Relax, Take Your Time and Enjoy It. Deep breath in….and out… Your assessment should 3 enjoyable days in the hills with likeminded folk showing what you know and learning something new. Any pressure you feel will be coming from you, not the assessor (if they are any good), so be kind to yourself. There’s no need to rush, there are no time limits, so stay calm. Take a moment before answering or relocating to check you’re happy with the answer you’re about to give, I like to have 3 good reasons why I am where I think I am.
Be confident. If you have prepared well then trust yourself, tell me what you know rather than asking. I like the hear “we are here” much more than “are we here?”. We really want you to pass, and not just because its less admin on the course reporting! Show us what you know so we can put a big tick in the box labelled “knows their stuff”.
Read the Question! Obvious, but often overlooked, do you know what it is you are being assessed on? There are 9 areas of the syllabus, have a read of what they are in the Candidate Handbook beforehand. You can see how you match up to the required skills by filling in a Skills Checklist.
Don’t Scrape on your Logbook. You need to have logged a minimum of 40 quality walking days in hill and moorland terrain in at least 3 areas of the UK (see the Candidate Handbook for more details). Make sure you have gained the experience to be confident in the hills, if you only have 40 walks then you may find the assessment harder than someone with more walks logged.
Learn to Lead. There is no requirement to have logged a certain number of days where you are leading or assisting with a led group, but this is valuable experience. Knowing how to manage people (and all their quirks) on the hill is vital to what we do. What would you do if; a group member was going too slow at the back or didn’t want to continue anymore, a shoelace broke, a group member was missing, or a lunch had been left behind? You can lead groups of friends, or volunteer with a youth group or walking club to learn from other leaders.
Kit is Key. Don’t let your kit let you down, make sure waterproofs are indeed waterproof (when did you last reprove them?), wear boots that will keep your feet dry and happy, check the batteries in your head torch and pack a spare. Treat yourself to a new map if yours is old, tatty or hard to read in places, and a new compass if yours doesn’t point north or has a big bubble that interferes with the needle.
Boost your Nature Knowledge. You don’t have to know it all, but you need to know something about something, 5s a good number I think. Can you identify 5 trees, birds, plants, flowers, clouds, rocks, lichen, mosses, and mammals? If in doubt the get yourself a copy of Nature of the Brecon Beacons or Nature of Snowdonia from Pesda Press, both are excellent and easy to use.
Be a Ninja at Navigation. It may only be 1 of the 9 syllabus areas, but it’s the most common one to be deferred on. Make sure you can nav with confidence off the path in mist or darkness. Use simple strategies to get to your destination, follow easy features rather than just set a bearing and pace it out. If you feel you need to improve then consider doing a navigation course with me. I run monthly night nav sessions for free to members of the MTA, you can book on via the CMS.
Weather. There is always more to learn about what goes on up there, make sure you take some time to do the e-learning module on weather that is on the CMS. Make sure you demonstrate you know about the weather by checking the forecast before you turn up each day, just like a Hill & Moorland Leader would.
Set a Date. Give yourself a target to work towards, if an assessment is in your diary then it can help create focus in your learning journey. Dates for my assessments in the Brecon Beacons can be seen here.