It’s okay to make a mistake. We all do. The tough part is moving past the mistake. That’s the situation this HR Bartender reader is facing.
I’ve been in my profession for over a decade and have a master’s degree in my field.
Recently, I tried to obtain my professional certification but was unsuccessful. I’ve never been good with tests, so I took a preparation course. I feel like a failure. Since I failed the test, I’m paying my employer back and can’t consider retaking it until I’m done. Of course, if I decide to it’s on me, but now I’m scared that I will not pass. Any advice?
When it comes to professional certification exams, there are two components: 1) the content itself and 2) the certification process. It’s important to prepare for both. While I can’t tell someone how to pass their professional certification exam, there are a few things I’ve learned over the years – when I was studying for my professional certifications.
Select the right time of year. Many professional certifications have windows for individuals to take the exam. One of the things I’ve heard over the years is “I started studying then the kids were out of school.” Or “The holidays started.” The point being, try to find a time that will work with all the other things you have going on. I understand that no time may be perfect, but some times of the year can often be better than others.
Get buy-in from friends and family. I know it’s scary to tell everyone that you’re studying for an exam. But you want those people to support you. So on Saturday night when your posse wants to go partying, they understand why you might say “no.” We can’t shut off from spending time with others, but for the window of time we’re focused on the exam, it’s helpful to have their support.
Create a study schedule. And don’t fall behind. One of the biggest reasons I’ve heard from people who didn’t pass a certification exam was “I fell behind with the reading and never caught up.” So to make sure that doesn’t happen, create a study schedule and stick to it. Create milestones for reading and practicing sample exam questions. Accomplishing each study goal can help to build confidence. It allows you to see your progress.
Take care of yourself. We’re all busy people. Adding the pressure of taking a certification exam means taking extra special care of yourself. While I sometimes joke with Mr. Bartender that “I can sleep when I die”, the truth is I do my best work when I’m rested, exercise regularly, and eat healthy. So it’s important to do these things. Also, it’s important to study in a space with proper lighting and minimal distractions in a chair where you can work with good posture. Better workspaces create better outcomes.
Use a variety of study techniques. Everyone has a preferred method of study. However, for some efforts it could make sense to use a variety of methods – including some we don’t particularly like. This might encourage us to sign-up for a study group, listen to podcasts, etc. which can bring a whole new perspective to the material.
I believe these guidelines would apply regardless of the professional exam you’re studying for. And while it’s no guarantee that you’ll pass the exam, not doing these things can have a definite impact on your ability to be successful.
For those readers who have achieved a certification, what are your tips for test taking success? Leave us a note in the comments.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the Flora Icelandic HR Management Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland