When's the best time to take the test?



  • <font face="tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif">Hi guys, I'm currently faced with a rather tough decision... to give you a brief background:

    In the company where I work, we we're required to take 5 certification exams. I have already taken and passed 2 exams both of which I'm quite familiar with (plus readings on some books). Now it has been a while since I've taken the 2nd exam and I haven't prepared for the 3rd one (due to current project schedules / priorities, etc).

    Now there's one document circulating here (but always kept hidden) called the Reviewer™, which is more than a reviewer if you know what I mean. ;) Now, I've seen several cow-orkers co-workers who have read the Reviewer™, took the test and passed it without having a deep understanding on that area.

    Sticking to my principles, I refused to read the Reviewer™ because I want to really learn important topics on the subject before taking that exam. After all, that's what exams are for right? Unfortunately, that's where my problem starts...

    Company policies require a certain amount of time to finish up all tests. But because of the current project I'm at, I didn't have the opportunity to read about the subject and prepare for the other exams. Now that deadline is nearing and with only 2 certs taken, it's starting to bother me (aside from the feeling when your batchmate has already taken 4 exams with the help of the Reviewers™). Then, one co-worker suggested something that got me thinking... hard... he said that you'll eventually gain the knowledge of the subjects of the exams as we progress.

    Although what he said is likely to happen, I don't want to fool myself by having all these certs under my belt but I'm only knowledgeable (for the mean time) with only 2 out of 5 subject areas.

    On the other hand, some projects here are really not related to the cert's subject areas and when I'm assigned to one of them, more likely it would still take time for me to remember the things I have learned from the certs when the time comes that I needed them.

    All these adds up to a decision I'm having a hard time to choose. Principles wanted to gain knowledge before taking exams but practicality wanted to "get this over with" and just gain them along the way...

    If you were in my shoes, what would it be?



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  • If you think you are knowledgeable enough to do your job (that's what you are actually paid for), read the Reviewer, make your certs and don't think about it anymore.

    Remember that whatever you learn, it will be both obsolete and forgotton in two years or so, if you have no opportunity to practice it in real-world tasks.



  • I don't have a good answer other than the one already given.  But count yourself lucky that you are even given the opportunity to get certifications.  My company, a large DOD contractor encourages training and education.  On the HR intranet they suggest a software engineer certification for people in the IT area.  I investigated and it sounded great!  Company picks up the tab via the education assistance program, too.

    I fill out the form for the EA and give it to my boss.  He runs it by HIS boss, and...  no dice.  You see, the EA funds come out of each division's training budget.  We do have a training budget (supposedly).  But the big boss talked himself out of the idea using this logic:  

    "It's a great idea for Jet to get that cert.  But to be fair, all of my people should also take it.  Hmm, but I can't afford to pay for all that training.  Let me give it some more thought and get back to you."  (Which of course, is corporate speak for "no".)

    Argh! 



  • You obviously care about earning your cert instead of going through the motions, which speaks very well for you.

    A summary of my recent experience (although not parallel to yours) with exams for certification in optics. Much of my preparation was reviewing questions similar to the test--no schooling or formal preparation. I learned a lot just from being able to answer a few hundred multiple choice questions, and was able to easily pass the exams. The exam did expose holes in my knowledge base, but now I know what to learn to fill in those gaps.

    I did not have your dilemma, since I had no copy of the actual test. However, it seems you will probably learn quite a bit from the Reviewer™, and your can catch up on the areas you are weak later.

    Your decision will be based on this question: What is your priority?

    If morality is your prime consideration, you must not use the Reviewer™, and do the best you can. This would be my choice.

    If you are most concerned about your performance in the company, use the Reviewer™ and do what studying you can. Keep in mind that other people in the company haven't bothered to learn anything, and you should outperform them in any case. Besides, you mentioned you may not need to use the abilites the cert measures anyway.

    If you want to know you earned your cert, it depends. Even if you learn the stuff later, you may feel later on that you didn't deserve it. However, some people wouldn't worry about that. After gaining the cert knowledge, would be confident enough in their abilities to know they deserve the cert.



  • [quote user="ammoQ"] <font face="Tahoma">If you think you are knowledgeable enough to do your job (that's what you are actually paid for), read the Reviewer, make your certs and don't think about it anymore. </font>

    Remember that whatever you learn, it will be both obsolete and forgotton in two years or so, if you have no opportunity to practice it in real-world tasks.

    [/quote]
    <font face="tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif">I believe that if ever I took the test using the Reviewer™, I can still learn them later to fill in the gaps I have missed... But with the technology that we are using here, I think it will be used quite often (with several exceptional projects here and there) that really requires these skills...

    Maybe one thing that further prevents me from doing it is that I like to really earn it, just like what Jojosh mentioned. But by having time constraints, part of me wanted to use that to make it to the deadline. Actually the time limit is not strictly enforced at this time, I just don't want to look somewhat incompetent because higher ups may think "if some did it in a short time span (some did it a test per week), why couldn't you?"
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    [quote user="Jojosh_the_Pi"]
    If morality is your prime consideration, you must not use the Reviewer™, and do the best you can. This would be my choice.

    ...

    Even if you learn the stuff later, you may feel later on that you didn't deserve it. However, some people wouldn't worry about that. After gaining the cert knowledge, would be confident enough in their abilities to know they deserve the cert.
    [/quote]
    <font face="tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif">This is what keeps me from reading that Reviewer™ (as I have mentioned above) and I'm glad to see others still sticking up with this...


    <font face="Arial">[quote user="jetcitywoman"] </font>count yourself lucky that you are even given the opportunity to get certifications. [/quote]
    I find this very fortunate indeed (since I really wanted to have these certs taken, even before I started here)...

    I guess one reason is to show future clients that the employees here are really capable of having Enterprisey Solutions... But what's the point of taking certs when figures show that 100% of employees are certified but actually 50% know what the test means...

    On another note, either one will still show the capability of having Enterprisey Solutions (but I prefer the good definition)... :)



    Oh well... I need plenty of time to think...



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  • If the Reviewer™ is real test questions, then stay away from it.  It's specifically against the rules of the certifying body and a big risk if you happen to get the "new" round of questions instead of the old ones.  If the Reviewer™ is a bunch of test-like questions, then have at it.  Remember that anyone who may be professionally judging you won't know the actual content of the exams, but will compare your performance against others.  So, if you take 12 months to legitimately complete your 5 exams and your co-workers take 2 months, it may not look good for you.  If you have a resource, use it (without stepping beyond your comfort level).  Don't concern yourself with the fact that you may be certified, yet not comfortable with your own abilities.  If you get offered a job that you feel is over your head, you don't have to take it.

    In my opinion, the vendors could do a lot to maintain the integrity of the certification process that they don't.  The easiest thing to do would be to use a pool of 5000 question to generate exams.  That way, memorizing enough to pass would be harder than learning the material.  Some vendors seem to think that if they make the questions reallllllllly hard or reallllllllly long that the quality of candidates will improve.  It actually works the other way around.  MS is in this situation now with the Windows 2003 MCSE exams.  They are very hard for someone starting out in IT and taking the "hard road" of actually learning the stuff.  Only the really perserverent ones make it.  But, nearly all of the cheaters pass because cheating on a hard test is just as easy as cheating on an easy test.



  • [quote user="jsmith"]If the Reviewer™ is real test questions, then stay away from it.  It's specifically against the rules of the certifying body and a big risk if you happen to get the "new" round of questions instead of the old ones. 
    [/quote]
    <font face="tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif">It might happen but these co-workers of mine tells me that the test questions are still pretty much the same as what the Reviewer™ has to offer for the past year. But yeah, you'll never know when the questions change and if that happens, it's a real bummer...

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    [quote user="jsmith"]
    If you get offered a job that you feel is over your head, you don't have to take it.
    [/quote]
    <font face="tahoma,arial,helvetica,sans-serif">Currently I don't think I have the permission to reject a project assigned to me... We just get assigned... Of course we could voice out our suggestions but we all know where all those go, right? :)



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