Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts devoted to IT training tips and guidance, courtesy of CBT Nuggets-sponsored triathlete Evan Pardi.
You came up with a game plan, found some resources to help you out, and discovered your own training tips that work for your specific study needs. You’ve hopefully been training hard, and now the big day is here: test day.
We sat down and chatted with our favorite triathlete, Evan Pardi, and asked him about test day tips and tricks that will help you get through the momentous task of taking an exam. The idea of completing a triathlon and completing an IT certification exam aren’t all that different from one another.
Find out how Evan psyches himself up to get into race day mode, so you can psyche yourself up into your own kind of game day mode.
1. Rest Up
Okay, so this one might not technically happen on the day of your test, but getting rest is crucial to being successful in your endeavors, whether they’re IT certification-related or otherwise.
The human body and brain function at their highest level when they are well-rested. Both tests and races are designed to assess the skills that you’ve accumulated over months of training, so reviewing your notes right before the exam will not help you.
Like someone who is training for an IT certification exam, Evan avoids binge training right before a big race. He might recommend some focused work or studying on your weaknesses, and maybe a good survey of everything you’re about to take on in the few days before the big day. But in his eyes, the most important thing is rest.
He put it best in talking with us about prepping for the big day: “I’d always rather be a little too relaxed than a little too tired.”
We couldn’t agree more, Evan.
2. Keep Your Routine Consistent
Just because it’s exam day doesn’t necessarily mean you should tackle the start of your day any differently. Consistency is key to success. There’s a science behind developing habits and a routine to build stronger success, both in training and on test day.
Evan doesn’t have any pre-race rituals that he has truly embraced for every one of his 41 triathlons. So, if you start off every morning with coffee, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to start off a test day with your favorite caffeinated beverage.
For instance, Evan always gets his calories and caffeine in right when he wakes up in the morning. This is his daily drill, so there’s no need for him to change that up on his big day.
This all happens in preparation for Trick #3 on our list…
3. Maintain a Sense of Calm
Keeping calm when it’s your time to shine will help you to perform at your best. There are three types of calm that you should consider maintaining: Physical, mental, and emotional.
If you studied hard enough, your mental calmness should already be alleviated. It’s about gaining a familiarity with the material, keeping on track with study goals, and giving yourself enough time to fully prepare.
Being physically calm on test day is a little trickier. It’s about building up a physical health so that you can perform at your best. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and reducing your intake of coffee and energy drinks all work toward building a physical calm for test day.
Emotional calmness is likely going to be the toughest type of calm to maintain during test day. Remember that you are greater than whatever test it is that you are taking. You are a multifaceted person who has many different talents and abilities. Even if you have done poorly on exams in the past, you can always improve. If you get emotionally riled up in the testing center, try reframing your negative thoughts, reflecting on the progress you’ve already made, or easing up the amount of mental energy that you’re spending.
During any of his races, Evan tries to maintain a level head and keep completely calm in spite of the obstacles he’s facing. He, like everyone else, feels the pre-race jitters but manages to clear his head when it’s time to take off.
“Of course, I struggle with remaining calm, but by focusing on non-judgemental attitudes towards every action in the race I can stay very calm,” Evan said. Through balancing his emotional struggles with a focus on logically approaching each obstacle, Evan keeps a sense of calm that’s able to guide him straight to the finish line. Balance your emotions with logic in order to calm yourself, whether you’re competing in a triathlon or taking an exam to earn your Cisco CCNA.
4. Embrace Your Anxiety
Any person who has competed for or tested for anything will tell you, anxiety exists in any test-like situation. Evan’s key for the day of a test or race is to let that anxiety be a part of you.
“Don’t ignore it or suppress it, but feed on it,” Evan said. “Use that extra stimulus to give you meaning and direction. Anxiety shows that you care [about what you’re doing] and if you focus on using it in a non-judgemental, non-negative way, it can be an ally.”
When it comes to race time, Evan takes his nerves and lets them act as a gauge for his performance.
“If I’m not nervous enough, I try to pump myself up and focus more on the race,” Evan said. “If I’m too nervous, I try and channel my energy into very specific tasks.”
When it comes to comes to your exam day, embracing the anxiety that comes along with it should work in just the same way. Try taking your energy and harnessing it into focusing on your exam or any specific obstacles that the exam is hurdling at you.
5. Stay in the Present
You might think that a seasoned triathlete like Evan would have some secret to his successes or some ritual he does before each race. But the only thing that Evan does is maintain a strong focus.
“Pre-race rituals to me have changed,” Evan said. “I never put on my tri-suit until right before start time and I also never ever message or engage on social media, just to stay in the present.”
Strategies for maintaining focus differ from person to person. But Evan has a strategy that consistently works for him.
“I love to quietly talk to myself about what’s going on to keep everything present. If someone does something like pass me or something, I will comment on it as it happens,” Evan said “This sounds totally silly, but I find in high-stress situations, these comments to myself help me focus and hone in on how I’m feeling. Admit to yourself when something was tough or when it went well, it solidifies the experience.”
Talking to yourself in the middle of a test-taking environment probably won’t work well for your CompTIA Network+ exam or your CCNA. Some other strategies you might consider using to stay focused on the exam and stay in the present include:
- Concentrating on one question at a time;
- Drinking some water (make sure your testing center allows you to bring in an outside drink!);
- Getting the jitters out, whether that’s through shrugging, closing your eyes, or changing your posture;
- Rereading the question to make sure that you understand exactly what it’s asking.
Regardless of which method you use to keep your mind in the moment, keeping a level head when it comes to tackling any obstacle will take the pressure off and help you come up with the solutions that you need to succeed.
6. Celebrate the Completion
A huge part of test day that everyone seems to forget to talk about is what you do after you’ve finished your test. Evan never forgets to embrace his feelings after finishing a race.
“Post race, honestly, is always [a] relief,” Evan said, “It takes awhile for a sense of assessment to sink in and I usually push that off and enjoy the sense of completion, [whether it’s] good or bad.”
While enjoying the sense of completion, Evan gives himself a break after racing hard. “I like to take a day off the day after usually. Also, maybe an extra beer!”
Whether you’re finishing a triathlon or an IT certification exam, celebrating your accomplishments is never a bad thing. Whether you choose to do that through an extra beer, taking a day off (we especially recommend this one if you’re planning on studying for another exam immediately after), or something else, rewarding yourself for a job well done is a nice way to end a nerve-wracking day.
When it comes time to perform, we all know that there are going to be some nerves. But with the guidance of a seasoned triathlete, alongside a training program that you won’t struggle to stick with, you should feel confident in your ability to succeed.
Not a CBT Nuggets subscriber? Start your free week now.
CBT Nuggets has everything you need to learn new IT skills and advance your career — unlimited video training and Transcender® Practice Exams, Virtual Labs, validated learning with in-video Quizzes, Accountability Coaching, and access to our exclusive community of IT professionals.
Learn more about the CBT Nuggets Learning Experience.