When you're pursuing an IT certification, understanding your learning style and finding the right IT certification training resources are critical. But while top-tier tech knowledge is certainly the better part of certification success, it's not the only factor. When it comes to taking a certification exam, it's not just what you know, but also being able to demonstrate it in a formal testing environment.
For those who have been out of school for a while – or who are nervous testers – this can be a tall order. Going into a certification exam in the wrong state of mind can make you confuse concepts you know like the back of your hand and click choice A when you meant choice B. These kinds of simple, avoidable errors can make you kick yourself later. And in an environment where every point counts, that can mean the difference between a pass and a re-take.
Once you’ve gotten the technical stuff down pat, it's important to keep in mind all the non-technical things that go into exam success. As you prepare to take your next CompTIA certification exam, run through these tips to help ensure that you can walk into the testing center calm, confident and ready to show the world what you know.
Leading Up to the Exam
Successfully studying for an exam doesn't start on the morning of the test – and neither does getting in the right mindset. Consider the following steps for the days – and even weeks – leading up to the exam.
- Get Your Plan Written Down: When you've got a lot on your plate, writing a checklist is well worth your while. Offloading onto the list everything you need to know for test day – from what you'll need to bring with you to how you plan to get to the testing center – will rid you of the fear that you're forgetting something at the last minute. This will free your mind to focus on more productive things, like studying. If you're more comfortable with a handwritten list on a notepad, do that. If you rely on a scheduling app, make your checklist there. (Just make sure to keep your phone charged!) The format isn't important, as long as you've got a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for getting yourself up, into the testing center and ready to go.
- Set the Stage for an Easy Morning: When you're busy, it's easy to forget everything that goes into your morning ritual. If you're a coffee drinker and rely on your own French press, make sure the morning you take the test isn't the morning you run out of coffee. You want to show up perfectly caffeinated, not scrambling around hoping there's a Starbucks within a block of your testing center. If you're driving to the exam, fill up your gas tank the night before. If you're in a city with public transportation, make sure your bus or train pass is good. A good morning will make for a better certification exam experience.
- Set Two Alarms: It never fails that the days you have something important to do seem to be the ones where your electricity blinks and you wake up late, staring at flashing numbers on your alarm clock. Or when you unconsciously slam the wrong button at the shriek of the alarm and find yourself waking up two hours later than you expected – first, well-rested, but then panicked, wondering what happened. Plan not to have your certification exam day be one of those days. Set as many alarms as it will take to save yourself the grief and cost of rescheduling.
- Get a Good Night's Sleep: Our fast-paced world of professional and personal obligations has led to an almost epidemic level of daytime sleepiness. But it's hard to overstate exactly how much this little thing can impact your results on a certification exam. Make it a point to sleep well the night before the exam, and you'll be noticeably more alert and less nervous than you otherwise would be.
- Eat a Healthy Breakfast: Whether you're thinking about how to seat RAM in a given machine, how to detect packet loss or where to find a security vulnerability, the last thing you need is to hear your stomach grumbling. You got a good night's sleep the previous evening – now remember that second piece of advice everyone learns as a kid: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eat breakfast, and if you've got a long commute, bring a granola bar or two with you to make sure you're 100 percent focused on IT when you sit down to certify.
- Give Yourself Enough Time: Getting an early start and showing up with time to spare are key to walking in calm when you arrive at the testing center. Check the weather report to check for inclement road conditions, and give yourself plenty of time to deal with traffic, late trains or any other slowdowns or bottlenecks you might hit. Last-second panic due to a closed road on the way to the testing center won't put you in the best mindset for certification success. But if you're still a half hour ahead of schedule when you get out of a traffic jam, there'll be no need to lose your cool.
On the Morning of the Exam
Following the previous tips should set you up for a morning with no big surprises. But before heading out of your house on the morning of your certification exam, remember:
What Is a Performance Certification?
CompTIA performance certifications validate the skills associated with a particular job or responsibility. To earn the certification, candidates must demonstrate their ability to perform related tasks through simulations and performance-based questions, proving they not only know what a job entails, but how to do it.
Prepare … and Succeed!
Now that you know how to set yourself up for success on test day, you can get back to the hard stuff – building that in-depth working knowledge of IT that CompTIA performance certifications test and validate.
To help you master your material, CompTIA now offers an expanded line of training products – and will continue to add more over time. In addition to CompTIA CertMaster, an intelligent online test-prep tool, CompTIA now offers official study guides for purchase electronically or in print.
To truly set yourself up for exam success, purchase a premier bundle, which includes the ebook version of CompTIA’s official study guide, CompTIA CertMaster, an exam voucher and a retake voucher, just in case.
If you've got an exam on the horizon, consider CompTIA's suite of resources to keep your studying focused and your stress levels low.
Check out CompTIA’s full suite of training resources.
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.