By Michael Aldridge
This is my third of three blog posts in my "What to Expect" series. This blog post will focus on what happens after you've taken a certification exam.
Okay, you've passed the exam. Congratulations! Now what? The best thing you can do is to let your "study inertia" continue. For the non-science folks among us, inertia is the tendency of an object in motion to remain in motion and of an object at rest to remain at rest. Well, the same thing is true of studying. It is easy to continue studying once you've built up good study habits. But once you stop, it is very difficult to get started again. So set your sights on your next certification exam and keep up the momentum!
But what if you didn't pass the exam? Don't get discouraged and quit. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. Your score report will usually indicate the subject areas that need improvement, so begin by restudying those sections. Some practice exam companies also have money-back guarantees, such as Boson's No Pass, No Pay Guarantee. Be sure that you are aware of the company's terms and conditions and that you adhere to them.
If you want to retake a failed exam, you have to pay for the exam again unless you qualify for a special promotion, such as Microsoft's Second Shot. Also, each certification vendor has a retake policy that specifies when you can retake a failed exam. For most exams, CompTIA and Microsoft do not require any waiting period between the first and second attempt, but require a 14-day wait before the third and subsequent attempts. In addition, you must wait a year to retake a Microsoft exam after failing it the fifth time. Cisco requires that you wait five calendar days before retaking a failed exam, beginning the day after the failed exam attempt.
There are also retake policies in place for passed exams. CompTIA and Microsoft do not allow candidates to retake a passed exam unless you are given consent to do so. Cisco requires candidates to wait 180 days before retaking a passed exam. Note that these restrictions only apply to exams with the same exam number. For example, if you took the 2009 version of the A+ exams, you can take the 2012 version of the A+ exams without restriction.
Once you have passed all of the exams in a certification track, you will receive membership information in the mail or by e-mail. The membership information kit will specify any benefits you receive by being certified, as well as guidelines on how to download and use the certification logo. You might also receive a digital or paper certificate.
The biggest benefit of being certified, however, is in being able to show current and future employers that you are certified. To prove your certification status, you don't need to show a paper certificate. Instead, all of the major certification programs offer electronic verification of your certification status and, in some instances, the transcript of exams you have passed. If you barely passed your exams or failed an exam along the way, fear not: most electronic transcripts do not include exam scores or failed exams.
Many certification vendors require that you maintain or update your certifications every few years in order to remain certified. If you don't maintain your certification, you can no longer say that you're certified. In fact, most vendors prohibit using the certification acronym if you don't maintain your certification. For example, if you don't maintain your CCNA certification, you can't list "CCNA - 2006-2009" on your resume or CV.
You typically recertify by taking the certification exam again or, in some cases, by taking a higher-level exam. Some certification vendors have a continuing education component whereby you can maintain your certification by attending or presenting seminars, by taking or teaching courses, and by publishing articles or books.
Although you might mean well, do not post any information about what you saw on the exam on social media or online forums. Remember the certification agreement I mentioned in my previous blog post? It still applies. Don't risk losing your ability to get certified.
So now that you know what to expect before, during, and after your certification exam, what are you waiting for? Test your knowledge and get certified! You'll be glad you did.