Technical Testing

Being a geek means at some point you will likely take an exam, or two or twelve.  I can’t actually think of a geek that I know that didn’t either start his career by taking exams or take a bunch during.  The CNE took 8 exams, MCSE took 8 exams, my Windows 2000 MCP was one, Exchange 2005 was one, a Server 2003 was one, then there was Network+, Server+, and vendor exams for Dell, Lenovo, HP, IASO… and i am well into my 20’s.  That is a lot of tests for a guy who home schools his kids, in big part, because of a belief that exams are the devil.

Regardless of personal belief, exams are a way of life for most of us at some point in our life and for me, I have another one today.  Here are some things I have learned along the way.  Here is how I write these multiple choice geek exams (my personal insights):

The Beginning:

  1. Most exams are 90 minutes from when you start.  That is about 1 minute per question.  You do not have time to do much in the way of thinking.  Before clicking on “Start”, write some notes.  Write out the OSI model you memorized last night.  Write out some base 2 math.  Anything that you can get out of your head now will speed you up later.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to click start until you are ready.

The First Run:

  1. If it seems pretty obvious what the answer is, answer it.
  2. If not obvious, leave it blank, flag it, and move on… don’t waste your time in the first pass through.
  3. If you think you know the answer but something makes you wonder, whether it is the wording of the question or the answers, mark what you think, flag it, and move on…

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance:

  1. After going through it once, go to the review and answer the questions that you did not give answers to the first time.  If they are on subject matter I think I should have known (not the installation requirements for Windows server 2003 R2… where the hell would I buy a 512MB stick of RAM anyway?), I write it down on the paper they give me.  This will help you with your brain dump later.
  2. When all questions are answered, review the ones you flagged. Other questions in the test may have made you second guess initial answers or tied two questions together so they answer one another for you.

The Third Go Around:

  1. When all done reviewing and unflagging the questions flagged questions, check the time left and start at one and re-read all questions/answers (I unflag everything after the review unless I disagree with the questions or answers… my personality dictates that this happens on every test I take because part of me thinks I am smarter than the person who wrote the exam).
  2. I never walk away from an exam with more than five minutes left… re-read everything again or write more notes if you have time.

The End is a New Beginning:

  1. If confident in the reviewing at five minutes remaining, I go through my handwritten notes to see what I want to take away from the exam. Typically I memorize acronyms I have never seen before and memorize questions that I want to look up after the exam.
  2. Immediately after leaving the exam I grab my pen and paper from my coat and write the things down that are fresh in my head… Google comes later, and more than likely a rant to CompTIA and another blog about the lunacy of exams.
  3. Brain Dump what the exam was about… if nothing else, it is another blog on technology that other geeks might appreciate and really, what do you do for them? You owe most of them something anyhow and you aren’t nearly as good a friend as you think you are.
  4. During the Brain Dump I like to go through my score and see if I can figure out what questions I got wrong (they usually tell you what subject matter you missed and if there was only one or two questions on it you will probably remember flagging something.

At the end of the exam, hopefully you got some more letters behind your name, some knowledge in your pocket, and more confidence in taking your next exam.

Work hard and enjoy this crazy life!

CNE, MCSE, MCP 2003, Network+, Server+

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