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Probably more than any question people ask about the CAM exam is, “So, uh, where do I start?” or, “how should I study for this?”  You’ve prepared yourself by applying for the CAM exam and building your CAM library, so now you are ready to start studying.  You’ve compiled all the books, now time to crack one!  This article provides a study plan which is necessary to succeed on the CAM exam.  It is, however, only one plan. My plan.  We’ve heard it many times, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  If you decide on a different plan, that is terrific.  Feel free to adopt, or adapt, portions of this plan.  Just be sure to have a plan, and then work it.

The best plan is to fundamentally learn the material.  Currently, more than one in three people fail the test on their first attempt.  It is a very difficult test, so you should be prepared.  If you plan to just “get by,” you will likely not pass.  NBAA goes to great lengths to ensure that individuals with the CAM designation thoroughly know the material.  Your goal shouldn’t be to simply pass the test; your goal should be to master the knowledge.

Use a Study Plan to Set a Goal Date

You will remember that once the NBAA Governing Board approves your application, you have two years to take the exam.  My study plan takes nine months, which is how long I prepared for the exam.  This may seem like a long time, but, in fact, it’s less than half of the allotted time.  If you choose to utilize this plan, it should help you select a goal date for taking the exam.  Literally put this date on your calendar. Having a goal date written down has power and is enormously valuable.

Time to crack those books!

Phase 1 – Read the References – Six Months

Time to start reading!  Just start getting through the material.  There are some subjects with which you will be better acquainted. If you are a pilot, you may be knowledgeable about flight operations.  Similarly, if you are a maintenance tech, maintenance will obviously be a strong suit.  That’s terrific, and you should build on that inertia.  If you are experienced in a particular domain, I wouldn’t belabor it during this phase.  If you can skim it, great.  Instead of revisiting things you know, start plowing through the new material.  Managing your energy through this process will be important.  During this phase, I advocate reading the Primary Industry References and the NBAA References.  If you’ve built the entire CAM library, you realize this is a lot of material.  In fact, it’s approximately 5500 pages.  I planned to read every weekday for six months.  This worked out to 42 pages per day.  Recently, at a CAM Q&A meeting, a gentleman from the CAM Governing Board advocated studying for 1 to 2 hours per day for six months. Depending on how fast you read, the math seems to confirm his estimation.  Here’s how I figured this out:

6 months = 26 weeks

26 weeks X 5 weekdays = 130 study days

5500 pages / 130 study days = 42 pages per day for 6 months

Maybe this reading plan doesn’t work with your situation exactly.  Perhaps you have a different number of study days in mind.  Did you recently read one of the reference materials and don’t want to reread it?   Either way, use this formula to determine a reading plan for yourself.

Total pages / study days = pages per day

This may seem elementary, but I cannot overstate the importance of figuring this out before you begin.  Again, mental energy management is a very important part of this process.  Too often, people waste their mental energy deciding how to study each day, or they become discouraged thinking they aren’t making measurable progress.  If you need to alter your plan, that’s fine.  I did.  I started with too few pages per day and had to increase.  Be sure, though, to adjust the plan and keep reading.

Strategies to Pace Yourself

Of course, find a quiet, comfortable place to study.  Highlight important snippets.  I found it helpful to count out my pages first, “paper clip” the end page, and just read until reaching my stopping point. Don’t lose your focus flipping around to see how far you’ve read.  Also, be sure to thumb through the books and just get a sense of their difficulty.  42 pages (or whatever you determine) in one book may be more manageable than another.  For instance, 42 pages in the NBAA Management Guide is relatively dense.  It’s single-spaced with a small font and few pictures.  However, despite the ominous look of Management by Daft, it is rather fast reading.  Several of the college-style textbooks are thick, but they are filled with photographs and insets that make for quicker consumption.  This disparity in density may lend itself to additional strategy.  Consider staggering the materials:  hard, easier, hard, easier, and so on.

Management by Daft isn’t as daunting as it looks.

Here is another strategy.  Provided you can retain the information well, consider studying two different resources at the same time.  You could pair together a dense item with a lighter one.  Pair together a familiar subject with a foreign one.  Twenty-one pages in each, daily.  Whatever your approach, just keep moving.  I started to get bogged down in one reference, and I wasn’t hitting my daily goals.  I promptly switched books, so I could keep moving forward, and I revisited that roadblock when I had more time and energy.  As I anticipated, when I hit the six-month point, I had study-fatigue and was ready to switch gears.  Fortunately, it was time to start doing practice tests.

Phase 2 – Take Practice Tests – Two Months

The next phase of this plan requires purchasing a test prep subscription.  Visit the website camtest.org by Corporate Aviation Solutions to purchase CAM test prep for $499.  The subscription lasts for twelve months or until you pass the exam, whichever occurs sooner.  I found this resource to be very helpful to get me in the “test-taking” mode.  The staff at Corporate Aviation Solutions offered excellent support and answered all my questions.  I hadn’t taken a “written” test of this scope since the ATP exam.  While you can’t simply skate by on the CAM exam by being a good test taker, refreshing test skills like eliminating distractors and pacing is very helpful.  Answering questions will tune up those skills.  Furthermore, camtest.org will help you identify your strong and weak domains, giving you direction on how to focus your study efforts.  Without question, camtest.org was an excellent resource for my preparation when I used it as part of a larger study plan.

camtest.org is a valuable test prep subscription. Review slides and questions are divided by subject.

First off, do not take the NBAA Management Guide Practice Exam until Phase 3 of this plan.  Save that until the end.  The software scrambles the answers, but the question banks remain the same.  You don’t want to take the NBAA Management Guide Practice Exam until you’re confident that you really know the material.  If you answer any test or section prematurely and bomb it, subsequent attempts won’t be accurate predictors of success.  You may answer correctly because you recognize the questions, not because you understand the material. This isn’t an FAA written exam, and rote memorization of answers won’t help you on the actual exam.

“Without question, camtest.org was an excellent resource for my preparation when I used it as part of a larger study plan.”

Questions are organized by domain subjects or respective reference material, as appropriate.  Each section starts with slides reviewing the subject and concludes with the test questions.  You can complete these questions as many times as necessary.  You should answer these questions over and over until you get 100% on each section.  As you identify your weak areas, go back to the reference materials and study surgically.  There are three “mini-exams,” so take one every two weeks or thereabouts.  I used the mini-exams as “stage-checks,” and I used the NBAA Management Guide Practice Test as my final “checkride prep.”

Oops! Missed this one! Notice the listed reference material. Use camtest.org to identify and review your weak areas.

Phase 3 – Final Review – One Month or Less

You have one month to go!  Time to put the final polish on your preparation.  Do some final review, and take the NBAA Management Guide Practice Exam to make sure you’re ready for the CAM Exam. 

Obviously, this approach is thorough, and thus far, we have totally neglected the Advisory Circulars other than their compilation.  I advocate skimming these.  And I mean, skim.  I’m not a speed reader, but when I reviewed these, I would flip a page every few seconds.  I covered the Advisory Circulars in a few days.  Concentrate on the names, headers, boldface items, and key numbers and figures.  Though there may have been more, I distinctly recognized one answer that came from the first paragraph in an Advisory Circular.  Don’t miss these, but get through them quickly.  A few days, tops.

Next review item: Read the NBAA Management GuideAgain.

OK! You’re ready for the NBAA Management Guide Practice Exam.  If you followed this study plan, you have saved it for the end.  With its 200-question length and general nature, it seems to most closely mimic the CAM exam.  The other sections on camtest.org are confined to one topic and are much shorter.  Completing this last helped put me in the test taking mode.  Go to a quiet place where no one will disturb you, set a timer for three-hours-thirty-minutes, and do your best. 

Take the NBAA Management Guide Practice Test at the end of your study plan. I scored over 90% and felt prepared.

Since you haven’t taken this practice test yet, it will provide the best representation of your preparedness.  I believe that after nearly nine months of preparation, you will take this practice exam and get a 90% or better.  If so, schedule the CAM exam.  Armed with your study experience, a passing test prep score and a sense of confidence should equip you for success. You’re ready!  Go take the CAM exam and crush it.

Where are you in the CAM preparation process? If you have previously studied for it, is this similar to your plan? What pitfalls did you encounter? Comment below to share your experience with CAM candidates!