Appearing for any certification exam can be quite challenging and unnerving. Proper strategies, along with strong mental toughness in the exam center, can go long way toward helping you ace your exam. Certification exams are different from normal school/college-level exams in that the topics are typically more specific, and the exam itself quite practical. Memorization alone will not get you through a cert exam — it will take practical knowledge and sound reasoning.
Though certification exams vary from one another in terms of the content that you will be tested on, most have similar formats. Most are multiple choice question (MCQ)-based. Others have MCQs and a live lab-based test scenario. Regardless of the format, there are certain simple strategies applicable to passing all certification exams.
Insufficient preparation is often the root cause of failure, so make sure you give yourself enough time to know the exam contents and prepare yourself to know what to expect on the exam day.
Select the correct exam preparation materials. These materials can consist of practice tests, flashcards, official books, live training classes and self-study materials. These materials are specifically made to prepare you for the exam so make proper use out of them. Just be certain to use valid sources. If you have questions on which sources to utilize, ask someone who has recently completed the exam. It never hurts to ask more than one person. This will help you spend your limited time and money studying those sources that will help you. There is never enough time and money to waste on non-useful study aids.
Since certification exams cover a wide range of information, it takes time to become familiar with them. Don’t expect that you can cram in all of the information you need to know in a short time-frame. Again, if you have questions on how long it should take to prepare adequately, ask others who have already passed the exam. Once you have an idea of how much time you will need, then you can schedule daily study time to cover the required materials.
Once you know what materials to use in your preparation, and the amount of time needed to study, fix your exam date accordingly. Remember to allot for other commitments or emergencies that may arise. No plan survives first contact with reality; always plan in extra time and resources.
Practice makes perfect. This is especially true for certification exams. These exams are designed to be challenging — you cannot rely on just skimming through the exam contents or broad memorization.
Practicing is an essential part of studying. It can show you areas you need to focus more intensely on. Additionally, it is only by practicing that one can gain the confidence that they actually know the material.
Reputable testing organizations usually include practice questions and exams as part of their study materials. These are more dependable than just digging up random questions on the internet. Becoming familiar with the many testing scenarios, questions and patterns will allow you to walk in on exam day and not be surprised.
Do not use brain dumps! These are never allowed. Test takers usually sign an agreement to not disclose any questions, and if they are caught doing so, or you are caught using their services, certifications can be stripped. Besides, who wants to rely on a liar and a thief for something so important? Just don’t use brain dumps. For a more thorough discussion on why brain-dumps are bad click here.
Plan on answering all questions
Attempt to answer all the questions, even if you don’t know the answer. There might be questions where you’re not sure of the correct answer, but it should not mean you leave those questions unanswered. However, as certification exams are quite technical, going for an all-out blind guess isn’t going to help much either. Make an educated guess by eliminating answers you know are incorrect. By eliminating obviously incorrect answers, you narrow down your choices. You have a better chance, percentage wise, of guessing the correct answer when there are only two choices as opposed to three or more.
Since all certification exams have time constraints, time management is vital during the exam. You should know the number of questions, and the types, and the duration of the exam before you even begin studying. From there it is a simple matter to figure out how long you should spend on each question. Practice exams are a great way to get your timing down. You can figure out a comfortable pace while practicing and be able to keep it during the real exam.
Also, don’t count on seeing a clock in the exam room. It might not be there, it might be broken, or you might not be able to see it. Wear a watch to help you keep track of time.
Like most testing centers across the globe, Indian test centers are equipped with all the facilities you would expect and required for the exams. But keep in mind that since you are taking a professional certification exam there will be a list of permissible items you can carry into the exam room — know this list!
Some of the necessary items will include valid identification, like a government ID card or passport. In most of the test center electronics devices are not allowed so make sure you keep your device safe in a locker. In many testing centers, depending on the exam you are sitting in for, you will be provided with note taking sheets, or even a calculator if needed.
It’s always better to take your cert exam at an accredited testing center. This ensures that the facilities will not detract from your performance.
The night before
Tomorrow is the Big Day. Get plenty of sleep so as to be fresh and calm during the exam. I suggest you reach the testing center at least one hour before the scheduled start of the exam. This will give you ample time to get used to the surroundings. It’s always better to be early than late. If possible, visit the testing room before the day of the exam. This way you won’t get lost and show up late. Additionally, you can locate the restrooms and water fountains, and so forth.
Maintain a balanced diet leading up to the exam day. Avoiding overly spicy or unusual foods, and having a balanced diet the night before the exam will keep unwanted stomach issues to a minimum. Avoid excessive caffeine, as it may interfere with your sleep.
Stay focused, breathe normally to help ease any nervousness that might creep in. Don’t let any external circumstances (someone else’s talk) demoralize your confidences. Believe in yourselves and your ability. If you have prepared, you’ll do just fine.
Passing a certification exam is not like going to war. It’s more about proving your ability on a given day. Things can go wrong on exam day but proper preparation along with the right study materials and diligence will enable you to carry the day.