If Only I Didn't Have to Take an Exam: Four Strategies that Work When Sitting for Certification Examinations

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Wednesday February 7, 2013

Category: Certification, Education

In the course of teaching the NAPS Certification Immersion Class (CIC) to more than 1,100 participants, I have become aware of the degree to which test anxiety is an issue in determining whether an individual seeks or rejects the idea of earning the CPC and/or CTS certification. A significant number of prospective certificants have avoided the process because they don’t want to take the knowledge-based examination that awaits them as the end of their study.

Test taking can be one of the most anxiety-producing experiences an individual will ever confront. Some experience this anxiety during the school and college experience, especially at those times when the test or exam appears in the path between them and “getting in” or “progressing” in some aspect of their education or work. 

Text anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some people growth emotionally and/or physically distressed as they approach the testing experience. Others experience a lighter form of anxiety as witnessed by “sweaty palms” and modest nervousness as they get ready to sit for the examination. Still others can become distracted from their normal way of behaving.

While the full anxiety associated with the NAPS certification examination may never be totally eliminated, the following four strategies may help the test-taker ease into and manage the process

1. Engage in appropriate study and preparation - There is absolutely no substitute for a thorough reading of the NAPS certification manuals. Some experts then suggest a second read where notes are taken or a highlighter is used to mark all passages thought to be key areas of content. The information contained in these manuals---focusing on the laws governing the work of staffing professionals, is highly technical and fact-filled by its nature and may need to be studied over time in “chewable chunks.” Lay out a study strategy that fits your learning style, one that can be worked into your work and leisure time. 

Many registrants for certification have engaged others seeking certification in their “second pass” or “third pass” of the material in group study in order to listen to their opinions regarding what is the salient content. These can be colleagues seeking certification or CPCs and CTSs who have taken one or both of these examinations in the past. Still others have devised question games to quiz each other and “flash cards” (question on front/answer on back) as a method of review. NAPS has also discovered the Certification Immersion Classes (CICs) where the “Critical Knowledge Points” are presented and discussed is another effective test-prep tool. 

2. Make yourself as comfortable as you can - Whether taking the exam online or the paper and pencil version at the end of a CIC, exam takers need to rid themselves of impediments and distractions that alone can produce an undesirable level of anxiety. You want to be emotionally relaxed and physically rested so your total concentration is on the certification exam. Getting a good night’s rest before the exam or taking it during the portion of the day when you function at a “peak” level are things over which the test taker has some level of control and it should be exercised.

3. Study the test as your take it - The NAPS certification exams were created to measure your knowledge of and the application of certain legal principles and laws in the staffing world. Both the CPC and CTS are comprised of multiple choice (4 responses/1 is correct) and true/false questions and then an additional series of multiple choice questions which look at the laws through a series of case situations.

Most people err by attempting to read too much into the questions. Read the questions carefully. Apply logic and common sense. Think like the test creator. Often the first thought or answer you select is your best answer if you find yourself in a “choosing between two answers” dilemma Remember too, that an educated guess is far, far better than a random one. And finally, don’t attempt to look for patterns or schemes to the answers---there aren’t any. 

4. Manage the process - How long it takes you to complete the examination is not a matter of what you know or how intelligent you are. It’s about the approach you use to get into and move through the examination, how fast you read and other learning style issues. Follow the instructions that are presented to you at the beginning of the online exam or the paper/pencil exam used during the CICs and try to avoid thinking about the clock. Know in advance that the multiple choice questions associated with the case situations take a little more time than the regular multiple choice and true/false questions. Expect the change in pace and adapt to the different types of questions.

You may not be able to eliminate the anxiety associated with sitting for the CPC or CTS examination, but following these strategies may help reduce it just a bit and place you in a position of control, one that will lead to getting a passing score of 113 (75% correct out of 150) or significantly higher. Good luck!

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