Tips for successfully studying for the VA accreditation test
By Mary Markovich
Affordable VA Accreditation Training
Studying for any test can be a daunting task, especially if you are not sure how to approach the subject. This article is written specifically for individuals who are planning to take the VA accreditation test for agents.
Whether you are an experienced agent who has been assisting seniors for years, a new agent, or someone who is trying brush up on your study techniques, this article should help you plan your strategy for studying for the VA accreditation test.
Remember that, whether the material you will be studying is familiar or unfamiliar at first, the test is written in plain English. Approach your studies with a positive attitude. You may already know more than you think you do.
Purpose of studying for the accreditation test
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not want anyone, intentionally or unintentionally, giving U.S. veterans incorrect or misleading advice. Therefore, Federal law (38 U.S.C. § 5901) states that “…no individual may act as an agent or attorney in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim under law administered by the secretary, unless such individual has been recognized for such purposes by the secretary.”
The VA has interpreted preparation and presentation to mean counseling or gathering information for a veteran for filing for a VA pension or VA compensation claim. Anyone engaging in these activities must be accredited with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In other words, it is a violation of federal law for an individual to assist a veteran in the preparation, presentation or prosecution of a claim, unless the VA gives its permission for the individual to assist.
The purpose of studying this material is to prepare specifically for the VA’s accreditation exam for agents. The agent needs to prove that he or she has the knowledge necessary to represent and advise veterans in a real-life setting.
It is important for you to diligently study the material. If you are an experienced agent who has been helping seniors, studying refreshes your memory and allows you to prove that you know the VA rules and regulations. This proof is necessary so the VA knows that the agent has the ability to properly advise veterans. If you are an inexperienced agent, studying is vital, so you can begin to learn what the VA expects every agent to know. It important that your main focus is not just on passing the test. If you simply want to pass, you may want to focus on studying a particular area of the exam. Since the veterans are depending on adequate professional advice, you should focus on knowing, studying and understanding, as thoroughly as possible, all of the material that is covered.
Methods of studying
Some of the most common methods of studying include note taking, using appropriate listening techniques, using appropriate reading techniques, studying with flashcards, working within study groups, using practice exams, and a variety of other similar techniques.
Which study methods to use
There is no best study technique, because every person is different. Tests are nothing new to most adults. By the time we are ready to study for the VA accreditation test, we have taken a variety of tests, such as class tests throughout our academic careers, a test to get a license to drive, or a test to be licensed to sell insurance.
The best way to determine the most effective study technique when preparing for a particular test is to determine the purpose of the exam and your overall goal. This will not only allow you to determine which study techniques will be most useful, but help you focus on your test-taking strengths and compensate for your test-taking weaknesses.
The purpose of the VA accreditation exam is to assess the individual's general knowledge of a variety of basic subjects. The specific methods an individual should use to prepare for the exam can vary from person to person, as each individual learns in a different way.
However, even though some trial and error may be necessary when attempting to find the study methods appropriate for the exam, at first it will usually be much easier to use a variety of audio, visual and experiential techniques, such as note taking and making flash cards. Taking practice tests will help you know if you have sufficient knowledge in a particular area.
Your primary goal in taking the VA accreditation exam is to have enough knowledge to assist veterans. You will not be a walking encyclopedia after taking and passing the test, but you will have knowledge of the basics, and you will have the ability to know which reference books are appropriate resources.
The proper place to study
Find a location where you can study effectively. Knowing what material to study and how to study that material is vital, but the place you will study is also important to your success on any exam. Location, location, location is a key factor to your ability to study the material without being distracted. You usually will retain more information and perform better on the exam if the place you choose to study is quiet and stress free.
When to study
Choose the time of day when you are most alert, and you will be more likely to retain the material. Some of us are most alert in the morning and learn best before the many tasks of the day begin to press upon us. Some of us are evening learners and retain the information better by studying just before retiring for the evening. To effectively study for the exam, you need to find the appropriate location to study, to have the appropriate study materials and study aids, and to use the appropriate study techniques, but none of these considerations will matter if you cannot find the time to study the material. Usually, this can be done through the use of appropriate time management techniques.
Time management techniques
It is usually a challenge to find enough time to study for the exam, considering all the activities we must perform on a daily basis. Learning time management techniques will make it much easier to manage time efficiently and effectively. Take a few minutes to consider these time management practices before your actual studying begins. The basic time management techniques are:
- Evaluating your schedule
- Scheduling your study time
- Minimizing wasted time
2. Determine exactly how much time you spend performing each activity, and how much time is remaining each day for studying.
3. Make a schedule of blocks of time you will use as study time.
4. Effectively prioritize by studying the material you have the most difficulty with first. This will help you minimize wasted time and stop you from studying and restudying material you already know.
Studying the VA accreditation material also involves a series of simple organizing techniques.
1. Make a “to do” list. Mark through the items on the list, as each is completed. This helps you keep track of your progress, gives you sense of accomplishment, and ultimately manages your time more effectively.
2. If you find that you are having difficulty and have questions on a particular topic, Google the question, so that you get immediate feedback on the topic.
3. Find sample tests and take them. Be honest with yourself. That’s the only way to test what you know and what you do not know. Once you have mastered that week’s work, reward yourself. You deserve it.
4. When you have studied the week’s material, review that material once a day to retain your knowledge, to prepare for the next week’s work and to build on what you already know. You are intently reviewing. Do not restudy what you already know. Keep your mind refreshed and ready for next weeks’ study material.
5. Keep all your handouts, notes and completed tests together in an organized file, so you can easily use these materials as references to answer future questions without having to search extensively for some rule or regulation.
Planning your strategy, combined with diligent study, provides the greatest opportunity for success.