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.