Test Taking Tips, Part 2: Decoding the Objectives

by Jason - Mar 31, 2016


Hello, everyone! Spring is here, baseball is about to start (which means excitement for some of us and a reason to nap for some of you, I am sure), and here at LearnKey we are finishing up our A+ 220-902 series of courses and ramping up our Office 2016 and Adobe CC 2015 Test Prep series. If you want details of those series, check out what I wrote two weeks ago on the subject.

Today, though, I want to continue a discussion I started months ago, that of test-taking tips. I outlined what I use as a comprehensive plan for preparing for and then taking certification tests. In many discussions with many students, one particular question comes up: How much attention to detail do we have to pay to each test objective?

That question actually has a two-part answer. First of all, you need to pay attention to every objective and every sub-objective. Anything on an objectives list is fair game for a test question, otherwise, the objective would not be listed. Avoid falling into the “I don’t use this so I don’t need to know this” trap. Remember, a certification test is testing your overall knowledge of a program, not what you are going to use the program for on the job. So, study and practice every objective, line-by-line.

The second part of the answer is this: Look for keywords in the objective descriptions and use that as your guide for how detailed you get with your study. To further explain this, here are some phrases we commonly see on test objectives:

Describe…

Given a scenario…

Identify…

Implement…

Install and Configure…

Notice that I’ve only listed the first few words of each type of objective. The reason is simple: first words mean a lot! To break this down further, when you see an objective that starts with “Describe” or “Identify”, yes, you need to practice the concept being covered. But, put your emphasis on the terms and definitions being covered in that area because that is most likely what test questions are going to focus on.

For test objectives which start with “Implement” or “Install and Configure” or something similar, you will definitely need to spend more time on those and be able to do the tasks given. Many of those objective descriptions end up as complicated multiple-choice or simulation questions on tests. Just knowing terms and definitions will not be enough to answer those questions.

For the “Given a scenario” or similarly described objectives, know both terms and definitions and practical application. Those objectives tend to appear on tests in what I like to call real-life or situational questions. So to best study those objectives, get as much hands-on, real-life practice as you can. And when those test questions appear, put yourself in the situation and answer accordingly.

To give you a specific example, the MTA Mobility and Device Fundamentals exam (Exam 98-368) has an objective to describe Active Directory Federation Services. The MCSA Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services exam (Exam 70-412) has an objective to implement Active Directory Federation Services. See the difference? For the MTA tests, which are good starting points for a certification track, knowing concepts will often suffice. However, for the MCSA tests, which are considered a higher level of certification than the MTA certifications, you are expected to be able to implement these concepts, not just describe them.

So the next time you are preparing to get a certification, take some time to do some objective “decoding” on your own. Use the descriptors for each set of objectives as your guide to help you better prepare for your certification tests.


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Test Prep and Test Taking Tips

by Jason - Sep 17, 2015


As an instructor with over 15 years of classroom training experience, and now as Senior Instructor at LearnKey, I have taken and passed at least 25 different certification tests. I have often been asked what methods I use to prepare for and take these tests. I wanted to take a few minutes to address those questions, as well as offer advice that can help you better prepare for certification tests and make those test-taking experiences positive ones.

What is the best way to prepare for a test?

  • Know whether the test is multiple choice, simulation, a combination of these, or other formats. Many certification vendors will indicate what types of questions to expect in the exam.
  • Study the objectives from top to bottom and practice the objectives from top to bottom. Get the program you are trying to get certified in (most have trial versions) and install it and practice it.
  • Most tests require about an 80% score to pass. For the practice tests you take, make sure you are scoring at 90% or higher. This will give you more breathing room when you take the actual test.
  • Take advantage of the times you do feel like studying and if you don’t feel like studying, do something else.  I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back and re-read or re-watch study materials because I tried to study when I was not in the mood to do so.

How do I not get so nervous when I take a test?

  • For most tests, you are given something to write on. At the beginning of the test, you usually will have about five minutes to read the test tutorial. That tutorial usually takes a minute to read. Use the rest of the time to jot down any last facts, formulas, or concepts you feel are ones about to fall out of your mind.
  • Do not worry about the timing of the test. For virtually every certification exam, you have one to two minutes per question. If you have studied well, timing will not be a factor.
  • Most tests will let you mark a question for review. Make sure you read the fine print and the “how-tos” at the beginning of a test to make sure you can mark a question for review. Rather than sit on a question for too long, make your best guess, mark it for review, and use your leftover time at the end of the exam to go back and review the questions you have marked.
  • You do not need to get 100% on an exam to pass. Any time I take an exam, I fully expect to get stumped on 10% of the questions. You should too. Remember, if you have been getting 90% or higher on the practice tests, guess what? You have 10% of wiggle room to use up. Just make your best guess on the question and move on.
  • Many test questions are quite wordy and often much of what is in the question has nothing to do with it. So use what I call the “look up, look down, and look up” method. Look up at the question to get an idea what it is about, look down at the answers to see what they are, and then look up at the question again so you can best match up the question and the answer.
  • As you are going through the test, “celebrate” the questions you know you have answered correctly. Now, I am not advocating jumping up and down and yelling “woo-hoo,” as that may be a slight distraction to others taking tests, but put on your best smirk of confidence.

My final tip is this: Have fun with the process of getting certified and consider the certification a reward for all of the hard work you have put into the process.


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IC3 GS5 Key Applications – Coming Soon

by Wyett - Jul 03, 2015


LearnKey will soon be releasing their new IC3 GS5 Key Applications training and assessment later this summer, in advance of the anticipated release of the new Certiport IC3 GS5  certification exam later this year.

So, what can you expect in the new IC3 GS5 Key Fundamentals video-based training course?

  • The IC3 GS5 series has been split into three courses that will  match the three exams that make up the IC3 GS5 certification. This will allow you to focus and prepare one exam at-a-time.
  • Throughout the course there are opportunities for learners to practice and reinforce the material in the course through quizzes and simulations that don’t require you to leave the training.
  • A project workbook to help you cement the concepts you’ll need to know and practice the skills you’ll need to demonstrate when taking the exam.

As the face of LearnKey’s IC3 series I would like to share a few tips I employed while I prepared for the IC3 exam:

  • Be Honest -Be honest with yourself in what you do and do not know. Remember, it’s okay to not know something – that’s why you are studying for the exam!
  • Take Notes –  Write down the topics or ideas you encounter in the training that may be unfamiliar and then use your notes to find the information in the project workbook, glossary, and test to help you gain an understanding. Also, take the time to re-watch the sections of the training that cover the material in your notes.
  • Take Your Time – Rushing to prepare for an exam yields mixed results at best remember your’re not only practicing skills for use on an exam, you’re practicing skills you can use for life.
  • Set a Reasonable Deadline – I just told you to take your time, but there are those among us (and yes, I am sometimes one) who may just continue to take time. So, set a goal or a deadline when you plan to take the exam. This will also help you to better plan your study and training time.
  • Have Fun – Above all, have fun with it.

This course has a team of IC3 certified writers and designers. We have redesigned and retooled everything to improve the learning experience and make the IC3 series the best LearnKey courseware yet!


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6 Simple Tips to Advance Your Career

by Brad - Feb 12, 2015


Do you ever feel trapped in a dead-end job or feel like you’ve reached the height of your career? I’m sure most of us have felt that way at some point in our lives. Most of us want to advance in our careers, but we don’t always know where to start.

A couple of years ago, I worked on a course which required extensive research on how to succeed at work. While I’m sure there are many things we could add to the list, all of my research seemed to boil down to six simple steps that anyone can follow to advance in their career.

Be Consistent

While it can be fun and exciting to be spontaneous, it is rarely appreciated in most workplaces. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at work, but inconsistency can quickly kill your career. Simple things like following a set schedule, arriving on time for your job, and maintaining a high quality of work can put you on the fast track for a promotion. There are few things more frustrating for a manager than not knowing when employees will show up or what the quality of their work will be like when they do.

Challenge Yourself

No matter how enjoyable your job is, performing the same tasks day after day can get repetitive and make you feel like you’re in a slump. Sometimes the fix for this can be as simple as developing a better way to complete a task. If that’s not an option, you may choose to volunteer for new assignments or use your downtime to work on new projects.
Another way to challenge yourself is to learn new skills. Many employees have access to training programs through their companies, and for those who don’t there are many online options, such as LearnKey’s self-paced training courses. The more knowledge and skills you can acquire, the more valuable you can make yourself to your company.

Show Loyalty

You may not always agree with everything, but supporting your manager’s decisions can go a long way toward advancing your career. Your manager may not always do things the way you would do them, but that doesn’t mean their method is wrong. Don’t undermine your manager’s authority by airing your grievances publicly. Carefully determine which battles are truly worth fighting and talk to your manager privately if you have a legitimate concern.

Admit Your Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” When you make a mistake, you have two choices: try to blame your mistake on someone else, or admit your mistake and work to correct it. In all areas of life, those who freely admit to their mistakes and work to correct them gain more respect than those who are constantly trying to push their mistakes onto others.

Stand Up for Yourself

You are an important asset to the company, and sometimes you need to remind your manager of that. Find ways to subtly market yourself, like offering to help on a project for which you have a private talent. Make a list of contributions you have made within the company and use those when asking for a raise or promotion. And don’t be afraid to ask. If you feel you are unlikely to get what you want, start with something bigger and negotiate down. If your manager has concerns about your work or qualifications, ask for feedback on how you can improve.

Find a Mentor

Sometimes all you need to get ahead is someone to show you how it’s done. Find someone you look up to and observe their work habits and methods. You can even formalize the relationship by asking the person to mentor you. Many companies have structured mentoring programs where you can set guidelines and define your goals and expectations. In the absence of a formal mentoring program, mentoring can happen as a natural outgrowth of mutual respect.

I hope you find these six tips useful and good luck in your career advancement!


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Understanding Image Usage Rights

by Brad - Apr 04, 2014


Disclaimer: The contents of this article are meant as a guide only, and should not be construed as expert legal advice on copyright law. Any specific questions about copyright and intellectual property rights should be referred to a lawyer with expertise in United States copyright law. Copyright laws differ slightly from country to country, so a lawyer familiar with International copyright laws may also be required.

Product or service names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. Their inclusion in this article should not be construed as an endorsement by LearnKey or its affiliates.

Imagine you are working on a project for a major client. You’ve spent days getting the design just right and now you’re looking for that perfect image to make the project complete. You search through your image library, but nothing feels right. You try image after image, but they all fail to meet your expectations.

We’ve all been there. Like most designers, you probably turn to the Internet. A quick Internet search yields the perfect image for your project. You visit the website, download the image, and turn your finished project over to the client. The client is happy, your boss is happy, and life couldn’t be better, right?

Wrong. You forgot something.

That image you downloaded and used in your project belongs to someone else. You had no legal right to use that image and now you, your company, and your client find yourselves in court for violating someone’s intellectual property rights.

But the image was on the Internet, so it’s free for anyone to use, right?

Wrong again. Unless the image is in the public domain, any image posted to the Internet is automatically protected by United States copyright law, with or without a copyright notice. Even sharing that image on your Facebook page without permission is a violation of the author’s legal rights. While some claims of copyright violation are more difficult to enforce than others, any legal trouble can mean bad news for a designer. Your company may survive a lawsuit, but your job and reputation likely will not.

So how do you avoid this type of situation?

The first thing you can do is avoid using images found in an Internet search. While some of these images are either public domain or specially licensed for commercial work, most are not. A better approach is to subscribe to a stock photo service such as iStock or Shutterstock. Services such as these allow almost unrestricted use of their photos for either a monthly fee or a per-photo fee.

If money is an issue, there are many sites which offer free photos, but the image quality and resolution is usually not the same as those found through a subscription service. Sites like morgueFile and Wikimedia Commons offer free access to thousands of photos, many of which are restriction-free or require only that you provide attribution to the photographer. Also, with the exception of government trademarks and logos, images created by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties are not subject to copyright.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to an image’s license. Many artists have licensed their work with a Creative Commons license, allowing others to use their photos with specific restrictions. If you can’t find an image’s license, you should probably assume it is not available for use.


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