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Test-Taking Skills 101: Global Strategies

By  Jul 27, 2008

Topics: Certification

In this post we will consider some 'meta' exam strategies that are not tied to any particular item type.

Finding the Right Pace

Settling into a good pace as you progress through your IT certification exam is instrumental in your success. In this context, I define a good pace as moving quickly enough through the exam item set such that you complete every item 100 percent, and moving slowly enough to have some 'padding' time in order to review items before you submit the exam for scoring.

Recall that Testlets (Case Studies) are individually timed and that traditional certification exams involve a single time interval in which you are required to complete the exam.

Incidentally, most IT certification exam vendors publish (a) the number of items; (b) the time limit; and (c) the passing score of their tests on their Web sites.

I offer you the following three-step strategy to help you to ensure that you stay 'on track' with time during your certification exam:

  1. Proceed through the exam's item set at a steady pace. If you find that any specific item bogs you down, then mark it for review and move on. At this point it is integral that you complete as much of the exam as possible during the first pass.
  2. Make a second pass through the exam, paying particular attention to marked items. More often than not one item in the exam will either completely or partially answer another item; take advantage of this serendipitous occasion whenever it occurs!
  3. 'Sweep up the shavings' during the final minutes of the exam to ensure that you have answered all items completely.

Sometimes the content in one exam item will contain information that you can leverage to answer another exam item in the same test.

The only downside to the aforementioned strategy is that there do exist exams (Cisco tests, for instance) that forbid you from moving backward and forward through the item set.

Make Use of Item Review

For exams that allow you to move bidirectionally, please remember that you can flag items for later review. At the conclusion of the exam you will see an Item Review screen that displays the completion state of any items in the set. You will also be able to revisit marked items.

Alrighty then! At this point I am confident that you have the raw materials for IT certification success. Congratulations on finishing this book. However, your work is only partly over; you must apply these principles to your certification study and ultimately practice them at the testing center in the exam chamber.

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