17 Tips for your Exam Day to Take Home your Certificate

And there we are… the big day is here… you learned hard and are well prepared for what is coming. But still, there is a lot that can be optimized so you can bring home what you have studied so hard for. These simple tips show you how to succeed on your exam day and get the result you deserve. Here are 17 steps to do on your exam day to optimize you chances of bringing home your certificate:

Before the exam

  1. Give yourself time
  2. Get a power breakfast
  3. Be early
  4. Don’t cram
  5. Don’t socialize
  6. Find the perfect seat
  7. Breathe
  8. Get in the mood

During the exam

  1. Write down important things
  2. Read every answer
  3. First run – answer the easy ones
  4. Second run – think and make the best choice
  5. Third run – Guess the rest

After the exam

  1. Absorb the feeling of success
  2. Throw a party
  3. Get your reward
  4. Publish your success

Before the exam

1. Give yourself enough time

Most of the test-centers nowadays let you choose the time and date of your exam through an online booking system. The best time from my experience is between 10 and 12. This gives you enough time to prepare yourself and get there on time. Make sure you had a quality sleep so when you get up you are fresh and ready for the task. There is nothing to do in the morning except getting dressed and having breakfast. If you have followed my “21 Tips for your exam preparation” article you have everything you need like your paperwork, address, relaxation music, and material. Pick comfortable clothes, you are not going to a fashion show, nobody cares how you look like so pick something that you feel good in. Best is to wear layered clothes so you can adapt to the temperature in the test room by adding or removing layers.

2. Have an energizing and healthy breakfast

Get a nutritious and healthy breakfast, fruits for your “brain energy”. Make sure you eat enough to avoid to get hungry during the exam. On the other hand, avoid drinking or eating too much. You don’t want to interrupt your concentration by going to the restroom during your test. My personal favorite breakfast is a combination of protein, healthy fats and carbs that are released slowly to keep me energized. I found that the following micro recipe keeps me full and boosts my performance:

  • 1 or 2 slices of whole grain preferably dark bread
  • Fresh cheese spread generously on it
  • Scrambled eggs (fried in a tablespoon of coconut oil), salt and pepper
  • Fresh smoked salmon on top 
  • And some spring onions for the looks
  • … and of course a freshly brewed cup of coffee

I usually don’t prepare anything for the time during the exam. I find this very disturbing when other people eat while I try to concentrate so I avoid to do this myself. Thankfully most test centers do not allow food or snacks.

3. Be there early

Try to arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam starts, make sure you have buffer time to get there. It would be much better if you can even visit the test center before the actual exam day to be confident you know exactly where it is. I once had the experience when I took an exam in a test center in China that I did manage to find the building but not the floor or the exam room. I got really tense that I could not make it in time and instead of calming myself down with some relaxing music I had prepared I was running around asking people where to go. I did make it but sweaty and very nervous which was not at all good start. The greatest enemy on your big day is stress and having to deal with unexpected circumstances.

When you go to the tes center take a taxi to avoid any car trouble. Looking for a free parking space, accidentally taking a wrong turn or getting upset in a challenging traffic situation is all not helpful for your relaxation.

4. Don’t cram

You have learned enough! Anything you did not understand until this day is not going to stick on that day. Focus on staying calm rather than repeating everything up to the last minute. In terms of preparation, I always prepare a cheat sheet and I always bring it (though I never use it of course) but just the process of preparing it and the fact I have everything I need with me increases self-confidence. Also, read through my article about cramming. It simply doesn’t work.

5. Don’t talk to anyone

That might sound impolite but this is one of the best advice I can give you. You certainly know these “I really hope they don’t ask about topic xyz” people right? They want to call themselves down by telling others that they know all the difficult things just to hear that you probably forgot to learn that. Focus on yourself. Try to calm yourself by listening to relaxing music. Put on your earphones so people can see it, this protects you from talkers and stalkers and gives the clear signal that you don’t want to be disturbed.

6. Find yourself a perfect seat

Usually, you are led to a seat but the computerized test taking can be done at any seat. So don’t go with the choice they make for you. I have found out that when I ask politely I can get any seat I want. So try to pick something at a window with enough light and hopefully some fresh air. Try to stay away from the “way out”. You are well prepared and do not need to get out but others might go in and out many times which will interrupt your concentration.

17 Tips for your Exam Day to Take Home your Certificate
The blue one should be yours

The blue seat is perfect in the example above because you have natural light from the windows and can control the air flow and temperature. Nobody in front of you so no distractions of “vivid” exam takers. I noticed that especially nervous people tend to move a lot or do some relaxing gestures and stretching. You don’t want to see that. And of course, you are away from the door, even better if you don’t see it so you won’t notice if others leave earlier which might make you nervous. Anyway, you know better and use up every minute.

7. Breathe

Most of the exams are set up in a way that the countdown starts as soon as you press the start button. Take all the time you need to breathe and get into a calm and relaxed state. Close your eyes and wait. You will know when you are ready. Here is a short exercise I found (http://drweil.com) and use, it is called the 4-7-8 breath (or relaxing breath) that you can do anywhere, in any position and without equipment.

  • Exhale completely
  • Inhale slowly while counting to 4
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale for 8 seconds (if possible by pushing the air out with a sound, that is sometimes not possible but I found the quiet version just works as well)
  • Repeat 4 times

If you have read my article about meditation and exam preparation you might also try some of those tips to be perfectly prepared to focus your mind on the task ahead.

8. Get in the right mood

This is probably one of the most important things to do. Get into the “winners” state of mind. Visualize your past successes … a moment where you really nailed it and try to relive that feeling of success. This gets you into the “I can do it” mood and lets you jump right into the challenge with a high degree of confidence. If this is the first exam you can pick any occasion you remember where you felt total victory, a moment when you were really on top of the world. Important is not just to think of it but to recreate the moment if you can. Where exactly were you, how was the weather, the temperature, what did you hear, smell? The more you remember and the more vivid you can recreate that moment the better.

During the exam

9. Write down the most important things

Though you are not allowed to take anything with you into the exam room most test centers give you at least some paper and a pen. If you had to memorize important formulas or rules then use the first minutes to quickly right them down. That gives you security and later when you need them you can just work from paper.

10. Read ALL the answers

This is the reason why I think many people fail exams. They jump to conclusions too early. Always read all the answers. Often finding an answer is not about selecting the right but the best one. Make sure you understand the instruction of the question, often an exam is mixed and has single and multiple choice questions. Keep in mind that the people who invented an exam do not want to trick you. They want you to pass by helping you so just make sure you understand what to do for every question. 

Make use of the mark and skip functionality most test centers offer nowadays and go with the 3-run method:

11.First run

Go through all the questions. Answer only those where you are 100% sure you know the correct answer and skip all the others without further thinking. You will get a relaxed and confident feeling because there will be plenty of sure answers. If you prepared well enough you might even get to a point where you can be certain that you have collected enough correct answers to pass even if you would leave right now. I had this experience once and that was probably the most relaxing exam I ever did. In nearly all exams I took so far I was allowed to use a pen and paper and during my first run, I make a stroke on the paper to count my sure questions. This way I can quickly find out if I passed already or how close I am.

12. Second run

Now go over the questions again. Rule out the wrong answers. Try to remember whether one of all the other questions contain hints to the one you are currently working on. Take your time and select the best answer(s) you can. If the exam software (and most do) has a review marker functionality use it to mark the question for later review if you are not sure the answer you selected is correct. This is important because once you have finished answering everything in the second run you might have found new clues hidden in answers or other questions that rule out certain answers and help you to make a more educated guess.

13. Third run

The third one is the final review. If you have time left go over all questions again – there are no extra points for leaving early therefore make use of all your time. And it is probably obvious but I mention it anyway: Answer all the questions even if you have no clue. Your best guess might just be right. Now that you have seen everything don’t forget to look at the questions you have marked in the second walkthrough. Is the choice you made still the best one? Did any of the other questions or answers rule out or confirm your choice? If I am not sure about an answer in the 3rd run I usually leave it as it is because most of the time the first choice I make is the right one.

After the exam

14. Absorb the feeling of success

This is essential. Once you see the magic “Congratulations – you passed” on the screen enjoy the moment. Let the feeling of pride and success flood your mind. Try to remember exactly the circumstances, the temperature, smell, sound, the weather so you are able to recall this situation and get yourself into the “winners” state of mind the next time you take an exam. When I leave a test center I always take a moment and sit on a bench somewhere outside and relax, send a text message to my family and just enjoy the moment.

15. Throw a party

Celebrate… this is important… go to your favorite restaurant and sip a glass of champage or even better throw a party for the people that helped you, were patient with you and kept you motivated. 

16. Reward yourself

Certainly and hopefully the passing of this exam marks the achievement of a goal you set for yourself combined with a reward as a motivator. So make sure you get your reward! Don’t postpone this, it is important if this motivates you to fulfill the promise to yousrself. Buy that new cell phone or go on that short trip. YOU EARNED IT. 

17. Be proud and publish your success

Getting a new certificate is a huge achievement. And while the main purpose of doing all that hard work is certainly to gain more knowledge I always feel very proud after I successfully passed a test. So the first thing I do is update my resume. Adding one more accomplishment to the list and slowly building up an impressive curriculum vitae is crucial. Keeping my CV up to date ensures that I am ready whenever an opportunity comes around the corner. Next is to polish my LinkedIn profile. Always make sure to update your skills and certificates. Switch on notifications so that people see that your profile has changed. And getting some well-deserved congratulations are always welcome. Besides, there might just be a recruiter searching for someone like you at that moment. If you are looking for a job you might as well write a post about your new skill. All the material is still fresh so publish a summary and include your exam experience. 

Are you a good note taker? Think about turning your material to money, sell your practice tests and study notes. Not only can you help others but also make some side income. I am selling my practice tests successfully for years. Read my article about it here.

You might have noticed that all these steps, especially in the last section, are based on the assumption that you passed. I truly believe if you follow the tips for the preparation period and the exam day and you can develop the passion to learn failure is just not an option.

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