Taking tests....

Yesterday at work, a colleague confided he was nervous about a certification test. He asked if I could give him any advice, since he knew several really smart people who had failed.

Several years’ worth of testing memories went through my head before I answered him. Since this is a common topic in our industry, I’m putting the same information here that I gave to him.

Sometimes really smart people overthink the test. That's my failing. I have to consciously not overanalyze each question. I tend to "read things into the questions" or wonder if they meant this instead of that. That's when I make mistakes.

There is a method of taking these tests, whether they are on paper or computer. A teacher told me years ago about this method, when I was having trouble taking tests in his class. I’ve found that it works best for me.

  • Read each question very carefully. Two of three times if needed. This is one of the main reasons I will miss questions. I didn’t read it through carefully until I understood what they were asking.
  • If you know the answer, select it. This means you don’t hesitate, you know that is the only possible right answer.
  • if you're not sure of the answer, but think it's right select it. You’re first answer is generally the best one.
  • if you're not sure at all, don't answer it and move on. “I can’t remember the answer.” falls into this category. All the tests I’ve taken will let you review questions before the test is over. Some will even allow you to mark the question for review before you submit it.
  • After you've gone through entire test, go back and review the questions you weren't sure of, but selected an answer. Read them once and see if your answer still sounds like the right one. Beware of second-guessing yourself. Your first answer is generally right!
  • Now go back over the questions you didn't answer. Read the question again and pick the best answer you can. You will pick more right answers than you think.
  • Double-check that you didn’t leave any questions blank, at least not by accident.
  • Submit your test answers, knowing you did the best you could, and start breathing again.

Using this method is not a guarantee that you will pass the test. You have to study and know the material. This is simply a way to help you bring order out of the chaos of learning that much new material.

Good luck to those in the certification process!