In Part 1 of this series, you were given the necessary resources to get you started on your Citrix certification journey. In this article, I will give you my personal observations into preparing for and taking Citrix certification exams.
Ready, Set, Go
Now that you studied for your exam, what now? You probably have several questions.
- What is a good way to get ready to take the exam?
- What should you do the day before the exam?
- What should you do the day of the exam?
- What should you do during the exam?
- What are the exams like?
These are my viewpoints, so before I start answering the above questions, I have a few statements. Don’t ask me about any specific exam. Don’t ask me about any exam questions. I will not answer those questions. Don’t tell me about what you saw on an exam or any question you saw on an exam or any question type you saw on an exam. You agree to a Non Disclosure Agreement before you start your exam. Honor that agreement. I do not want to know or need to know what was on your exam and I will not tell you what was on my exam.
What is a good way to get ready to take the exam?
Spend a LOT of time in your lab, read the product documentation, study, learn to think like an exam developer and come up with your own questions and don’t use a brain dump. Know the defaults for installing a product. If installed using all the default options, what menu options are available? What menu options are not available?
Schedule the exam and then commit to a study schedule. I am a morning person so I like to schedule my exams for mornings. The type of exam and the amount of time the exam allows for will affect your scheduling. The 1Y0-456 Build/Test exam allows FOUR hours to take the exam. Most exam centers will not allow that exam to be scheduled after 1PM.
Look at the Exam Prep Guide for the exam you are taking and look at the number of questions on the exam and the amount of time allowed. If your exam has 50 questions to be answered in 70 minutes, that is roughly 1 minute and 20 seconds per question. Do you think you can answer 50 questions in 70 minutes? Or do you think you can complete the 1Y0-456 exam in less than four hours? If you are stressed out about the time and the number of questions, you may not be prepared to take the exam. Or you could be someone who just stresses out about taking exams. Calm down, take a deep breath and just relax. It is just an exam and life will go on. Just remember, the person who makes a perfect score is just as certified as the person who makes the minimum score. Exam scores are not posted to your exam profile. Exam scores are not available to a potential employer or to your current employer.
Relax while you get ready for your exam.
What should you do the day before the exam?
The day before your exam should be a relaxing day. Go back over the Exam Prep Guide for your exam. Go back over the number of questions, the time allowed, the passing score percentage and the objectives. If you are using the exam prep questions from Citrixxperience.com, you should be able to easily answer the questions and work through any simulations.
Don’t have any caffeine after lunch. Don’t consume too much sugar or carbs after lunch. Before dinner time, go over your study sheets and study guides ONE LAST time for today. Do not study after dinner. Watch some TV, go for a walk and just relax. Go to bed early. Relax. Sleep well. You are ready to knock the exam out of the park and beat my score! J RELAX.
What to do the day of the exam?
Go over your study materials as a review.
Eat a meal without too many carbs. You do not want your blood sugar spiking and then dropping during the exam.
Leave early for the testing center. Better to be early and relaxed than running late and stressed out.
When you arrive at the testing center, go ahead and make sure you can find the correct building or office. Make sure you know where the rest rooms and water fountains are. Some testing centers will have their own private facilities. You may want to go ahead and make a quick trip to the rest room before signing in.
All you need to take into the testing center are your two forms of identification and your vehicle keys. Leave everything else locked up in your vehicle. You may need a jacket or coat as some testing centers are as cold as a meat locker. Just make sure to empty all the pockets of any jacket or coat you bring.
What should you do during the exam?
During the exam — RELAX. You will need to agree to the NDA and you will have the option to sample the various types of exam questions that may be on your exam. i.e. Multiple choice, drag-and-drop, decision tree, full-screen simulation, embedded simulation.
You are free to get up and use the rest room or get a drink during your exam but your time allowed for the exam will keep running.
Do not spend too much time on a question. If you are stuck and the exam allows it, mark the question for review and come back to it. At the end of the exam, the exam review will allow you to see which questions you did not answer and or have marked for review. Each exam is different is what you are allowed to review or change. This is usually described in Section 6 of the Exam Prep Guide. Some exams are designed in a way that going back to review or change an answer is not allowed.
If you think a question is confusing, is marketing B.S. and shouldn’t be on the exam or you disagree with the answers, then you are allowed to make comments. Citrix does review the comments but your comments will not affect your score but do affect the time allowed (i.e the clock is ticking while you are making comments).
After you end the exam, you will know in a short amount of time whether you passed and how well you did. If you were not successful this time, take the score sheet and see what exam sections you need to understand better. You may want to make some notes on what areas in the exam you did not feel sufficiently prepared for. That way you can go back to your lab and brush up on those areas before attempting the exam again.
What are the exams like?
Contrary to what you may believe, certification exams are not designed to trick you or deceive you. Exam questions are designed to determine if you meet the minimum required standards for the goals set for the exam you are taking. If you believe a question is a trick question, make a comment during the exam on that question.
The questions are not designed to trick you but you must pay attention to the wording of the questions. Some of the words to pay attention to are “should”, “could”, “must”, “require/required/requires”. Examples include:
What should the administrator do…
What could the administrator do…
What must the administrator do…
What is the administrator required to do…
In the future, I hope more exams start using live lab simulations. This is where you are given an objective and then dropped into a real live lab environment. This environment is loaded with all the software you are being tested on. This way, you can prove you know your stuff and it will be very difficult to “fake it ‘til you make it”. This will also make it extremely difficult for exams to show up on brain dump sites.
An exam should not be the conclusion to your learning about a product. You should continue to use your lab to expand your product knowledge. With the many products Citrix now makes available and the products available for Tech Preview, it should take you a long time to run out of products and components to play with in your lab.
I also encourage you to actively participate in the Citrix Support Forums, Brian Madden’s forums and Experts Exchange. Helping others and trying to answer questions are excellent ways to give back to the Citrix community, increase your knowledge and get ready for your next exam.
In the final article in this series, Part 3, I will give you some Random Thoughts about:
- Why get certified?
- How do I study for exams (since I’ve taken so many)?
- How are exams scored?
- What to look for in an exam center
- My favorite exam centers
- Another word on dealing with not passing an exam