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Last-Minute Efforts

The night before your exam can be a stressful, sleepless night. I recommend that you take a nice, long walk or jog. Exercise can reduce stress and help you sleep.

As far as studying goes, I always study my usual amount. If I'm using a practice exam as part of my studying efforts, I may crank through one or two practice tests. Generally, I don't do anything out of the ordinary—just study, feel confident, and try to get plenty of sleep.

When it's exam time, arrive at the testing center early. In fact, I get there an hour early, and whip through my flashcards and notes one last time. With 15 minutes until launch, I have a big stretch, use the "facilities," and check in for the exam. When you're in the testing room, roll your shoulders, pop your knuckles, breathe deeply—use whatever trick you can to ease yourself and relax.

As you probably know, the testing center will provide paper and pencils for your usage after you're in the exam room. Take advantage of those few extra minutes in the exam room to jot down any facts or acronyms on a sheet of paper, and set it aside for fast access during the exam.

Another trick, if you know the exam is multiple-choice, write down "ABCD" 20 or 30 times on another sheet of paper. Now, when you get to a question you're stumped on, you can use deductive reasoning and process of elimination to find a suitable answer.

For example, if you know that A and D cannot be correct answers on a question, mark out A and D on your scratch sheet of paper. Now you have a 50-50 chance of finding the correct answer. If you still can't determine which of the remaining answers are correct, go ahead and choose one of the possible correct answers. Never leave a question blank—it's counted as incorrect. If your exam allows you to, mark the question for later review.

Microsoft exams have a tendency to be long-winded, wordy, and just plain evasive. The trick is to read the question in full so you've got an idea of what the objective is. Then reread the question, and filter out some of the red herrings. Finally, concentrate on the meat of the question itself, and look for clues such as singular versus plural wording, hints within the answers, and answers that favor the exam vendor over the competition (think Microsoft versus Novell).

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