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Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Took That IT Certification Exam

Physicians call 20/20 hindsight as the "retrospectoscope." Likewise, I would bet you 20 dollars to a stale jelly donut you left the testing center after taking your first certification exam with a number of "I wish I knew..." gotchas. Let me share five of my personal favorites with you.

#1: I Wish I Knew That IT Certification Exams Require Test-Taking Ability as Much as They Do Technical Knowledge

What many first-time IT certification test-takers fail to account for is that (a) they might not have had any prior experience with taking computer-based evaluation instruments; and (b) IT certification exams often seem to test one's critical thinking, close reading, and deductive reasoning skills every bit as much as they test your technical knowledge.

You can prepare yourself in this regard by investing in quality practice test software. Please check out CertGuard first and run a query against the test-prep provider with you which you are interested; CertGuard can tell you if your provider is legitimate or if they offer illegal braindumps.

#2: I Wish I Knew That IT Certification Exams Often Require That I Toe a Corporate "Party Line"

I have seen many, many IT certification candidates with broad and deep technical product knowledge and even great test-taking skills fail their exams spectacularly? Why? Because they apply too much of their practical experience into the exam items!

I know that this sounds oxymoronic, but it is true: with many IT certification tests, there is the "real-world" answer to a question, and a "vendor's preferred" answer. Given the choice between the two, ALWAYS select the vendor's preferred answer.

You can learn what a technology vendor's "pet" buzzwords and best practices are by reading their authorized test-prep books and multimedia products.

#3: I Wish I Knew That The Exam Included Non-Standard Question Types

Again, I have seen students walk into the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam or one of the Microsoft MCSE exams extremely competent and cool as a proverbial cucumber, only to emerge from the exam room in tears two hours later?

The problem? These students failed to do their homework and learn from the vendors themselves (by checking their Web sites) that the exams included interactive items.

An "interactive" item is much different from a traditional multiple-choice exam item. With interactive items you might be asked to perform matching exercises by dragging and dropping vocabulary words or product icons around the screen. In the case of the CCNA, you may be asked to work in a simulator environment where you issue a series of Cisco IOS commands to configure routers and switches.

If you are not prepared for these cutting-edge exam item types, then you are in deep trouble.

The best way to prepare for these interactive items is to purchase computer-based training (CBT) and test-prep software that includes examples of interactive items.

#4: I Wish I Knew That The Testing Center Sucked Before I Got There

Trust me: you want to physically visit the authorized IT certification testing centers in your area before you commit to taking an exam at one. I've taken certification exams at centers where the examinee's comfort and user experience was an afterthought AT BEST.

You don't want to wind up in a cramped, non-climate-controlled room with big picture windows where passerby can stop and goggle at the "stressed out test-takers" laboring at their testing workstations with sweat on their brows.

#5: I Wish I Knew That "A Pass is a Pass"

How many first-time IT certification test-takers cram for their exam the night before, worried to the gills that they may not score high enough on their test to please their boss, or a prospective future boss?

Know this, friends: the only place where your actual score shows up is on the exam score report that you are given immediately after you complete the exam. As far as your certificate and/or your certification transcript are concerned, a "just pass" and a perfect score are completely indistinguishable.

The exception to to this rule are the certifications that offer a special designation for trainers; trainers typically have to pass an exam with a higher score than non-trainers.

And note that I tell you this not to give you a "free pass" to avoid busting your butt to do as well as you can on your exams. I just want you to know where your score is visible (and where it isn't) so you can remove just one worry from your worry kit.

Good luck in your cert studies!