5 Ways to Potentially Sabotage Your IT Certification Exam Success

A key requirement for every IT certification, whether early career or advanced, is passing an exam. Because most exams cost several hundred dollars to take, it’s in your best interests to pass on the first try.

If you have the necessary experience and you’ve studied, passing the exam shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, all too many individuals make mistakes that sabotage their chances of passing, and keep them from getting the career-boosting certifications they need. If you are considering certifications, then, be sure to avoid these common errors.

1. Taking the Exam Before You Have Enough Experience and Knowledge

Certifications can give your career a boost, allowing you to qualify for higher level jobs and earn a higher salary. The most successful candidates, though, are those who actually have the experience and knowledge required to pass the exam — not those who crammed for the exam and learned just enough to pass. Not only does taking the exam before you are ready increase the likelihood that you will fail — meaning you’ll have to pay hundreds of dollars to take it again — but on the chance that you do pass, employers will expect you to actually have the skills that the certification implies. If you don’t, and only studied for the test, you are probably going to have problems at work, and possibly even lose your job. As eager as you may be to earn your certifications, it’s better to be patient, get the necessary experience and knowledge, and wait until you really know yourself before you sign up for the test.

2. Not Allowing Adequate Time to Study and Prepare

IT certification exams are not something you can cram for the night before and expect to do well on. Even experienced professionals need to spend time getting ready for the exam and reviewing all of the necessary principles. All certification exams cover multiple areas of knowledge, and it’s very likely that you will be stronger in some areas than others.

Start by reviewing all of the information about the exams that you can (the official exam website is a good place to start) and collecting the appropriate study materials. It’s also useful to take a preliminary practice exam to get a feel for the test and what you need to work on. Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in a short period of time, but don’t stretch your studying out forever either. Instead, plan on spending six to 12 months getting ready for the exam, and you should be fine come testing day.

3. Not Taking Practice Tests

Passing a certification exam requires that you understand how to take the test as much as the information being tested. While your performance on a practice test can identify gaps in your knowledge and places where you need to brush up, taking practice tests will also familiarize you with the types of questions you will be asked, how they are worded and the flow of the exam. Test developers are known for creating tricky questions, and practicing can help you identify their methods and be prepared for them. Taking practice exams can also help you get comfortable with the timing of the exam, so you are prepared to complete the actual test in the allotted time without rushing.

4. Rushing on the Actual Exam

Speaking of rushing, plan on taking most or all of the allotted time to complete your exam. Even if you are confident in your knowledge and skills, rushing can lead to careless mistakes, or errors caused by not reading the question correctly. Take your time to carefully read every question to determine what is actually being asked, and then review the answers to find the best fit. If you know your stuff, you should be able to complete all of the questions without having to rush at any point.

5. Not Reviewing All of the Subject Areas

All credentialing agencies will provide a list of the exam content areas to prospective test takers. Undoubtedly, you will have more experience and knowledge in some of those areas than others. That doesn’t mean that you can skip studying them, though. Even if you spend less time of those subject areas, it’s important to review them to improve your recall of small details that you might otherwise forget.

If you keep these reminders in mind while you prepare for your certification exams, you will pass easily and earn the credentials you need for your career. If you don’t, it’s likely you will be frustrated, and even have to take the test multiple times.