As always, tests and exams will scare you when you think about getting certified. Remember that you will not die if you flunk the test and life will not fall apart either. Relax, prepare and give the test. Here's how!

Before The Test

What constituents effective preparation? Most importantly, it does not begin the night before the exam. Pull an all-nighter and your mind may be stuffed with facts, but they will be shrouded in a fatigue- induced fog. When the fog dissipates, the facts are likely to go with it.

The first step is to find out as much as possible about the format and content of the exam. Questions to answer include:

* What will you be expected to know?

* Which question format will be utilized – multiple choice, essay questions, or true-false? Currently most computer certification tests are multiple choice.

* How long will you have to complete the test?

* Will you be able to return questions later if you skip over them?

* Will points be subtracted for wrong answers?

You should be able to obtain the answers to most of these questions from your certification sponsor, instructor, and / or testing center.

Then review the material that you've identified as likely to be on the test. Try to guess what questions will appear on the test and practice answering them. You can practice by reciting aloud, creating written or recorded self-tests, or using commercially available self-testing software and certification preparation guides. If you belong to a study group, quiz each other and discuss your answers.

Pay special attention to vocabulary and terminology words. Make sure you know exactly what they mean. If you do not understand a question, you will not be able to answer it. Develop an overall test strategy, depending on the type of exam. The following advice focuses on multiple-choice exams, the most common format of current certification test questions. These exams, count an unanswered question the same way as an incorrect answer. If you will not be penalized for wrong answers (as opposed to skipping the question entirely) then it pays to guess when you do not know the correct answer.

On many exams you will be able to mark questions to return to later. When this is the case, be sure to MARK the questions or you will not be able to return to them. Answer the questions you're certain of first, marking the more challenging ones, and then return to the marked questions when you've finished the easy ones. This strategy enables you to answer a larger percentage of the questions and to answer the easiest ones right away.

The night before, do a brief review and remind yourself that you've prepared and are as ready as you're going to be. Do not stress yourself out pouring over your notes again and
again. Instead, spend the evening in some pleasant, relaxing way, then get a good night's sleep so you'll be rested and ready to excel.

The Day Of The Test

Ah! The big day is here! Do not panic! On the day of the test, allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the test site. Would you rather arrive at the last minute, adrenaline pumping from the stress of too many red lights, or ten or fifteen minutes early, time you can easily fill with a final review of your note cards or trip to the restroom?

Make certain to bring several forms of identification, including a photo ID, and, of course, if you have not already provided it, payment.

If you feel tense or angry, apply a few relaxation techniques. One of the most basic is breathing. Take a deep breath, filling not just your chest, but every nook and cranny of your insides all the way down to your abdomen. Inhale from your navel, like a baby does. Exhale slowly, and feel your muscles relaxing as you your breath carries the tension out of your body. Repeat the breathing several times.

When the test begins, follow your preplanned strategy.

* If the test format is suitable, remember to go through and answer the easy questions first.

* Pay close attention to instructions. Are you allowed to select just one answer or all answers that apply?

* Read each question carefully, and twice. It's easy to misunderstand a question and end up with the wrong answer as a result. It's also a waste and something you can avoid.

* Be alert for modifiers like always, never, not, and except that can radically affect the meaning of the question.

* Mentally answer the question before reading the answer choices. Then look for the choice that most accurately reflects your answer. This can spare you unnecessary confusion created by the test itself.

* If you do not know the answer, make an educated guess

* If you finish before the time limit, and the software permits it (which is not always the case) go back over the test and verify your answers. But do not change an answer unless you have good reason to believe it's wrong. Research indicates that when in doubt, our first guess is usually our best.

If other people are taking the exam at the same time, do not pay any attention to when they finish. Just because others are done before you does not mean that they will end up with a better score. Correspondingly, if you finish first, it does not mean you must have missed something. Take your time, keeping an eye on the exam clock if there's a time limit, and concentrate on regurgitating what you've learned. If you've prepared using effective techniques, such as the ones detailed in this chapter, you have nothing to worry about.

Making an Educated Guess

If you find yourself facing a question you just do not know the answer to, consider guessing. If there are four possible choices, you automatically have a 25 percent chance of randomly selecting the correct answer. Apply some guessing techniques, and the odds shoot forward in your favor.

Successful guessing heavily on the process of elimination. For that reason, the first step is to eliminate any choices that are clearly wrong. If you have four answers to choose from, and you can discard two of them as incorrect, you've gone from a one in four chance of picking the right answer to a one in two chance.

Unless your exam format allows more than one answer choice for each question "all of the above" is basically equivalent to "more than one of the above." If "all of the above" is an option, and you can see at least two correct answers, then choose it.

Sometimes you'll find that, in the course of presenting the question and answers, one test item will provide hints that can help you answer another. Be alert for these and use them when you find them.

Many test-taking experts advise that if you have no idea which choice is correct, and "all of the above" is an option, you should choose "all of the above." By the same token, if you can not decide between two similar answers, choose the one that gives the most complete information.

Hope these tips and guidelines will help you prepare for IT certificates with ease and confidence and that you will sail through the test. Happy learning!

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