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Tips for passing your next IT certification exam

Certifications are a great way to advance your career. Try these success strategies before your next exam.
Computer programmer laptop on a desk with code on the screen

Image by Robert Gourley from Pixabay

There are tons of certifications to help you build your enterprise architect career, including Red Hat Certified Architect, TOGAF, Zachman, ITIL, and many more. While all are different, the anxiety you may feel taking them is probably the same, and you certainly aren't alone in that.

Chandra Sharma, who is studying to become a solutions architect, says he usually goes through the following process when he starts a certification exam:

  1. I'm extremely nervous and a bit worried when I sit down to take the exam.
  2. When it's time to start taking the exam, my mind goes blank.
  3. I feel sleepy from hours of studying the night before.
  4. I make silly mistakes and waste 30 minutes troubleshooting them.
  5. I consider giving up.
  6. I give myself time to calm down and then start the tasks and trying to solve them.

[ Become a Red Hat Certified Architect and boost your career. ]

Regardless of the stress you might feel, working toward your first (or next) certification is well worth the time you put into it. Certifications help validate your knowledge of the technologies and services your organization uses. Not only are they a great way to reinforce your learning, they get you in the habit of constantly leveling up your skills—in a way that works for you.

Here are a few general tips for passing complex technical exams from some people active in the Red Hat Learning Community, an interactive community for people working on Red Hat certifications.

Know what you're working with before trying to solve for it

Chandra Shekhar Sharma: I have failed many exams, but I always learn something new along the way.

Reference links found in the guided exercise are extremely helpful. Paying attention to those helped me become better versed in Ansible-focused technology.

Checking out the exam objectives is especially helpful for beginners who may be new to Linux or open source technologies. This approach is perfect for mirroring real-life use cases where you have to review the scope of work before jumping into executing the needs.

If you don't pass a Red Hat Certification, use the score report shared with you to learn how you performed against the exam's objectives.

James Hollow: I failed my first Red Hat exam attempt not too long ago. When I received my results, I was not surprised. However, I did feel a little deflated as I had been working so hard for so long, and achieving the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification was going to be a big first milestone for me. I've made very large strides in my Linux knowledge over the last year, and failing the exam gave me the feedback I needed.

After failing the exam, I decided to tackle the topics I did poorly on, like containers. In response, I decided to take Introduction to Containers with Podman (DO188). This may seem like an extreme measure just to pass the RHCSA, but now I feel comfortable with basic containers. Even better, I also feel prepared to take the Red Hat Certified Specialist in Containers (EX188) exam. In a similar fashion, I plan on tackling the other topics I did poorly on.

Using this approach, I am confident the next exam will go better.

[ Watch this Red Hat video for more tips on passing Red Hat certification exams. ]

Use the resources available to you

Depending on the certification you're pursuing, installing a software's community version lets you get you hands-on with the technology. This can also help you understand the differences between a community project and the company-supported product. Red Hat offers no-cost subscriptions and trials so that people can start testing products they're studying. Testing open source projects is another great way to become comfortable with products like Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Trevor Chandler: After I lay my hands on the objectives for a particular exam, I begin reading sites that serve content that addresses the exam objectives.

Say an exam objective involves knowledge and skills with pluggable authentication modules (PAMs). Well, you could easily have a PAM feast with the manual (man) pages. I know the man pages aren't necessarily intended to be a textbook, but I like looking "under the hood" at things. With me, it's more than just prepping to pass an exam. The man pages require me to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty, which is something I really enjoy.

If there aren't man pages to satisfy my appetite, I'll make my way over to one of my favorite waterholes, Once I'm there, product documentation is where I'll spend some quality time.,, and LinkedIn Learning are also great resources. It depends on what concept I'm digging into. All things considered, I'm all over the place because the multitude of resources provides myriad perspectives on the exam objectives.

[ Learn ways to build a resilient IT culture. ]

Share your knowledge

James: Compassion for others and myself brings me inner peace. When I am at peace, it affects how I approach my hobbies (including Linux), and learning becomes a curious rugged path I can travel rather than a hurdle I must overcome.

Chandra: Practice everything and get your hands dirty. Try to understand the what, why, and how of concepts. Share this knowledge with others through writing blog posts or other channels. Consuming resources like documentation is great for solidifying your knowledge as well. This will help someone else learn something they may need help with.

Do what works for you

Why should you care about certifications if you're thriving in your current role? Completing a certification may be a no-brainer for someone looking to grow in their current role. But just because you're already where you want to be in your career doesn't mean you're finished with your journey.

Chandra: It's okay to iterate your study techniques. Analyze your time utilization for a month, and remove the things that occupy your time but either don't supplement your growth or waste your time, then recreate your schedule and implement it. Most importantly, remember you're human and still need time to enjoy your life and friends, make memories, and create new experiences. Appreciate the journey and see the change.

Get started

If you're working on trying to pass a Red Hat certification exam, you're taking a significant step toward enhancing your career. If you're already thriving in your current role—even better. Technology is dynamic. Being proactive to expand your knowledge and skills—and demonstrate your expertise to others—is a great way to stay ahead of the game.

[ Learn about upcoming webinars, in-person events, and more opportunities to increase your knowledge at Red Hat events. ]

Topics:   Training   Career  
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Marjorie Freeman

Marjorie is the Community Manager for Enable Architect. More about me

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