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Exam tips and past papers

View tips from successful candidates and practise with past papers to prepare for our membership exams.

Tips for the Chartered Membership exam

Successful candidates share advice on preparing for and sitting the exam below.

 

Preparation

Be patient – do not take the exam until you have at least 6-7 years’ experience in the industry – there is no substitute for working experience.  (Marko)

Sit full mocks in exam conditions – no phone, bring a lunch and everything you need. Select a number of years and do not look at them before you sit down, so you can recreate the environment of opening up a new exam paper on the day. I think I did four of these. Not fun, but it made the actual day run like clockwork - I didn't have a problem sticking to my time, and had 15 mins to review at the end as planned. (Niall)

Ask someone to review your practise attempts and give you feedback. It’s important to know that you are expressing your ideas and knowledge in an understandable way. It’s no use knowing good solutions if you can't present them well under the time pressure. (James)

Practise different methods/styles of sketching and drawing schemes, plans and details under time pressure. Certain sized buildings/ scales of drawing require different techniques to present your ideas in a clear fashion and within the time available. Get some coloured pens and practise with them. (James)

Attend a preparation course. I think this was invaluable. (James)

Start collating your design notes in a paper file early in your career. The temptation these days is to rely on digital copies but you won't have access to these in the exam. (James)

Keep a notepad of things you need to research, etc. I found this an invaluable tool. As I did questions, I constantly wrote notes of things I needed to read up on, then tried to spend one evening a week researching them. Lots of things repeat themselves in questions so patterns do emerge. (Niall)

Study past papers, set yourself a programme to answer each part of the question and train to answer each section under time constraints. For example, you need to be able to provide a conceptual design for one solution including sketches and explanation of your concept in under one hour. (Romain)

Practise, practise and practise! I looked at all the bridge questions in the past papers. You can't answer them in their entirety, but you can work parts of them. (Romain)

 

Sitting the exam

Provide clear, neat and coloured sketches which help the examiners to clearly understand your concept. (Romain)

Structure your answer by providing titles with numbering for each section in the same fashion as you would write a technical report for a client. (Romain)

Timing is crucial. Plan out your day, write this down and take it into the exam with you. Allow for 10 to 15 minutes to think through your solutions. You don't want to decide part way through your answer you have picked the wrong solution. Allow some time for checking. (Chris)

Take a watch to the exam - you can't always see the clock depending on where you sit in the exam room. (Chris)

Rule of thumb, simple equations and design charts are very handy, as you will have very limited time to prepare your calculations. Condense and compile them in an orderly manner for easy access. (Kenny)

Play to your strengths and experience. I think it’s better to tackle a structure you are familiar with, even if it has tough aspects, than tackle a simpler looking question. (James)

Don't panic! If you think you're running behind and won't finish, just get the essential points down and keep going. Make sure you have a stab at all parts even if it’s just a few notes. (Jonathan)

Make sure you have plenty of water for the day and food for lunchtime. Don't eat too much if it makes you drowsy! (Chris)

Know you will make mistakes. Only recalculate serious blunders. if you spot a minor error, write a note to explain the impact. (Chris)

 

Exam preparation materials provided by other organisations

Other organisations provide advice regarding our exams. You may find these resources useful, but IStructE does not authorise this material.

 

Past papers and preparation courses

Statistics show that if you attend an exam preparation course you will have a much higher chance of passing our membership exams.

 

Chartered Membership exam online preparation course

Videos and sample answers provide an accessible, flexible way to prepare for our Chartered Membership exam.

Learn more

Resources and events to help with exam preparation

Explore our training, events and resources to support you throughout your career and membership journey.