The unthinkable had just occurred. After I’d nervously waited the few seconds required to calculate my score, the results screen gave me bad news: I failed my NetWare 4.11 to 5.1 upgrade exam. The passing score was 614, and my score was 597. I was in shock. How could this have happened? I felt very confident about the material, so why did I fail the exam? Self-doubt and feelings of failure began to creep into my mind. I asked myself, “Now what am I going to do?”

After collecting my exam score, I headed back to work feeling despondent. I had until August 31 to pass the upgrade exam, and that was only three days away. In addition to feeling pressured to pass the exam, the heat was on: If I didn’t pass it in the next three days, I would lose my CNE certification.

Getting back on the horse
I formed my plan of attack during the short drive back to work. The first step was easy. I asked my supervisor for the following day off, and she readily agreed. Next, I fired up the Self Test Software practice test and began answering questions as time allowed. By the end of the day, I had gone through two short test modules, and my confidence was returning.

By the time I got home that night, I was completely burned out. Most of my evening was spent having fun with my family, and only after they went to bed did I crack the book and begin reviewing. By midnight, I had read three chapters and taken the practice modules for those sections. The next day, I woke up at about 6:00 and began to study. I made sure I paid extra attention to the special items and the procedural order of various functions. By lunchtime, I had reviewed nearly the entire book and felt very confident about my knowledge of the material. The tricky line of questioning that was employed during my first exam would not be as surprising this time around.

After lunch, it was time to start working with the hands-on stuff. I focused on the Web-based applications, such as Web Manager and all of the different Web servers, as well as Deployment Manager, Upgrade Wizard, and DNS/DHCP Manager. I worked through many of the labs from the book and spent a considerable amount of time playing with the products. By dinner, I felt confident in my ability to use all of the NetWare 5.1 utilities and servers.

Once the kids had gone to bed, I went back to the book and practice test routine. By 11:00, I was tired and fairly burned out. However, I felt good about my knowledge of the material.

The next day, I spent most of my free time at work answering practice questions again. Five questions here, 10 there, and eventually I had gone through over 200 questions, answering more than 90 percent of them correctly. That night, I spent two more hours working with the hands-on labs and another hour and a half on the books. My exam was scheduled for 8:30 the next morning. I felt prepared.

Exam day, part deux
I woke up at 6:00 the next morning and spent about an hour with the practice tests. I scored over 95 percent on the modules I went through, and when I left home, my confidence was high. However, 15 minutes into the exam, I was worried again. This exam was chock-full of tricky questions. There were quite a few hands-on questions again, but I felt sure of my answers. I was confident about the fill-in-the-blank questions, but the multiple-choice questions had me worried. Many of them required me to choose all of the answers that applied.

When I finally answered question 71 an hour later, I was nervous. I knew that I would either squeak by or fail again. When my passing score was displayed, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I started laughing. The passing score was 614, and my score was 614. Talk about cutting it close. Whew!

Never underestimate the exam
So what did I learn from this experience? First of all, I will never procrastinate before taking a required upgrade exam again. I will also never underestimate an exam. In the past, I was over-prepared for many of my exams because of my experience, so I didn’t study nearly as much as I should have. I won’t make that mistake again. As a reminder of this experience, I put the failing score in the front of the binder that holds all of my exam results. Whenever I feel overconfident about an exam, this page will motivate me to make sure that I’m thoroughly prepared.
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