This is Part 1 of the final blog post in this series, where everything we’ve discussed in the previous blog posts should come together. In Part 1, we’ll go over the exam-taking process and try to make sure that the time and effort you’ve spent preparing for the exam are put to good use.
Well, that’s the first thing you should remember: don’t look down. To pass the exam, you need your head in good working condition, and letting your anxiety get the best of you would not be particularly helpful. So, adjust your breathing, get any signs of tremor out of your system, and concentrate on the screen.
If you feel you can’t crack an item quickly enough, don’t dwell on it; just pick a choice that looks more promising to you at the moment, mark the item (there is a check box in the upper left corner of the screen) so you can come back to it later, and move on. It is important that you always stay within the proposed schedule (one item per minute), even at the cost of leaving an item or two behind with potentially wrong answers if necessary. Always provide an answer. You don’t score any points if you leave an item unanswered, and you are not losing any of your scored points if your precipitate answer turns out to be wrong. If you happened to encounter a difficult item early on and spent just an extra couple of minutes on it instead of answering it without much thinking and moving on, you might spend the next couple of hours trying to catch up, rushing, missing important scenario details, making silly mistakes, and ultimately failing the exam. Except for certain types of interactive items, which might or might not be included in your exam, each item is worth the same number of points. So you are better off hastily answering and potentially missing one particularly hard item rather than spending too much time on it and, as a result, almost certainly missing half-a-dozen easy items that you would have gotten right if only you had had enough time left for them.
If you manage to finish the first pass in about an hour, you probably have another hour or so left for a cleanup. After you answer the last item, you are presented with a review screen. You can choose to review the entire exam, or you can go to individual items. If you marked any items, they are highlighted on this screen, making it easy for you to spot them right away. Count the number of marked items, and calculate how much time you have for each of them. Review each marked item, think it through, and change its answer if necessary. If you still have time left, go over the entire exam one more time and make sure you are happy with the answers that you have provided. Don’t try to second-guess yourself and make last-minute changes just because you think you may have missed something important. Remember that, on the first pass, you had a full minute to ponder on each item and now you probably have just a few seconds for nothing more than a quick look. The purpose of this second pass is not to rethink each item but to merely catch silly mistakes, like clicking while the mouse was still in motion and thus accidentally selecting choice B, whereas your intent was to select choice C. During your second pass, if you still have doubts about some of your answers, either keep those items marked or write down their item numbers on the dry-erase board or piece of paper provided to you by the test administrator. If you still have time left after the second pass, take yet another look at those items that you are still uncertain about
If you prepare for an exam properly, you will find few surprises and will most likely pass the exam with flying colors. But what exactly does it mean to prepare properly? The relevant technical knowledge is certainly Number One on this list, but there are some other things as well. There will almost always be a few problematic items that, despite their low number, can easily spoil all the fun if you are not expecting them or don’t have a strategy for tackling them. In Part 2 of this blog post, we’ll discuss several specific types of problems that might come up on your exam.