Training / Training Strategy

How to Ace Your Next Certification Exam

by Team Nuggets
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Published on March 4, 2020

Whether you're taking your first IT certification exam or already have an impressive list of certifications, you're likely to be nervous as exam day approaches. Most IT certification exams cover a lot of material, and dense material at that.

Plus, how many people enjoy taking tests, especially timed ones? There's also the matter of all the time, effort, and money put into studying. Nobody wants all that to go in vain.

There's no guarantees when it comes to passing exams. The good news is there's plenty you can do to prepare yourself for success. It just takes some research and planning. Here's a look at ways to ace your next IT certification exam.

Understand What You Already Know

Each IT certification exam you take builds on the knowledge and skills you already have. If you've ever dealt with test-taking anxiety, it can be reassuring to take an inventory of what you already know — and what skills you should be confident in.

That inventory not only helps boost your confidence going into the exam, it also lets you know what areas you need to hone in on. As a result, you can spend time on areas you aren't as strong in and make sure you are up to snuff come testing day.

Also, be sure to read and understand the exam objectives for every certification you pursue. This will help guide your study efforts — and just as importantly, help you feel more prepared as the big day arrives. Speaking of which…

Research Your Exam

Understanding what each exam will test on is vital. You can easily research the skills each IT test measures. Most IT certification vendors break down exam objectives into subcategories and provide the number of questions you can expect to be asked on certain topics.

Breaking exam objectives down into subtopics helps you prepare in a more manageable way, and lets you focus on the subtopics that cover gaps in your existing knowledge. It also lets you pinpoint areas that may have been updated since you last reviewed them.

Take your exam research a step further. Make sure you understand the logistics of your exam, too. Most IT certification vendors also provide other exam details such as number of questions, question format, and time limit. Knowing these seemingly small details can pay off big — in terms of being prepared and reducing exam anxiety. The less surprises, the better.

Gather Resources and Learning Tools

People learn in different ways. Some prefer using textbooks, others video training. The point being there's a wealth of study materials and training resources available to learners. You need to take the time to review them and determine which ones best fit your learning style and needs. Other common and popular study avenues include classroom training and study groups.

If you're on the go or pressed for time, apps are also available for specific IT certification exams. Especially for the myriad of specialist certifications offered through Microsoft. Major vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco provide a lot of own resources for learners, through which they can connect with other peers. A common example of this is message boards and forums.

Don't overlook bibliographies included in many exam handbooks. The resources listed there were used by the creators of the book. So, you'll likely find materials that can further help you in your studies.

Map Out a Study Plan

Plan on an average of two months prep time for each exam. If you're new to the IT field, you may want to take as long as six months to study. All that said, there's no magic formula. Everyone learns at different paces, not to mention some exams just require more study time.

Break down material into manageable chunks and assign them on a day-by-day basis to your calendar. Focus on study techniques that have served you well in the past, and include time for review on your calendar. And don't forget to give yourself breaks. You don't want to overload your brain and weaken memory retention.

The most important part of your study plan is sticking to it. It takes time to absorb all the information you have to learn. Creating a routine enables you to move at a steady pace and reduces the likelihood of need to cram for your exam.

Take Practice Tests

Your study plan should start with a practice test to establish a baseline of knowledge. Plan on taking a few more during your studies to measure your progress. And of course, take one at the end of your studies to gauge your exam readinesses. If you are consistently scoring 90% or higher on practice exams, you are ready to sit for the real exam.

Many IT certification vendors offer practice tests or questions. You have access to unlimited Kaplan® IT Practice Exams with a CBT Nuggets subscription. Take as many practice exams as you want for some of the most popular IT certification exams.,

Practice exams can help you pinpoint areas that you need to improve on to pass the exam. More importantly, it helps reinforce material you know well. So, why spend more time going over that content? Instead focus on areas of improvement.

After completing practice exams, you can use your results to adjust your study plan as needed.

Use a Smart Test-Taking Strategy

The moment you've been preparing for is finally here! As tempting as it is to go all out and power through your exam, slow down. A measured approach can help you be more efficient and get a better result.

Pay special attention to questions that look particularly difficult, as you may want to save extra time for them. Typically, test-takers end up failing exams because they run out of time. Skip questions that are going to take more time and get the easy ones out of the way. By doing this, you stay in control of your exam-taking process. A tough question won't trip you up and prevent you from getting most of the exam done.

Keep your eye on the clock to keep on schedule. If you start to run long on a single question, leave it and move on. Not all questions have the same level of difficulty, so you should have time later to work on the questions you were unsure about.

It's All About Preparation Thoughtful preparation is the keyto acing your next IT certification exam. CBT Nuggets offers everything you need to prepare for your next exam. In addition to unlimited video training on popular IT technologies, learners have access to practice exams, hands-on virtual labs, and coaching services.

It's up to you to understand the exam you want to earn, create a study plan that meets your needs, and take a measured approach from start to exam day. Good luck on your IT certification exam.


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