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Test-Taking Skills 101: Interactive Items

By  Jul 24, 2008

Topics: Certification

Hello there. Many IT certification vendors sprinkle interactive items in addition to conventional multiple-choice items in their exams. In this essay I will provide you with targeted advice on how to approach this type of item.

First of all, what is an interactive exam item? An interactive item is an exam question that requires that you interact with a user interface element in some way. For instance, you might be asked to drag terms stacked in one column to their matching term in a second column.

Alternatively, you may be asked to build a list of options and reorder them correctly. To give you a feel for how interactive items work, I would strongly suggest that you download and install Microsoft's Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) Exam Demos package and play around with it so that you can gain some familiarity with the item types.

Tactic: Understand that Not all Interactive Items are Graded

One fine summer morning I passed a particular IT certification exam with a perfect 1000/1000 score. What was interesting about that accomplishment was that in this particular exam I had left not one but two simulation items unanswered (and I mean completely unanswered...untouched is more like it).

This startling exam experience taught me avaluable lesson about interactive items on IT certification exams; namely, that testing candidates should fully believe the disclaimer text that you see at the beginning of some certification exams that informs you that not all items are graded.

I know from my experience working as a content developer with Transcender that grading interactive items is not a trivial task. Typically, ungraded items are integrated into an IT certification exam for one or both of the following reasons:

  • The exam provider is beta testing new items
  • The items are too complex to be evaluated reliably (Simulation items spring to my mind)

Conversely, just because I had this experience with one of the dozens of exams that I have taken does not mean for one minute that you should avoid exerting your very best effort in completing all items, including simulations.

Tactic: Be Sure to Fully Complete Simulation Items

Once you have begun work on a Simulation item, you want to pay particular attention to the floating Question window that contains (a) the list of tasks that you are required to complete in the Simulation item; and (b) the controls that you use to manage the item.

I want you to pay particular attention to the following three controls that you will observe in the Question window:

  • Done: You need to use this button to signify that you are finished with the item
  • Incomplete: If you mark the simulation as Incomplete, you can return to it later on in your exam session
  • Reset: You can begin the simulation 'from scratch'

Again, because these certification exams are protected heavily under intellectual property law, there is no surefire way to know in advance if simulation or other interactive items are graded completely, partially, or not at all. Therefore, your best bet is to approach these items as if they are all graded.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns that I can help you with concerning this subject.

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