1. Know The Exam Before The Exam
Each entity will have an official exam page for your certification that details the audience, level of expertise required, and a summary of the material you will be required to demonstrate familiarity. Make sure you read the overview of the test, meet the required prerequisites, download any available study materials, and read all available details provided to make sure you know exactly what is expected for you to prepare for the exam.
Also make sure you understand the format of the exam, which can vary from multiple choice, essay, real-world scenarios, and extensive labs. If you are expecting multiple choice and are confronted with two hours of lab work, you might find that you have not studied the correct material to pass the certification exam.
2. Single Cram Sessions Don’t Work
No matter how smart you think you are, you will probably need to study the material included on the exam. Very few people can show up on exam day and pass with little or no preparation. The idea is to know what is on the test, and study to pass the exam. Knowing the material and knowing what you need to pass the exam could be two different things.
Without actual hands-on practice, it’s very difficult for anyone to pass a certification exam on your first attempt.
3. Instructor Training is Tops
Most people still see instructor-led training courses as the very best way to learn the material required to become certified. Formal training centers will provide experts to give you the training you require to pass the exam, but that training will also be the most structured and expensive. These experts can make sure they alter their training to meet your needs as tests evolve or the training material changes. It may also be the best format for asking technical questions or to get one-on-one help.
Printed study guides or a pre-recorded video may not be as updated or dynamic as a live instructor, but they can also be a good resource if you already know most of the material or just need a refresher on the material covered in the exam. If you have questions or concerns about the printed guide or a segment of the video, there also may be no way to get your questions answered.
Another study method might be a friend or co-worked you also wants to take the exam, or maybe has already passed the exam and is willing to study with you on this journey. The both of you together may be better prepared to work though any questions and help support each other to successfully pass the exam.
4. Certification Boot Camps
If you have never worked with the technology covered by the exam, or are new to technology in general, you may want to attend a Boot Camp. These are immersive week-long training sessions intended to take you through all the required material to move you from zero to hero in one short week. Most are instructor led full day classes that often guarantee you will pass the course at the end of the long week.
Th method can be a more expensive solution to certification training, but the reward is quickly moving through the material to pass the exam in just 5 long days of intensive studying.
5. Free Can Be Good
You should seek out free resources to help you study. If you search the internet, you will find free material on just about any topic, some of it will be really good.
Watching a few free videos online or checking out a book from your local library can be a great way to get a feel for the material on the exam to help you determine if you need formal training or just a refresher. Online practice tests or sample review questions can help you determine if you have the appropriate level of experience and knowledge to pass the exam.
You also have to accept that you may also get your moneys worth. Free isn’t always great. Validate the material to make sure you have discovered a quality resource and never assume you are getting great material for free without checking how accurate and appropriate the material is for your testing needs.
Articles, blogs, white papers, and videos can also help fill in missing information and complement your training.
6. Experience Is King
The very best way to pass a certification exam is to really know the material, and the very best way to really know the material is to have some real experience using the technology covered in the exam. Training can be a great way to learn about something, but to truly become an expert you need to use the technology.
Most platforms offer free trials that allow you several hours of free access to get your hands dirty and to really use the platform or tool that you have heard about in the classroom or read about in a training guide. Take a look to see if you qualify for a free account at AWS, GCP and Microsoft Azure. Other vendors also offer free access to their tools, so don’t be afraid to ask for a free account.
7. Certification Guides
A printed certification guide can provide everything you need to know about a certification, including exam requirements, course recommendations, details on how it might impact your career, next steps in your certification journey, and additional information around how other training or certifications fit into your chosen career path. These books can be considered complete guides and can be referenced throughout the entire certification process and even later as reference material months or years after you have passed the exam.
Always seek out the training material from the vendor before you assume you need to buy a third-party study guide. If you can read the vendor’s online material and learn everything you need to know, why pay for a book?
8. Know How to Take The Exam
Once you are confident you know the technical material, you must also study the exam. You need to understand how to take the exam before you take the exam. You need to understand who offers the exam, how long do they give you to complete the exam, what must you bring with you to the exam center, what items are prohibited at the testing center, how is the test structured, how is the test scored, etc.?
Don’t just schedule the exam and hope everything will be fine. Knowing everything having to do with how to take the exam is half the battle.
9. Exam Day Tips
After you have jammed all the new technical knowledge into your brain, you know exactly how to take the test, and you have the test schedule you need to prepare yourself on the day of testing to maximize your success. You need to remove all the distractions so you can focus on the exam. Clear your calendar of any meetings or other commitments a couple of hours before and a couple of hours after the scheduled exam. You don’t want to feel rushed because you have an important meeting just before or just after a very important test. Be prepared to take the full time allowed to complete the exam. You are not awarded any extra points for finishing early. Make sure you review the entire test, if possible, to make sure you doublecheck your work and to verify you have answered all the questions possible. Don’t change any answers unless you are absolutely positive your first answer is incorrect. Trust your initial instincts.
10. You Won’t Be Perfect
When taking the exam, you won’t know all the answers and you will get some answers wrong, but that is fine. As long as you know enough to pass, you are still certified. A certification is an indication to your boss, co-workers, friends, and future employers that you possess a certain valued skillset and that you were willing to put in the hours of work it takes to pass a certification exam.