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How to succeed in your next IT certification exam?

If you are considering taking another step in your professional development by obtaining a technical certification, here are some best practices to help you succeed in your next exam

06 June, 2022

The rapid pace of digital transformation in businesses, the rhythm at which new technologies are being adopted, and the growing complexity of information systems have made it increasingly difficult to find and assess potential employees. In this situation, technical certifications play a valuable role in helping in the recruitment process of IT professionals. Did you know that Portuguese recruiters consider technical certifications* the second most important aspect when assessing potential candidates?

If you are considering taking another step in your professional development by obtaining a technical certification, here are some best practices to help you succeed in your next IT certification exam and reduce exam anxiety.


1. First of all: know the exam you are taking 

Knowing the challenge you are going to face will boost your confidence. Typically, each exam has a guide and an official website, and these are the two resources you should consult first. 

The official website will help you find essential information about the certification and the exam. On it you will also find links to more detailed information such as a list of official training partners where you can prepare for the exam, some sample exam questions, how the certification fits into a general certification path, official forums, and even the exam guide.

The exam guide should be your primary source of information, as it contains important details, such as the target audience for the particular exam, the prerequisites, the number and type of questions on the exam, the duration of the exam, and the passing criteria. 


2. Plan your study

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." - This Lewis Carroll’s quotation depicts the importance of efficient planning. If our energy and focus are not properly directed, it will be harder for us to focus and achieve our goals. 

It can be advantageous to create a study plan that is adapted to our needs, even if it is a simple "to-do list". Whether it is a simple plan or a very elaborate one, it is important to consider the following:

  • When you want to take the exam. Some certifications have specific exam dates that only take place a few times a year, while others can be scheduled in a matter of days.
  • How much time you can dedicate to studying until the exam. It is important to make sure that you have enough time to cover all the topics on the exam and to review and do exam simulations.
  • The study materials at your disposal. Books, exam simulators, and exam preparation training courses are some of the materials that provide a complete overview of exam topics.


3. Take an exam preparation training course

Most exams have a corresponding exam preparation training course, and in some cases, it is even mandatory for the candidate to attend the exam preparation training course to register for the exam.

In cases where the exam preparation training course is not a requirement, it’s important to take into consideration the fact that passing the exam requires a vast knowledge of a plethora of topics – this is even the case for entry-level certification exams. Even if you consider you already have general knowledge about a particular field, it still may not be enough or applicable to meet the certification entity’s expectations for professionals in that field. 

Choosing to undergo exam preparation training offers you the chance to ask questions to an experienced trainer and gain solid, real knowledge about the certification. This opportunity allows you to clear up any doubts, practice, and share experiences and strategies, ultimately leading to a higher success rate on the certification exam.


4. Practice with simulators 

“Practice makes perfect”, which is why simulators are a great way for you to practice and test your knowledge, as you will find questions based on the exam you will be taking. 

These simulators will not only allow you to see if you already have the necessary knowledge of the exam content, but you will also familiarize yourself with the real exam and understand how the questions are structured. 
Exam simulators usually not only give you the correct answer but also explain why it is the correct answer and even why the other options are incorrect; this information is a great supplement to the exam preparation training course. In addition, some certification exams can have over 100 questions and take up to five hours to complete, so the simulator tests your knowledge and improves your endurance, attention, and concentration.


5. Look for online forums

In addition to the official certification forums provided by the certifying entity, simply typing "certification name + forum" into any search engine can help you find the community you are looking for. Online forums offer valuable insights from people who have already taken the exam you are about to take, allowing you to ask questions, get tips, and learn helpful strategies.


6. Ready, set, go…

Are you ready to take the exam? Check the exam guide again to make sure you have all the necessary documents to take the exam. 

Also, make sure you have the address and phone number of the Exam Center to avoid problems on exam day. Candidates cannot be admitted if they arrive late, so it may be better to calculate the best route to take if you are using public transportation or your own vehicle. Whatever your means of transportation is, leave home early, as the time between your arrival and the time of the exam can be very helpful in allowing you to relax and concentrate for a moment.


7. During the certification exam

The exam has just started. Carefully read the platform introduction, as it contains valuable information on how to use the platform. 

Take into consideration the total exam time and the number of questions you have to answer. It may be helpful to calculate the time needed for each question in order not to lose track of time and to remember that some longer questions will take more time to answer.        

To make sure you understand what is being asked in the exam questions, take your time and pay close attention to each question and its possible answers, and be aware of terms that can completely change the meaning of a sentence and thus constitute a trap, such as "very," "less", "not", "all", "never" and “always”.

As for the answer options that you are certain are wrong, eliminate them immediately, as this will make it easier for you to analyze and focus on the other options, thus increasing your chances of getting the final answer right.

If available on your exam platform, when in doubt about the correct answer, mark the question for review and move on to the next question. At the end of the exam, you can return to these marked questions and finish answering or correcting them. If you are still unsure of the answer, remember that it is better to answer something than to leave it blank!


8. And after the exam is done…

You have finished the exam. Depending on the certification entity, your exam may be automatically graded, or it may take some days for you to get your grade. 

The lesson to be learned is that it is important to understand that even if you are not successful on your first exam attempt, you will still obtain new knowledge and learn how the exam certification process works, and you will also be much better prepared to take the exam on your next attempt.

On the other hand, if everything went as planned on the first attempt: Congratulations! Now it’s time to check if there is any other step you need to take before obtaining your certification; for instance, some certification entities may require the candidates to submit a registration form or to be endorsed by another certified professional. 

Don’t forget to share your experience, as it can help many candidates!ūüėČ


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