Is Self-Study Right for You?

by | Jun 22, 2017 | EduSocial Blog, Strategy, Uncategorized | 1 comment

There are many different options professionals pursue for continuing education – classroom learning, online education, and a variety of self-directed learning options. To prepare for the NISM Social Media Strategist (SMS) certification, we offer many of those options and our students often ask us about the pros and cons of each option.  A former student, Mandee Kanikula, wrote a great blog series for us that included a post on what the online preparation courses look like. Therefore, in this article we will explain some best practices for those individuals choosing one of the self-study options.


First, it is important to note that the self-study process is NOT for everyone.  It takes a self-motivated person who can hold themselves accountable despite the distractions of everyday life – one who is great about planning out the steps toward completion and staying on task.  Self-study is also the best fit for the professional who feels that they are fairly comfortable with most of the content domains covered by the SMS exam, but they need a little refresher on a couple of different areas.

Second, you should know that there are three (3) different levels within our self-study packages.

Standard Premium Premium Plus
$499 $599 $799
SMS Exam SMS Exam SMS Exam
NISM Comprehensive Field Guide 6 in 1 (eBook & Paperback) NISM Comprehensive Field Guide 6 in 1 (eBook & Paperback) NISM Comprehensive Field Guide 6 in 1 (eBook & Paperback)
1 Practice Exam 1 Practice Exam 2 Practice Exams
1 Hour Tutoring Session 2 – 1 Hour Tutoring Sessions
Self-Study Guide
90 day Facebook Support Group Access

In order to fulfill the needs of our students we have a scaled these packages based on need. The Self-Study Standard Bundle simply includes the textbook, practice exam and exam voucher. As you go up in bundles packages you will find things like tutoring, self-study guides and even a 90-day Facebook study/support group.  You should choose the package that best fits your study needs. And if you aren’t sure, complete the Readiness Assessment and talk to someone on the NISM support team.


When you make your purchase online, you will be prompted to fill in your SMS Exam Application. Your application is reviewed and within 48 hours you can expect to receive an email from our testing vendor to schedule your exam.  (For US based candidates your email will come from XXXXX and for our International candidates, your email will come from XXXX.)  Please be sure to check you junk/spam folders to be sure that you don’t miss it.  If you do not receive your email in 48 hours, please feel free to email [email protected].

The reason we have you schedule your exam is to help you prepare right from the beginning.  If you don’t set a deadline for yourself, you are more likely to push off the study and ultimately delay your exam and the benefits of certification.

The eBook version of your text is included in the self-study bundles and is broken out into 6 different content domain areas: Strategic Planning, Compliance & Governance, Marketing & Communications, Project Management, Online Community Management and Research & Analysis. These intentionally mirror the content domains on the exam. (For more information on the exam, download our Candidate Handbook).


Here are some recommendations from us on the best ways to plan your study.  Please remember, only you know your available time, study needs and habits.  Adjust this outline to fit into your schedule.

  1. Schedule your exam. Our recommendation is that you take 2-3 months to study for your SMS exam.  Set a date and then create your weekly plan. It may seem strange to schedule your exam before you even dive into your study plan, but many of our students have shared how having that date on the calendar was one of their greatest motivators.
  2. Evaluate your biggest needs. Take a few minutes to review the introduction pages for each of the content areas in the book. Determine which domain you will need the most time to review. As a baseline, we suggest one week per domain. What you will find is you may take 2 weeks for one section and only ½ of a week for two other sections.
  3. Set SMART weekly goals. Make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. These goals may include number of pages read, number of completed assignments, and/or dates to take your practice exam.
  4. Make a plan each week. You have a goal so now you need to look at your week and determine what days and time you will devote to studying. We recommend these are quite times free of interruptions.
  5. Stick to your plan! It’s great to have a plan, but the temptation to binge watch your new favorite Netflix show may knock you off course. Take breaks and treat yourself within reason, but be sure to stay on schedule.
  6. Build in flexibility. The world is full of busy people and we are sure that you are no different.  If you leave yourself a week or two of wiggle room when you schedule your exam, then you will avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety.


Now you are thinking: “Great, I have a plan…but when should I take my practice exam or connect with my tutor”?  We love that you are asking those questions! Critical thinking and planning like that is setting you up nicely to tackle this exam. Here are a few additional pointers.

  • Don’t start your study process by taking a practice test. It might seem like a good idea to establish where you are to begin with so you can measure your progress, however, it’s far better to use the tool once you have completed the majority of your studying. That way you can really highlight the areas you need to focus on in your final study preparation.
  • Keep a list of questions. If you have purchased one of the bundles that include tutoring, then you will want to keep a centralized list of questions or topics that you feel you could benefit from additional explanation. That way when you schedule your time with your tutor, you have a very clear outline of your needs and not simply bend to the whim of the instructor. In fact, you will be asked about your goals for your tutoring sessions so we can match you with an instructor who is best skilled at helping you successfully complete the exam.

Now you should be set to choose the best preparation option for your learning style. You have tools to set up a plan and suggestions on a study timeline. Time to get started!


Author: Jennifer Radke

Jennifer Radke, CEO of NISM, is a dedicated, passionate and strategic business leader with 15+ years in sales and recruitment management, leadership, coaching, development and training. Most recently, she was the owner and chief strategist at Socially Inspired, a social media training and consulting company. In addition, she is an NISM-certified Social Media Strategist (SMS), serves on the board for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota and can be found speaking and presenting to job seekers and businesses alike, on how to better utilize social media in the workplace. Jennifer believes that lifelong learning is the key to continued growth and your networks are the best way to expose yourself to new opportunities.

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