Career / Career Progression

When to Stop Studying for Your Exam

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Published on November 15, 2016

If you've ever studied for a big exam, you probably know the feeling that you could have studied more. It's okay. It's human nature. If you've never felt that way, good for you. You're a machine. Here's a list of the Top 10 Hardest IT Certs. Now, tell us you're not nervous.

For the mere mortals out there, we have many resources on how to study for (and pass) your IT certification exam.

Here's one more tip: While training for an exam, strategically use periods of rest for your success, and sanity.

There's real value in taking periods of rest while you're preparing for an exam. You can't brute force training. Slow and steady wins the race toward exam day.

When to Stop Studying for the Day

As any CBT Nuggets Accountability Coach will tell you, the most important part of studying for any exam is planning. Pick a date to take your test, work backwards while setting mastery goals along the way, and stick to the plan.

There are plenty of good study habits. Find a quiet, dedicated study location. Avoid distractions. Most importantly, know when to stop for the day. You can only cram so much information into your brain in a single day. You built your study plan so you won't be rushed, so stick to your plan.

Have you mastered a concept today? Great! Now, stop studying. Seriously.

While this rule applies to everyone, whether you're studying for CompTIA A+ or CCIE, it's especially important for new IT pros. It's easy to get excited when you're first learning something new. And when a concept clicks, it might be tempting to quickly move to the next thing because it's just that exciting, but remind yourself to slow down and stop right there.

Most IT certifications build on one another. You need to know how to convert binary before you can create subnet masks. You need to subnet masks before you can subnet. Here's the point: be sure you firmly grasp the foundational material before moving to the next thing.

Let your brain savor all the awesome new information it's receiving.

When to Stop Studying for a Little While

If you're studying for a big exam like CCNA, you'll likely be working at the material for months, not weeks. Don't be afraid to take a vacation, spend time with friends and family, or give your brain a rest for a few days. Build these breaks into your study plan, so you won't be rushed for time at the end of your training journey. You don't want to burnout, especially near your testing date when you should be done learning and focus on reviewing.

It's okay to take a break, just plan it out. It won't take long to get back into the material, and you may even see things more clearly.

Give Yourself a Break the Night Before

It's perfectly natural to have a little test anxiety. Don't worry. It happens to the best of us. Even CBT Nuggets trainer Keith Barker has gotten a case of the pre-exam jitters in his day.

Try channeling your nervousness into anything other than test preparation. Play some video games. Watch a movie. Take a walk. Give yourself a break, and try to get some rest, too. You want to be performing at 100 percent on exam day.

You're not going to drill any more information into your head the night before the exam. It's science.

If you've followed a study plan, you should have mastered the concepts weeks ago. One last review session isn't going to be the difference between passing an exam or failing. If you just can't help yourself, you can review some flashcards, but keep it light.

You're ready! Go conquer your exam, and remember to celebrate your success.

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