CXO

When is the best time for taking certification exams?

Despite common practice, Mondays and Fridays may not be best for taking IT certification exams. Neither is it a good idea to schedule an exam at lunch. Learn when Erik Eckel believes its best to take IT exams in this week's IT Certification Corner.


Here’s an issue you may not have given much thought. When should you take your IT certification exams? Typically, the candidates I’ve met lock down an exam date based on the wrong factors. They pick a day that they’re off, a day when their spouse is or isn’t working, a time when traffic’s not bad near the test center, or a Friday afternoon so they can race from their test to the first tee of a nearby golf course.

Those are all wrong reasons for selecting your exam day. When you take an exam, you need to be prepared, as well as cool, calm, and collected. Thus, you don’t want even the slightest pressure to finish an exam early because you want to beat traffic, get to child care to pick up your prodigy on time, or beat the rush to the local country club.

You should approach the time you spend on IT certification exams formally. You should prepare well, get plenty of rest the evening before, and set other distractions aside when you take your exam.

One day out of the week works better than any other for reducing scheduling pressures. This day also offers several other advantages. I’ve given this some thought, and I think Tuesday morning is the perfect time for taking tests.

Why Tuesday?
Think about Tuesdays. What’s the big event on Tuesday? That’s right. There isn’t one. Typically, Tuesdays aren’t holidays. Almost without fail, no significant corporate meetings occur on Tuesday. You’re in no hurry to get out early for a long weekend on Tuesday. Thus, it’s a great candidate for taking a test.

Tuesdays boast other exam scheduling benefits, too.

You’re still fresh on Tuesdays. The daily grind of an intense workweek hasn’t yet worn you down, both mentally and physically. You’re likely not fatigued from a week’s worth of meetings, challenges, projects run astray, or other perils of modern office life.

Tuesdays also work well because they follow Monday. Monday evenings may be the most important element in making Tuesday the best day for taking a certification exam.

If you plan to study all weekend, Mondays seem like the best choice, right? But what about the dreaded Sunday panic? What if, on Sunday, you discover you can’t find the answer to a problem or scenario you’re sure will show up on your certification test?

If you’ve scheduled your test for Tuesday, you can use Monday to ask your IT friends and colleagues what they think. Or, you can use Monday evening to study up on those last final issues. Plus, Monday evening offers you one last chance to study and focus on the exam at hand without the inevitable distractions the weekend offers.

You must manage The Isabella Factor, or unintended interruptions to your studying schedule, if you’re to perform best on IT certification exams. Despite the best-laid plans, friends and in-laws are more likely to drop by on the weekends. Sporting contests and family events are also more likely to distract you on the weekends.

With a test scheduled on Tuesday, you can fine-tune your focus on Monday evening. Were you to push the test any later in the week, though, you run the risk of wearing yourself down further at work or forgetting some of the content you studied (others might say crammed) over the weekend. On Tuesday, your weekend study sessions are still fresh in your mind and your body remains resilient.

Why morning?
Selecting morning as the best time for an exam is a no brainer. You wake up, grab a decent breakfast, head to the exam center just a little early in order to avoid adding any undue stress to your day, and knock the exam out. Then, you can head into work and resume your normal day.

If you wait until later in the day, you run the risk someone will add a last-second meeting to your schedule. You might get delayed with other work projects. A server could go down. Client machines could fail. Countless other distractions could arise. If you drive to the test center first thing in the morning, without swinging by the office, you prevent all those crises from disturbing your test-taking experience.

Eckel’s take
IT certification exams are like root canals. No one really enjoys them, and some folks really dread them. But, they’re often a necessity of life. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to try and make the most of them.

The next time you take an exam, schedule it for a Tuesday morning. You’ll get the weekend to study, and when someone rings your doorbell Sunday afternoon, you don’t have to fear answering the door. You’ve always got Monday evening to catch up on any last-minute cramming you might want to do. Further, you won’t feel additional stress to complete the test early. After all, once the test is complete, you’re heading to work, not the clubhouse.

What’s your favorite time to take certification exams?
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.


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