off at least one day prior to the exam and relax a bit. Maybe repeat some of the key concepts in the morning before the exam, then rest in the afternoon. Also make sure you have some water with you in the exam room. IF you’re dehydrated, you will lose speed. All athletes know this, so think of yourself as a high performance athlete when you go into the ERP!

IMPORTANT: Do not leave any questions unanswered when you go through the test. Even if you don’t know the answer, just mark the most likely correct answer, then move on. Mark the questions you’re not sure about to visit later if you have time. In the afternoon session I barely finished in time, and had I left answers unchecked, I could have ended up giving away valuable points.

You will need every single point you can get in the ERP exam to pass, it’s really not an easy exam. Prepare well with the Practice Exam and the ViveraRISK Concept Checkers, keep your calm and a positive attitude during the exam, and you will be sure to perform at your best.

I wish you all the best, and I am keeping fingers crossed for you!

How To Make The Most Of The ERP Practice Exam

Note: The ERP exam used to contain 180 questions, but as of 2014, GARP has changed to format to 140 questions spread over 8 hours total. The Practice Exam and this article have been accordingly updated to the new format.

Solving as many practice questions as possible is the best way to prepare for the Energy Risk Professional exam in the last stage of preparation. This will point out areas of weakness and will simulate the exam experience. Next to knowing about the important topics covered in the readings, you must also make sure you can manage your time effectively, and you should know what to do in case a question comes up you did not expect.

When I prepared for the ERP in November 2010, I often spent too much time on the math questions, solving them until the end, just to go through the entire exercise. In some cases it is possible to find the right solution by just excluding the answers that do not work. You can also deduct the right answer from the question, for example by determining the approximate value and then comparing that with the answers provided.

Here is a small check list that you could use when you solve practice exams:

  • Solve the practice exam about two weeks before the actual exam. This will give you enough time to look up the topics you would like to look up again.
  • Make sure you stick to the right time window: Each session lasts 4 hours, you want 1 hour of review time in each session . This leaves you with 3 hours for 70 questions in each session. This will allow you to spend about 2:40 minutes per question on average. In order to have enough time, you should be faster than that though because you want to go through the questions again and find errors that you made. As a rule of thumb, never spend more than 3:30 minutes per question.
  • Do not use the practice material to look up answers to the questions when you solve the exam. This defeats the entire purpose. If you are pressed for time, you should still solve the exam without the answers visible to you. When you are finished and check the answers, work through all the answers very diligently to refresh the concepts.
  • Use only the allowed calculators during the practice exam.
  • Mark an answer for each question on the first go. Even if  you are not sure if it’s right, still mark the one you think may be correct and then move on. This is very important: In case you do run out of time, you would not want to have left any answers blank.
  • Take a break between the two exam sessions. Each session lasts for 4 hours, so it is unrealistic to work through the entire 140 questions and still be highly concentrated. Take a break of at least 60 minutes in between.
  • GARP is well-known for confusing exam questions. If you encounter a question you did not expect or that you never heard about, be not surprised. Just apply common wisdom and logic, and exclude the answers you think are wrong.

I hope this helps you preparing for the exam. If you would like to check out the practice exam on energyriskprofessional.com, please click here or on the picture below.

As always, let me know if you have any questions. I wish you all the best for your ERP exam!

How To Read The Required ERP Material Faster

A little less than two months are left until the big day of the ERP exam… I hope all of you are getting through the required reading materials as expected. If you are like me, then you probably underestimated the commitment a great deal. When I took the exam in 2010 I should have started about two months earlier to prepare at a comfortable pace. I was able to make up for lost time with a speed reading technique that I think you could benefit from as well. Let’s get started!

For scientific material I use a reading technique called SQ3R. It is a five-step reading strategy, and the letters are an abbreviation  of the five steps of the strategy: Survey (or Skim), Question, Read, Recite (or Recall) and Review. It helps you transform the reading material into questions that your brain is trying to answer while reading. A similar approach is the foundation of the ViveraRISK ERP Concept Checkers, which are in Q&A format, but you can do this yourself with this technique.

Let’s go through these steps in a little more detail and see how you can use the technique in the Energy Risk Professional preparation:

  1. Survey (2 minutes): Before beginning reading look through the whole chapter or paper of the syllabus. See what the headings are – the major ones and the subheadings; hierarchical structures seem to be particularly easy for our brains to latch onto – check for introductory and summary paragraphs, references, etc. Resist reading at this point, but see if you can identify three to six major ideas in the chapter.
  2. Question (usually less than 30 seconds): Ask yourself what this chapter or paper is about: What is the question that this chapter is trying to answer? What question do I have that this chapter might help answer? Repeat this with each subsection of the chapter, turning each heading into a question. (As a variation of this technique, you can write the important question down; this is called SQW3R)
  3. Read (at your own pace): Read one section at a time looking for the answer to the question proposed by the heading. This is active reading and requires concentration, so it is important that you find yourself a place and time where you can concentrate. Reading in a train or bus may not work. Best is at home at your desk.
  4. Recite/write (about a minute): Say to yourself out loud or write down a key phrase that sums up the major point of the section and answers the question. You have to use your own words, not just copy a phrase or paragraph from the book.
  5. Review (less than 5 minutes): After repeating steps 2–4 for each section you have a list of key phrases that provides a sort of outline for the chapter. Test yourself by covering up the key phrases and seeing if you can recall them. Do this right after you finish reading the chapter. If you can’t recall one of your major points, that’s a section you need to reread.

You should treat the review part as an ongoing process with flash cards or notes made during reading the materials. You should use these cards every few days until the exam to really drill the concepts into your memory.

I hope this helps you speed up the reading process a bit, and I wish you all the best for your ERP preparations!

The Risk of Knowing About the GARP’s ERP Program

Note from Alex: This is a guest post from Richard Jide Adisah. Richard is an ERP candidate in Ghana and writes about his experiences and preparations for the ERP exam. Enjoy!

If you are on this blog and reading this post, you probable know all the technical stuff you need to know about the Energy Risk Professional Program. So I won’t bore you with details and technicalities. Let me tell you about what knowing about the ERP has done to my life.

I discovered ERP in a local newspaper in Ghana. A unique institution set up by the Central Bank in Ghana (“Bank of Ghana”) was offering an energy finance training programme designed based on the ERP curriculum. Immediately I was hooked. I wanted to know more, and when I enrolled in the program, my appetite grew more. Soon enough though, I discovered that the available study materials are few and far between, and so are practice questions, fellow candidates, and even financial risk training for the energy industry as a whole.

Energy risk management knowledge is quite challenging to master and very few books cover enough background for a candidate to develop a comprehensive understanding. And so the more you learn, the more you want to know.  The techniques are relative new and not well-tested  and very few authors express deep enough confidence in their own models to encourage widespread adoption.

Though I am yet to take the exam, I have had considerable discussions with many industry professionals some of whom have successfully been ERP certified (including Alex Janis) and my conviction is yet to change. ERP is designed by GARP to mimic the energy industry. Studying it involves continuous exploration for new ideas, new techniques and cutting edge understanding of a continuously evolving field.

It’s challenging yet exciting. It’s broad yet highly specialized. I have enjoyed every bit of the ERP journey and I  tell you this for sure, I am only beginning. The only thing I keep hearing from everyone is that you need more time to study, be strategic, identify the key link between concepts and AIM statements and always ask yourself: “Where is the risk?”

I guess everyone agrees with me, knowing about the ERP creates in you an insatiable appetite to know more. It’s relatively new, it’s exciting but passing the exam requires a strategic and smart approach to mastering the skills and concepts.  Soon enough though, I might have the chance to find out, how right I am.

Cheers.

Richard Jide Adisah

Work Smarter Not Harder For The ERP Exam

The Brain

The Brain

The Energy Risk Professional exam is a daunting task without a doubt: Looking at the required reading list alone can make your head spin. When I studied for the ERP I repeatedly wondered what I had gotten myself into. But still, I was happy to pass and in retrospect I believe this is doable for anyone with the right study approach and attitude.

That begs the question: Does preparing for the ERP exam really have to be so difficult?

History has shown that great accomplishments do not have to be extremely hard per se. In medicine for example, simply washing one’s hands have saved nearly as many lives as the introduction of penicillin.

I am not saying the ERP exam is EASY, I am proposing to optimize the exam preparation approach. The old adage of working smarter, not harder, holds true for the ERP as well. In my opinion, the most important ingredients for exam success are:

  1. A real interest in the subject matter. For those passionate about energy, learning the ins and outs about it will be fascinating.
  2. Enough time. If you plan for at least six months to get in shape for the exam, this should suffice.
  3. A good study plan. You need to intelligently structure both the study material as well as your personal time to get consistent results. This also includes a well thought-of exam strategy, which may be the most important part.

I hope you don’t make studying for the ERP too hard for yourself. Yes, it is tough, but you can have fun on the way and it is by no means impossible to pass. Once you have jumped the initial hurdle of the mountain of study material you have  to work through, studying will be enjoyable as soon as you have gotten the hang of it.

I encourage you all to participate in the discussion about this topic in the ERP Group on Facebook, and look forward to hearing your opinions!