By Michael Aldridge
This is my second of three blog posts in my "What to Expect" series. This blog post will focus on what happens the day of your certification exam.
Be sure you know how to get to the testing center, and plan on getting there at least 15 minutes ahead of time, especially if you have to deal with heavy traffic. But remember Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I once rushed out the door to drive to the testing center only to find that I had a flat tire. What should you do if something like that happens to you? Call the testing center. If they've got flexibility in their testing schedule, most of them will try to squeeze you in.
When you get to the testing center, you'll be asked to sign in and show valid photo identification. The testing center might also take a digital picture of you, which will be matched against previous pictures to make sure that the same person is taking the exam each time.
You will not be allowed to take anything into the testing room, including any of the following:
- cell phones
- flash drives
- wallets and purses
- bags and backpacks
- cameras and other recording devices
- car keys
If you have any of these items, the test center will secure them for you.
You will probably be given an erasable noteboard and dry-erase pen. These materials must be given back to the test center when you finish the exam. No notes of any kind can be taken out of the testing environment. If you need headphones to block out sound, the test center will provide them to you, if available.
Your exam will be timed. The timer won't stop if you have to go to the bathroom, so be sure to take care of business before you start the exam.
After the administrator signs you in to the testing computer, you will be asked to sign a certification agreement. Most will require you to agree to the following:
1. You will not reveal anything that you see on the exam.
2. You will not attempt to remove exam materials from the testing area.
3. You have not used unauthorized materials (like braindumps or cheat sheets) to prepare for the exam.
4. You will not take an exam on anyone else's behalf, nor will you allow someone to take an exam on your behalf.
5. You will not misrepresent your certification status, nor will you allow another person to use your certification credentials.
Failure to follow the agreement can result in your certification status being revoked, and you might even be prevented from ever certifying in the future. Not worth it. The test center administrator will monitor you during the exam. Additionally, a video camera will usually record you as you take the exam.
Before the exam begins, you will usually be presented with a tutorial that will help familiarize you with the testing interface as well as the types of questions that might appear on the exam. If you're taking a Cisco exam, you might want to check out my previous blog post entitled 7 Question Types on Cisco Certification Exams, which includes the questions you will likely see on Cisco's exam tutorial.
After the tutorial ends, the exam begins, and the timer will start. If you experience any problems during the exam, be sure to tell the test center administrator. For example, I once had a computer crash in the middle of the exam. The administrator rebooted the computer, signed me back in, and the exam started right where it left off.
Pace yourself. Don't dwell for too long on one particular question. You are not penalized for guessing, so if you don't know the answer, eliminate as many choices as you can and make an educated guess. On CompTIA and Microsoft exams, you can mark a question and come back to it later. Cisco exams do not allow you to review previous questions; once you've answered a question, you can't come back to it later.
Read ALL the choices. Don't immediately mark the first right answer you come to and move to the next question. You might find that one of the other choices is a better answer than the one you initially chose.
Don't overanalyze. Don't assume anything that isn't specifically stated in the question or scenario. The exam is trying to test your knowledge, not trick you.
Don't skim the question. If you do, you will likely miss a key detail that is required to answer the question correctly. Pay attention to qualifier words, such as "best," "most, ""all," "none," and, most importantly, "not."
When you're finished, review your answers if the exam allows you to do so. Try not to second guess yourself. Change your answer only if you are certain you missed something.
After the exam, you will be asked to take a short survey. The survey will usually ask you about your experience at the testing center, as well as whether the exam questions were relevant and easy to understand. Answer honestly; your answers will not affect your score or your certification status.
The test center administrator will print out your score report and give it to you. Be sure to keep it, because it is hard-copy proof that you took the exam. The score report will tell you whether you passed or failed the exam. Additionally, it will usually tell you how you did in each concept area. If you are weak in one or more areas, you might want to brush up on them, particularly if you didn't pass the exam.
In my final blog post of the "What to Expect" series, I'll discuss what you should expect after your certification exam.