Certification Exam Advice

When starting off in your technology career obtaining certifications as proof of what you have learned can be very stressful. I remember years ago when I was starting off I would drive myself completely insane to a point of near breakdown. It’s at this stage that you are trying to determine what methods work best for you. What I see people doing constantly is attempting to mimic what others have done successfully and continue to fail. You have to identify what works best for you since we all learn and retain information differently. Some of the topics covered below will help discover what works best for you and increase your success rate.

Determine How You Learn- One thing that people may not know fully is that we all learn in different ways. When preparing for an exam the wrong techniques for learning and retention will be harder and less effective in the long run. Check the link on the right side of the page to determine the type of learner you are and adjust your learning mode in that manner to increase your success rate.

Understand The Type Of Exam Given- Understanding the type of exam given will help in increasing your success. Each technical exam provider will provide the exam in a specific way according to the requirements. Researching this information prior will be helpful.

Obtain A Copy Of The Exam Objectives- Acquiring a copy of the exam objectives is one of the first things to do for creating your exam preparation framework. The objectives are the blueprint of the exam and not fully understanding what is on the exam can be a factor resulting in failure. Prior to scheduling the exam make sure you have a solid understanding of all the items listed.

Research The Different Area/Domain Weights- Most exams will have the exam content broken down into areas/domains with specific weights show as percentages. Where this become important is if you fail specific areas that are heavily weighted it can cause you to easily fail the exam. Understanding the areas you need to improve against the area/domain weights can help you improve your exam passing rate.

Preparation- Preparation is the key to producing positive results. The one thing to be cautious of is trying copying others. Since we all learn in different ways and rates you will have to determine your own recipe for success. Others may have to spend more time watching videos while others are book people. Its all about what works best for you. As you take more exams and through some trial and error you will eventually figure out the perfect mix of resources that work best for you.

Study Guides- When I create study guides especially for larger exams I create three separate ones. The first is a general one containing all knowledge, the second is focused on weak areas and the third is for items requiring more memorization. The third one is also a summarized notes version which I can scan when I have a few free minutes. I also do this to shift things up and not just perform word memorization.

Using Test Engines- Using test engines is a tool that can be leveraged towards not only the studying process but also discovering weak areas. I normally take a few practice exams with focus on discovering weak areas/domains. Take action and focus on these areas, test again to measure improvements again prior attempts. Take aim at obtaining 90% or higher results before scheduling the exam.

Take Breaks- While being solely committed to the task at hand is a good thing you also have to make time to recharge. Constantly hammering information into your brain can at a point produce the opposite results. Know your limits and then to put the books down for a moment.

Don’t Force Yourself- I have seen this too many times where people go on a information cramming marathon with a set date of testing and fail. Again, the effort was done with the best of intentions and aggressive effort but we all have our own rates of learning and retaining information. If attention is not given to this area it can become costly.

Be Honest and Realistic- This indirectly feed back into the prior statement. Being honest and realistic about your readiness for the exam is important. If instinctively your not feeling it, push the exam date back a week. I know at this point you are tired and ready to just get it over with but on the other hand the risk of failing and doing it all over again can be more painful. Give yourself an honest assessment prior to committing to an exam date.

What To Do On Exam Day- On exam day have everything you need prior. Make sure to arrive about 30 minutes early this way you can do a quick last minute review of notes or if something causes a travel delay your not stressing about being onsite in time. Also before you set off to the testing center make sure you have all necessary documents and identification. I have heard of a few instances where people had everything ready only to forget their drivers licenses at home and couldn’t take the exam.

Put Down The Mouse- In the beginning I noticed that while taking exams under a high amount of pressure I was holding the mouse constantly. This caused me to make snap judgement calls on questions without fully reading through what was being asked. Once I trained myself to only touch the mouse when I was absolutely sure I had the answer then I would select and move onto the next question. When doing this my success rate for passing exams increased.

Calm Down- When you have put so much into preparing for an exam its only human to be under a great deal of stress. I know under my past experiences it can easily drive yourself to a point of break down. I learned over time that when it was time to sit in the chair for the exam I told myself that I did my best to prepare and to give it my best effort. When I calmed myself down before taking an exam with a clearer head and better focus made it much easier.

Don’t Let Harder Questions At The Start Discourage You- During your career you will be taking many exams which some will load most of the harder questions at the beginning. For many this can become a demotivating factor and an instant set up for failure. In these cases remain calm and bear through it.

If You Don’t Make It, There’s Next Time- I know that failing an exam can be demoralizing but its not the end of the world. Many people fail multiple exams throughout their career. I often tell those in this conditions there are two type of people that never fail an exam, the ones that don’t talk about it and the others that lie about it. At this stage its best to understand the factors that caused the failure, strengthen up your weaknesses and get back at it.


Learning Styles