While no single test-taking technique will work for everyone, there are some general tips and preparation ideas that can help almost anyone perform well on test day. Hopefully, you have already heard that NICET is transitioning all of our certification exams from the Work Elements format to the Standard Model/Computer-Based Testing (CBT) format. Each test is laid out a little differently, so some of these tips will be format specific.
Be healthy. Physical health can affect mental performance. You have probably already heard about the importance of getting adequate rest, eating right, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly. Improving your health will help you perform better but it is probably best to avoid making drastic changes close to your test day.
Understand the test content. Download and review the Content Outline (CBT exams) or the Program Detail Manual (Work Element exams). These serve as guides to the work on which the test questions will focus. If some areas are less familiar, then additional prep work in those areas might improve your test scores. Some of the resources listed as “Selected General References” or as “Reference Materials” may be useful.
Understand testing procedures and tools. Review the information about test day procedures in your exam confirmation letter from NICET. Download and work through the CBT testing tutorial that is available from Pearson VUE, including the on-screen calculator in the “practice exam.”
Use your test time efficiently to maximize your score. No question is worth more points than another, so capture points for the questions that you know how to solve on your first pass through the test. Flag those that will be more of a stretch for later review. After your first pass, return to those questions that you marked. Continue to focus on those questions that you have the best shot at answering correctly in the least amount of time. Finally, if your remaining exam time is running out and you still have an unanswered question, remember:
· There is no penalty for guessing.
· If you can logically eliminate one or two of the answer options, then the odds of guessing correctly are improved.
Most importantly: Read each question carefully. Don’t rush! Pay attention to words, numbers, and punctuation in the question and in the answer choices to accurately understand the meaning of each. Questions are not written to be “tricky”; however, correct solutions do require understanding BOTH what is being asked (including the effects of any given conditions or details) AND each of the answer choices.
Double-check your answers. Time permitting, you can revisit questions of which you might be a little unsure. If you have reason to think that you answered incorrectly the first time, then don’t hesitate to change your answer to the one you now feel is correct. (It is only a myth that your first choice is always the best choice; most often, if you think of a good reason to change your answer, then you should change it.)
Develop a personal testing strategy: Are you a “good test-taker”? If your answer is anything less than an enthusiastic “YES!” then it will be worth a few minutes to ask yourself what it is about testing that stands between you and optimal performance. Once a problem is properly identified, you should be able to plan an approach to testing that will reduce its troublesome impact. Here are suggestions for dealing with three common issues:
“The test environment is unnatural.”
Problem: Test centers. Waiting rooms. Lockers. Identification and verification. Test rooms. Other people. Proctors. QUIET. While most people like the test centers, for some they can seem confining or impersonal or, well... unnatural.
Suggested Test Strategy: Sometimes, very simple things can help to reduce that vague sense of unease with a place, such as a short, friendly conversation with someone in the waiting room; finding the bathroom or a drinking fountain, or looking at other people and room features and imagining something funny. The general idea is to find ways to connect with the people and the facility, and to find specific features that either remind you of something or just seem familiar.
“Taking a test is not like doing a job.”
Problem: A job includes lots of activities, people, documents, locations, resources, etc. that are all interrelated, while a test is a bunch of unrelated, “out-of-the-blue” multiple-choice questions.
Suggested Test Strategy: A test can never duplicate the experience of performing a job, but the questions are pulled from the kinds of knowledge and thinking skills that you would use in doing the work. Some folks can use their awareness of this to shift their mental landscape; that is, to think of the test as just another type of job that requires the same know-how as any other job. Each question then becomes something that may call to mind flash memories of other jobs, people, locations, documents, and so on. It’s still just a multiple-choice test question but it begins to feel less alien – and some of those flash memories may help you to recognize the correct answer.
“Time pressure makes it hard to focus and think.”
Problem: The awareness that the time available to complete the exam is limited creates a pressure that can distract from the job of working through the test questions.
Suggested Test Strategy: If you have this reaction to timed tests, then prepare yourself to deal with it. Know that there will be a clock (for work element tests) or a “time-remaining” timer in the upper right-hand corner of the test screen (for CBT tests). Make a decision that you will ignore it throughout the exam, or at least until some point near the end. Often, time worries come from uncertainty about the upcoming questions and your ability to answer them. To deal with this, you might:
· Have a plan for how to tackle the test (see tips below) – and stick to it.
· Take a practice test, if one is available.
“Some questions take too long.”
Problem: Some questions take so long to solve that there is not enough time to complete the exam.
Suggested Test Strategy: After carefully reading a test question, do you feel ready to either answer it or immediately start to work through the solution steps? Or, do you think, “I think I maybe can solve it, if I can just remember . . .” or “I’ve seen something like this before . . . somewhere . . . somewhere . . .”, or, “Is there really enough information to answer this? Let me think about this a little . . .”? If it’s the latter, then flag the question for later review and move on. The key to this strategy is to plan it ahead of time and remind yourself immediately before starting the exam.
Choosing the Right Program
NICET has over 25 specialty certifications. There are two main things to consider when choosing the program to pursue. First, which one best matches your knowledge and experience? Second, which one matches your employer’s criteria, any contract specifications, and any possible jurisdictional requirements as conditions of employment? Go to https://www.nicet.org/certification-programs/available-certifications/ and find the certification program title that best matches your knowledge and experience. Then, click through to the program pages and review the exam documentation and experience requirements.
The exam documentation is listed in the Content Outlines and Reference Material sections of the program page. The Content Outline can be used for on the job preparation and to determine areas of study on which to focus? The experience requirements can be found in the exam application.
Currently these programs are available in the Standard Model/CBT: Electrical Power Testing, Fire Alarm Systems, Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems, Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems, Special Hazards Suppression Systems, Water-Based (formerly Automatic Sprinkler System) Layout, Video Security Systems Designer, and Video Security Systems Technician.
How the Testing Tools Work:
· Pearson VUE’s website (http://www.pearsonvue.com/athena/athena.asp) has a free download of the exam interface. You can use it to familiarize yourself with the navigation within the exam and practice with the on-screen calculator
· When selecting answers during your exam, you will be directed to select either the open circle or open squares. Any selections outside the open circle or open squares will not be recognized as answers.
What to Expect for the test day:
· NICET sends a confirmation notice that contains test day instructions. It is important to read it carefully.
· Prior to beginning your exam, read each tutorial carefully.
There is a set 10 minutes to review the tutorials. This time is NOT included in the exam time, so not using the full 10 minutes does NOT leave more time for the exam.
Once you begin, questions will appear as either multiple choice (one correct answer) or multiple response (between two and three correct answers). The number of correct answers will be provided in the exam question twice (i.e., “Which two of the following …. (Choose two).” A multiple-response question is only counted as correct if all answers selected are correct. Partial credit is not awarded on NICET exams.
After the exam, you will receive an unofficial score report. A passing score is determined by the number of correct answers compared to the minimum correct answers that are required to pass as set using an established scientific method. The method statistically analyzes input from subject-matter experts (SMEs) to match exam results with the levels of knowledge that are expected of the testing candidates. NICET uses scaled scores for consistency across all of our exams.
Scaled scores are assigned on a sliding scale between 0 and 700, with 500 as the lowest passing score. Scores of below 200 are reported as 200; scores of 500 or above are reported as “pass.”
Scores of 500 or above are indicated with a “pass.” Scores of below 500 include the scaled score for the exam and, for multiple-domain exams, the percent correct for each domain or section. NICET will mail an official score report within two weeks of your exam date.
Work Element Exams
All other exams are administered in the Work Element format. However, within the next two years, they will be converted to the Standard Model/CBT format. The exam documentation and experience requirements are listed in the Program Detail Manuals.
What to expect for the test day:
· NICET sends a confirmation notice that contains test day instructions. It is important to read it carefully.
· Test takers should arrive early and follow the proctor’s instructions. The proctor distributes test booklets that contain the selected Work Element, an answer sheet and starts the exam. Each Work Element has a set of questions that is graded independently of the other Work Elements. Questions are multiple choice.
· At the end of the test session, the proctor will collect the test booklets and answer sheets, and then return them to NICET.
After the exam, NICET will send an official score report within two weeks.