Some of New Horizon’s incredible instructors share their test-taking-tips to improve your likelihood of earning your certifications quickly. SpecTECHular attendees will experience more of our instructors, experts who are available to you to help when you need it.
Once you’ve completed a class the only thing standing between you and certification is the passing of exams. One problem you may face with this is that some people are just better at taking tests than others, that’s just a fact. As much as you may know the material in the curriculum you may get answers wrong simply because you approached the question poorly.
While every exam is different, they all have many things in common that you can prepare for and for which there are “best practice” strategies available to you.
We asked several of the members of the faculty at New Horizons to share their experience and knowhow with us regarding the taking of tests. Here’s some of what they told us:
Doug Amtower teaches a variety of information technology (IT) courses
“If you're not nervous, you're probably dead,” says Doug. “I've been taking IT exams for nearly 20 years and I still get nervous.”
Doug has always used practice tests to prepare for exams. “But,” he suggests, “it's more than knowing the answers, it's understanding why an answer is correct or incorrect. I teach my students to pick apart answers. Does the answer address the real question?”
Doug suggests an analytical approach, starting with determining whether a given answer is within the scope of the question. “As an example, ITIL exams will put answers in a question that are from an entirely different section of study. I teach my student to identify those wrong answers and why.”
Every class Doug teaches includes a final review at the end of class covering the high points. “Some students prefer to use flash cards, so I direct them to use www.quizlet.com.”
Dawn Merrill teaches courses in Leadership and Development.
“First,” says Dawn, “I'd make sure they know how to run spellcheck.
Some of Dawn’s courses prep students for the PMP and CAPM exams, in which she recommends the “Rule of five for most adults - repeat items five times and will stay in memory.”
Some of Dawn’s other recommendations include:
- If taking a four-hour exam, practice sitting for four hours while working on practice questions.
- Prepare a “brain dump list” for the exam and practice that list, too.
- Use Flash cards but create your own. The eye-hand coordination required is a great way to improve your memorization.
- Use patterns for memory
- If you hit a mental roadblock while studying by all means take a break!
- Study in the same conditions you’ll be in when you take the test. For example, no alcohol while studying. Many testing centers do not allow any alcohol. Besides, it impairs your memory.
- Participate in study groups, including virtual groups available through social media like LinkedIn.
- Know where you’re taking the test in advance. The last thing you want is to get frazzle driving there on the day of the exam.
- Sleep well - Eat well. A four-hour exam takes a lot of energy. Don’t be surprised.
- Make sure the IDs used for the exam are current to avoid a last minute scramble to locate or obtain a current ID.
Wayne Speziale teaches Desktop Applications as well as Leadership and Development.
Formal training is only a fraction of the solution for Wayne. “For every hour of class time,” he suggests, “you should spend five (5) hours of additional outside time studying.”
Wayne also maps out an effective roadmap for your preparation.
- First spend the first week or so studying terms and definitions. You'll never understand practical scenarios or simulations without understanding these.
- Once those are mastered then you should progress on to reviewing classroom information and doing the labs to proficiency where you don't need the book as a guide any longer (next couple of weeks).
- Your final preparation tool should be practice exams (in the final week before the exam.)
- Once in the exam booth, and after the Test Center Administrator starts the exam, you should write down anything you can think of that's been a challenge to remember on the erasable whiteboard.
Brett Ernst teaches Desktop Applications.
Brett suggests that candidates replicate testing conditions as much as possible to relieve their anxiety when studying and when taking the actual exam. “When you are studying,” recommends Brett, “try chewing a scented and flavorful gum. Then, when you take the test chew the same gum. The scent-memory connection helps with recall of information as well as adding a familiar, comforting element.”
Kenneth Crawshaw teaches IT courses.
Kenneth identifies five different kinds of questions that may be encountered in an exam, each having its own recommended strategy.
- Multiple Right Answers – Kenneth recommends that candidates make sure to differentiate between questions requesting multiple answers and those where you are instructed to choose the best answer out of what may be multiple “correct” answers. The latter requires deeper analysis. In all cases be sure to read all the answers before making selections.
- Long Questions – The trick when answering long questions is to start at the end to find out what the question is really asking. Discard any details that don’t relate to that question and home in on the information that is pertinent to answering that question.
- Long Answers – Here again candidates should avoid the temptation to tackle the entire answer at once. Instead, break it down into smaller parts and then determine if each one makes sense before attempting your selection.
- Place in the Correct Order – Kenneth suggests you approach this with the process of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in mind. First you need to obtain peanut butter, jelly, bread, and utensils. Then you spread the peanut butter and jelly on the bread. Then you put the two pieces of bread together with the ingredients between them. Then you cut the sandwich in half. Then you eat it. Rev your mind into running in a logical step-by-step way.
- Choose All That Apply – Realizing that most test-takers will attempt to identify all the “right” answers, Kenneth suggests that identifying the “wrong” answer may be more helpful. Often one of the answers will be “close” but you won’t be certain. Knowing for sure that another answer is the wrong one helps you choose.
Similar to other instructors, Kenneth encourages candidates to prepare for the exam as if you were preparing to run a marathon or other athletic event. Plan your study to end a day before the test so you can get a good night’s sleep. Eat a healthy, power-packed breakfast, and stay hydrated. Dehydration can easily result in foggy-mindedness which can impair your ability to do your best on the test.
Finally, Kenneth also agrees with the others when he advises, “Don’t think just sitting and listening to a lecture will be enough to prepare you to pass an exam. Do the labs and study two hours for every one hour of class time.”
Luck is not a strategy. Preparation is.