Top 10 Easy Tips to Help you Pass a Certification Exam

Learn how to pass your next certification exam with these 10 easy tips

1. Prepare! You should begin to prepare for your exam at least a few weeks in advance so that you don’t feel rushed. Start slowly and gradually work yourself up to full preparation mode. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to prepare “properly” for your exam. Many operators think that because they work in the field there is no need to prepare for the exam because hey, they already do the job right? Wrong! Regardless of how much experience you have the exams are constantly changing to take into account new regulations and subject matter. If you don’t have actual field experience there is even more reason to prepare. You are probably wondering well then, how do I prepare? The answer is simple. Review the expected range of material for the exam you plan on taking. Many states publish this information to help you focus on what will be on the test; take advantage of it. Once you have an idea of what the test will cover review documents that cover the material. Math, MCL’s, regulations, technical troubleshooting and safety will most definitely be on the exam. Be sure to cover these areas, over and over.

2. Find what works for you. Not everyone learns the same way so you need to find what approach works best for you. Are you a visual person? Maybe flashcards and videos will be your best friend. If you rely on memory, read everything you can prior to the test. Practice repeating the MCL of various contaminants. Maybe you are an auditory learner. If so, search YouTube for explanatory and how-to videos. Regardless of how you learn, math is something that you need to practice. Start off with problems that you know the answer to by using water math guide or sample tests, then try creating your own math problems and see if you can prove that you got the right answer.

3. Test yourself. Whether you work in the field or not you should prepare for your exam by testing yourself on a daily basis. Think to yourself what if……? If you think what if and you do not know the answer, go find it! Oftentimes people retain information better if they are forced to track down the answer rather than have someone else explain it.

4. Practice Tests. Find an exam practice test that covers the material expected to be on your test. Be sure and make a copy of the blank test if possible because you should take the test until you can answer every question with ease. The thing to keep in mind is that after a few attempts at the practice test you will start to memorize what the correct answer is. If this happens cut the test up into multiple sections and tape them on another sheet of paper in a different order. Knowing why an answer is correct is much better than memorizing a specific question and its respective answer because it is not likely that you will see the exact same question and answer on your test.

5. Prepare for the worst. Depending on what level of certification exam you are taking don’t assume that you can decide how difficult the questions on a test will be. Many people try to determine if a question will be on their test and if they assume that’s it too difficult they don’t study it. This is a poor approach. Most people look for an easy out so before they know it, they are assuming that most questions are too difficult to be on their test and they skip them. Never assume that a problem is too difficult for exam. If you get hung up on a question or do not understand something ask for help, DON’T SKIP IT!

6. Exam Review Course. A few weeks before a certification exam look around for a certification review course. Usually these courses are a great way to enhance your knowledge and make you focus on what is important. Another benefit of taking a review course is that you will usually walk away from the course with additional study material that you can review on your own time before the exam. One thing to check before signing up for a review course; be sure and take a review course that is taught by someone who has taken the exam you are preparing for. You wouldn’t want someone with a lower level certification to tell you how what material to prepare for if he or she hasn’t even taken the test themself. You would be surprised how often this happens. Additionally, you should ask if the instructor of the course is an actual operator. It doesn’t matter how smart a person is if he or she cannot relate the material to reality. Lastly, try to find a review course that is offered as close to the exam date as possible. This will ensure that the information is fresh in your brain. Amazingly you can forget a ton of information in a short amount of time.

7. Practice Makes Perfect. I cannot iterate enough how important it is to continue practicing for your exam; even up to the last minute if you feel the need. Many operators will take their study material with them to the exam and plan to study for 20 minutes in their car before taking the test. The reality of this is that you are not likely to learn anything new but your short-term memory will kick in and retain a few extra pieces of information that may come in useful during the exam.

8. Home Remedies. There are many “home remedies” to help you while you are studying and even while you are taking you exam. Numerous studies have shown that chewing gum while studying helps you to retain more information by increasing the amount of information stored in your long and short-term memory. On top of that gum helps to reduce stress and increase alertness; two factors that can cause you to loss focus while taking the test. A second home remedy to improve your testing ability is to eat a full meal before the exam. If your body is full your brain will allow you to focus on the test rather than how hungry you are. If you are a caffeine person a little goes a long way. A little caffeine is good but too much can cause you to be nervous, anxious and unable to focus on your test; especially if you are focusing on the bathroom. Similarly, drink enough water to stay hydrated but not enough where you have to use the restroom every 20 minutes.

9. RELAX! Before any test you need to get a good night sleep. There are countless studies that prove testing scores decline with a lack of sleep. If your body is tired it will not allow you to focus and your memory will be fuzzy. Your body doesn’t care if you have an important exam, all it cares about is itself so take care of it. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for no less than 7 hours of sleep. More is better but don’t spend all day lying in bed; you have a test remember!

10. TEST DAY! It’s finally here, your time to shine. Make sure that you have all of the essential materials for the exam; multiple pencils, a battery powered calculator with solar backup and gum; remember tip #8. Before the test, make sure that you have “relieved” yourself so that you are not worrying about rushing through the test so that you can go to the restroom. Prior to beginning your test try to mentally scan through your memory and think of all the information you learned over the past few weeks. Prepare your brain to retrieve that information once you start your test.

As soon as you begin your test scan through the entire exam and answer all of the questions that seem easy. If you have been preparing properly most of the questions should seem easy. Once you have answered all of the easy questions go back and take a second look at the questions you did not answer. There will likely be some that seem easy now that your brain is geared for retrieving information and answering questions. After your second round through the exam go back and start to work on the problems that didn’t instantly come to you. Don’t be worried if it takes a minute to figure out the answer to a question, this is what you prepared for. If you find yourself stuck on a problem for more than a few minutes move on; you can come back to it. The goal is to answer as many questions as possible. Lastly, once you have answered all of the questions review your answers and make sure that they still seem right. If your answers are on a bubble sheet make sure that you have filled in the correct bubble. There are plenty of people who accidentally skipped a line on a bubble sheet which made every other answer wrong and caused them to fail. Once you feel confident about you exam and you have reviewed it take big breath and know that you did everything you could. Chances are that you will pass the exam if you followed these tips.


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The flash cards are a great way to study and having them already made saved me a ton of time. I can't wait to see the apps that you come up with. Thanks Watergrades. Steve, Ca

The online web format is great! I am trying to become an operator and this allowed me to prepare for the certification exam without having to take time off of work. John, Ca.

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