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Want to Ace the Exam? Explain Yourself!

Studying for the real estate exam You've studied the course material, taken the practice exams, and jotted down the crucial formulas that must be memorized. And yet, somehow, you still don't feel confident about taking the exam. Why? Perhaps it's because you're aware that you don't have a full grasp of some of the concepts underlying the test prep questions.

When preparing for an extensive test such as the real estate exam, having a conceptual understanding of a topic is more important than memorizing specific phrases and buzzwords. The best way to determine whether you have that kind of understanding is to explain the concept to someone else.

Don't despair: the prep work you've done thus far is certainly worthwhile. In fact, certain information must be memorized, like the number of square feet in an acre or the number of sections in a township. For these kinds of facts, write them down and review them frequently.

But your approach should be different when reviewing information of a more contextual nature. Experts agree that a conceptual understanding helps both your retention of information and your ability to solve new problems. This is because a conceptual understanding allows you to view a problem from a number of different angles.

Let's look at an example. Suppose you have the following question:

To an investor who expects a higher rate of return on a given property than other investors, the following is true:

A) The cap rate used to determine the property's value will be higher
B) The property is worth more to that investor
C) The property is worth less to that investor
D) Both A and C

As you may know, the rate of return is the ratio between the amount of income generated by a property and the amount of money invested in it. If you were simply memorizing the formula, it would be:

Rate of return = Amount of income ÷ Amount of investment

A student who's simply memorized the formula might choose option A because they know that the higher the desired return is, the higher the cap rate will be. But a student who grasps the underlying concept of return on investment will also understand the relationship between the three factors in the formula: where income is a constant, a higher rate of return requires a lower investment. Thus, option D is the correct answer. If you can explain the "why" of this answer, you're ready for testing on the topic of return on investment.

Another benefit of explaining your answers: teaching enhances learning. In other words, the act of explaining concepts in and of itself can enhance your learning and understanding of those concepts.

So, in addition to reciting memorized facts and formulas, you should spend plenty of time articulating the concepts you've studied. Try explaining these concepts to a friend or study partner. Have your partner quiz you with the typical multiple-choice question, and then have them follow up on your answer by asking "why?" If you can sufficiently explain your answer to someone with no prior knowledge of the topic, you'll know you're ready to be tested on it.

Remember, Rockwell Institute is happy to answer all your real estate exam questions.