I just failed my certification exam! Now what?

| June 19, 2010 | 2 Comments

Taking a certification exam is one of the most challenging and stress-filled activities you’ll undertake. There’s plenty of pressure when you consider the money you spent for an exam and the future of your career and family! With all of these distractions, it’s surprising more people don’t fall a bit short when the certification grade appears.

Missing a passing certification grade isn’t a fun situation to find yourself in, but you can use it to your advantage. Here are five things you should do after failing a certification exam:

  • Don’t panic – After missing a passing grade, you may feel disappointed, dejected, and frustrated. However, this is one of the most important moments to gather your thoughts, especially if you’re planning on retaking the exam. Make sure you get a copy of the printed sheet that details your exam results. This page won’t have specific questions or answers, but it will give tell you a score in each subject area. With this information, you’ll have an idea of the topics that caused you the most trouble.

  • Take notes right away – After leaving the testing center, sit down immediately before you drive away and take as many notes as possible. You should make a note of particularly difficult questions, the topics you saw, some of the more challenging answers, and anything else you can remember about the exam. Also write down any broad topics on the exam that caused you trouble, even if you can’t remember the specific questions or answers.


    IMPORTANT: Before taking the exam, you agreed not to share specific information about the test with anyone. These notes are for your personal use only!

  • Focus, focus, focus – You won’t get the same exam again, so don’t bother memorizing the questions you received the first time. Instead, focus on the things that tripped you up. Use your exam results from the first exam and your notes to guide your studies. If you haven’t already, make sure you download and print the exam requirements documents to use as your master checklist. If you can’t check off a section, then study up!

  • Use other resources – If possible, get some different study resources. It’s not that your original resources weren’t the right ones, but a fresh may give you a different view of the world. You should absolutely get another book, and don’t forget to check your local library; you might find one that you can use for free!

  • Strategies for the next time – Think about the things that tripped you up last time. Did you get enough sleep the night before? Did you spend too much time on a single question? Most tests provide you with an initial block of time for you to read through the instructions, and with some exams you get a sample set of questions to familiarize yourself with the testing procedures. None of this time counts against you, so take all the time you need to get the adrenaline out of your system and become comfortable with your surroundings. Also make sure to use the “mark” feature on the exam to help save time. If you aren’t 100% sure of an answer, mark it for easy review at the end of the test. You’ll be surprised what you remember after going through all of the questions.



We all make mistakes, but those mistakes are wasted opportunities unless we learn from them. Good luck with your studies!

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Category: Professor Messer After Class

  • “Bo”

    This is excellent advice. It’s clear, concise, and succinct. I hope that anyone who doesn’t succeed the first time will read this and learn. Thank you for the sage advice!

  • N6pcd

    I passed my Practical yesterday with au00a0score ofu00a0807 points. I used four resources for exam preparation & study, Including Prof Messer.nnAll of the advice above is dead-on-center. One needs the different viewpoints that multiple resources provide for a well-rounded training program.nnIMPORTANT: As written above, DO NOT PANIC during the exam! If one goes in prepared and is passing thier practice tests 90% or better on several attempts, one will most likely pass the real thing. I was just sure, about half way through, that I wasn’t going to pass. Imagine my delight at passing with a 107 point cushion! :-)nnNow, on to the Essentials!

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