9 Certification Exam Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

Confused muddled illogical disoriented

Do you remember your school or university exams? The certification exam is not so special. They are very similar. It may be significantly longer 4-8 hours!

So, you’ve spent a lot of time for exam preparation (read preparation guide, took sample tests, took the training …).

Now you are ready to get certified. It may be your following advanced certificate in some emerging field like cyber security, cloud computing, big data. It may be also your first and basic one.

Anyway, you would like to use any chance to pass the exam on the first attempt.

You will want to avoid any pitfalls. Every certification is specific, have different requirements. But there are several mistakes you can easily avoid to any of it.

If the time spent for preparation is valuable to you try not to waste it.

Certification Exam mistakes to avoid. Infographics

Mistake #1. No confidence at the start

The approach “I will try” kills your preparation completely. It’s the waste of time. You know it.

The approach “I will do it, I can” guarantee the success.


  • You must do it.
  • You can do it.

Depending on the certification exam, you may need to attend the training, read a book and additional resources, references, review practice tests, talk to people who already passed it etc. Review again exam objectives and compare to your current knowledge. Organize several recall sessions to check what was stored in your memory.

Mistake #2. Overconfidence at the finish

Overconfidence happens to all of us. It’s a real problem.

People will often say that you need to have confidence (me too 🙂 see mistake #1). Confidence can help motivate us to action. Overconfidence can make us wish we’d prepared a little better first.

Confidence can help motivate us to action. Overconfidence can make us wish we’d prepared a little better first.

Don’t think that your multi year’s experience will substitute recommended preparation stuff (preparation guide, training etc.). Define what the vendor wants you to know for the exam.

When the question comes up on the  exam that directly or indirectly relates to an activity practiced in their respective organizations, candidates often choose the answer that aligns with their organizations’ practices, rather than what course is about.

As a best practice, ignore what you do at work and come to the training session with an open mind. Whatever procedures your organization follows should be left at work so you can try to retain practices of the course, at least until you attempt the exam.

  • Be honest with yourself. If you feel that you need more time try to accumulate your energy, take a vacation before the exam, simply reschedule the exam.
  • Do not compare yourself with others. All have their own study abilities and experience.
  • Again, talk to certified people (your friends, colleagues, connect with facebook / linkedin). Listen to criticism from people you trust.

Overconfidence can be a pitfall to be avoided if you mix modesty with your enthusiasm.

Mistake #3. No schedule

You need to organize yourself. Especially if you are married, have kids, hard work, training, hobbies, and other commitments. Start with schedule first.

Start with schedule first.

For many of us, the good idea is to schedule the exam. Buy it and schedule in the test center. The same as for trip planning – you need to buy fly tickets first. No way back, simply saying 🙂 Believe me, you will study better once you get the test on your calendar and committed with a credit card.

Scheduling the exam remember:

  • we overestimate that can complete in one day,
  • we underestimate that can complete in one month.

If you make a plan and execute it, you will gradually build confidence that you can pass the test.

Don’t be overconfident and treat commitments seriously.

Mistake #4. Skip reading the certification body of knowledge

Mistake #5. Rote memorization

There is a difference between knowing something and understanding it. Try to find the real-world experience. Try to deploy in your work process. Set lab at home. Ask other people to show you.

The ability to immediately refer to practice while you are studying the text will not only help you understand the concepts deeper, but it will also help you retain the new information.

Try it with all exam domains. Identify your weak points and practice more.

Mistake #6. Not using all available study tools

Are you aware of appropriate (authentic) reference materials you need to have?

Start with deep dive into certification provider website. Identify all recommended materials, study guides, tools, training, exam outline, common body of knowledge, webinars, exam overview. Then filter out the, prioritize based on your budget, time. In a parallel search for study groups in social networks, relevant forums, read blogs.

Don’t use one study method only.

Mistake #7. Rushing through the test

Take your time.

Exam duration is enough to read attentively the question, read all the possible answers. It’s enough for those who understand the content. If you are prepared, then you should not have to hurry during the test.

Focus on the question. The wording can be tricky. Make sure to read each question carefully to make sure you understand what’s actually being asked.

It’s critical. Don’t miss the point.

Don’t choose an answer without reading all the choices.  For multiple-choice questions, scan all the possible answers before diving in. Sometimes there are answer options like “All of the Above” or “A and C”. You don’t want to have answered “A” and moved on without reading the rest.

Don’t let yourself to stuck on one tough question.  If a question has you stumped, don’t waste all your time trying to figure it out. Move on and then come back if you can.

Slow down on the questions you know you can ace. You won’t make careless mistakes, and you’ll be sure to pick up the maximum number of points.

Don’t leave questions blank.  Even if you can’t spot the right answer, never leave a multiple-choice or True or False question blank. Except those which explicitly states that will take away the points. Your best bet is to guess and move on. Eliminate the choices you know are wrong first, to improve your chances of getting the question right. The rest is luck and probability.

If you have time to review your answers and you find a silly error, by all means, fix it. But do not over think your answers!

Mistake #8. Get too stressed

Preparation is our everything.

Pack all necessary staff the night before test day, triple-check your alarm, and make sure you have a full tank of gas, assess the travel distance, traffic, roadwork, and other obstructions that may cause the stress. Know the exam hall location in a huge campus area.

Leave even more time to get to your classroom than you think you’ll need.

Get adequate rest the night prior to the exam.

Breathe deeply. Remember that some test-anxiety is normal.

Mistake #9. Assuming certification will fast-track your career

Here you will find even 40+ Pros and Cons of IT Certification. Hope you agree on the fact that certifications alone will not make someone a professional and that can’t be a substitute for effective recruitment.

Some people expect an immediate raise or promotion just after get the latest certification. Ask your manager for an honest evaluation of what areas you need to shore up. Certification is no guarantee of success. It’s a midpoint.


Effective preparation for a certification exam involves much more than just memorizing.

There is a psychology involved that can either frustrate you or assist you in passing the test, depending on how you approach it.

There is always the hard and the easier way.

I hope you found that post valuable and come back to it just before your next certification exam.

Let me know then, what works best for you personally?