IT Career JumpStart

Feb 14 2011   3:44PM GMT

Emmett Dulaney Scores Big with Cert Exam Tip #1 for 2011

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Mr. Dulaney and I have both been working the “IT certification patch” since the mid-1990s, and I always enjoy reading his weekly column for His latest effort is no exception, and includes a section somewhat blandly entitled “Certification Exam Tip #1” (by which he means his first such tip for this year). Lurking behind that ho-hum heading is a peachy piece of exam preparation advice on dealing with scenario-type questions, sometimes also called exhibit-based questions, on certification exams.

The real gem in this column deals with complex, scenario-based cert exam questions

The real gem in this column deals with complex, scenario-based cert exam questions

He makes the point in this tip that practice in dealing with these questions will improve your ability to process and get through them more expeditiously when you go into a testing center to tackle the real thing. These questions are designed to try to distract you and make you waste your time chasing irrelevant details and lines of inquiry, so learning how to deal with them is as much about learning time management skills as it is about learning how to separate the meat (or what he refers to as the question stem, or more succinctly, the stem) from the chaff, if you don’t mind a metaphor so mixed as to bridge between the animal and vegetable kingdoms.

He also points to sources for practice questions outside the usual IT certification realm (various standardized academic tests such as SAT, GRE, GMAT, and so forth) that will give you the opportunity to dissect and decode these kinds of questions outside the usual subject matter. I endorse and recommend this strategy highly, because you do need to learn some formal skills in recognizing, dealing with, decoding, and answering such questions. And when you practice outside your usual subject matter, you can focus on the verbal skills involved without getting distracted by interesting technology issues along the way (and you’ll be deliberately tempted to do this in the real testing situation, which is why learning to handle such questions is so important).

I’m going to throw another couple of exam-taking tips into the mix to augment Emmett’s tips, right here and now at no extra charge:

  • When taking an exam, it’s always a good idea to go through the whole question bank as quickly as you can so you can mark the lengthy or most difficult questions and save them for last. That way, you can work through the stuff that’s most likely to earn you points first, and save the tough, time-consuming stuff to take up as much time as you have left after you get the other stuff out of the way.
  • As you work through exhibit or scenario questions, read the questions first before you read the whole scenario. This will speed the process of looking for the content that really matters when you use the exhibit or scenario to try to answer those questions, and let you skim over the irrelevant stuff more quickly (because you’ll know it’s designed to distract and confuse).

As always, I hope this information comes in handy when you take your next cert exam. If you have other tips you’d like to share, please post them here. If I like them, I’ll write about them in subsequent blog posts, too!

PS: My buddy Don Poulton also gets pretty good plugs for his recent books on Windows 7 related certification topics in the cited Dulaney column. Check those out, too: I’ve got his 70-680 Windows 7: Configuring book and it’s terrific!

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