Preparing for your Certification Exam

Preparing for your Certification Exam

Certification Exam Preparation

Preparing for your certification exam can be an intimidating process, but it doesn't have to be. With the right preparation and dedication, you can pass any certification exam with flying colors. In this post, I will state some obvious recommendations that would apply to any exam and any person. However, since preparing for an exam is not the same for everyone and heavily depends on your prior experience and knowledge in the field for which you want to get certified, I will also provide you with some tips on how to get to know yourself better.

At 22Academy, we specialize in providing training courses and trial exams to prepare for certification exams in the areas of data protection and privacy. We will soon be offering curricula in other data-related and project management fields, so these tips are suitable for those areas as well. Exams such as CIPP/E, CIPM, CIPP/US, PMP, CDMP, etc. can be taken using these tips. Additionally, they can also be used for other industries. 

It can be difficult to know where to start with your preparations. Therefore, in addition to generic tips, I will provide you with the steps you need to take to prepare most efficiently, save time, and save money.

In General

It should come as no surprise that you will perform better when you are fit. Therefore, take care of yourself; make sure you get enough sleep, limit your alcohol consumption, eat healthy, go outside for some fresh air, and take regular breaks during your study sessions. Studying for long periods of time can be mentally exhausting and lead to burnout, so make sure to take regular breaks throughout your study sessions to allow your brain to rest and recharge before tackling more material. A good plan is essential for this, so depending on your personal situation, allocate time to study for at least an hour every day.

The Exam Format

Understanding the format of the exam is an essential part of the preparation process. Before you start studying, make sure that you are familiar with the format and structure of the exam. Is it multiple-choice? Is there an essay portion? Knowing the format of the exam will help you decide which materials to use in your preparation.

TIP: Check out our article on Multiple Choice Questions!

Which language is used in the exam? Many certification exams are conducted in English, and for the majority of you, that may not be your first language. If you have difficulty reading English, this could present a challenge before taking the exam. The language used in certification exams is often very technical or contains legal jargon, which can be difficult to comprehend if you are not accustomed to using such language on a regular basis.

Exams often contain questions based on scenarios, which can be quite lengthy and confusing. Under the pressure of the timer, it can be easy to freeze if you don't understand the structure of the sentences or some of the words. To prepare for this, you should read books in your leisure time, practice with a native English speaker, and use flashcards during your preparations. All of these steps will help you to better understand the lengthy scenarios.

TIP: Some certification organizations that administer the exam have special arrangements for those who are not native English speakers. For example, in the CDMP exam, you will get extra time if your first language isn't English. Although you may not need the extra time, you should always take advantage of the option to make the exam easier for yourself.

Planning your Study

Familiarize yourself with the body of knowledge that will be tested on the exam. Many, if not all, certification exams have a list of topics and objectives that you should be familiar with in order to pass. For each of these topics, find the resources that will give you comprehensive background information. It is likely that most of the information you need can be found in a single resource, such as a textbook, but make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the material and have not missed any important information. 

TIP: before you start purchasing textbooks and other resources, read through this article for more cost-effective options.

So, you have a list of topics and a list of resources and now comes the most difficult part of your planning: allocating time for your study. The time you need to learn about a particular topic can vary greatly from person to person. Most people tend to overestimate themselves and think that they can learn a subject in half an hour, or that they can read a page in a textbook in a minute. While this might be the case, don't be surprised if you end up needing double that amount of time.

Before you make your final plan and book your exam for next month, why not give it a try and test yourself first? Read 5 articles about a certain subject, time yourself for each article, and try to answer a few questions about it. After that, you can extrapolate the time you spent to the number of topics you need to study, and allocate this estimated number of hours to a daily schedule. Don't be surprised if your plan now says that you'll finish in three months' time, instead of the three weeks you initially thought. 

TIP: Instead of just answering questions to test your knowledge, why not make them yourself? Practicing this skill will help you to predict the kind of questions that may be asked in an exam, and make your study more efficient.

Now, add an extra week (or two) to the end of your schedule for practice and final revision before the exam. During this time, review sample questions and practice exams related to the certification you are pursuing. This will give you a better understanding of the kind of questions to expect on the day of the exam and how to approach them. Additionally, it is important to know how much time will be allotted for each question and how many questions are on the exam, as this will affect your strategy for answering them.

Your Budget

It may not be immediately clear, but your budget will have an impact on your planning. Obtaining certification can be costly; for example, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) exams alone costs $550, and that's not all. If you pass the exam on your first attempt, you will need to pay a certification maintenance fee of $250 every two years or a membership fee of $275 annually. You will then need to purchase resources to get you started, which can be costly. Official training organizations may charge up to $3000 for a two-day classroom course, and books and trial exams can be expensive too. 

For some, the costs of their exam are covered by their company, so it doesn't really matter how much it costs as long as they pass. However, for most of you, a few hundred dollars (or euros) can make all the difference, let alone thousands.

We have some good news for you! Preparing for your exam can be completely free! 

All the information needed to pass the exam can be found online. You just need to know where to look and, more importantly, which information is accurate, and which is not. When you are preparing, it's important to make sure you are only using reliable sources to avoid wasting time on learning inaccurate information.

TIP: Don't use exam dumps! Not only is it immoral, but it is also a waste of time as you are infringing on copyrighted information and the answers are often incorrect.

It’s Personal

Finding the right information can be very time-consuming, so if your budget allows it, you may want to consider investing in a training course. If you add up all the time you spend on Google searches, sifting through websites, and reading social media posts, it could easily equate to a full workweek by the time you are ready for your exam. This would be many hours that could otherwise be used for something else.

When preparing for a certification exam, there is usually an indication of the number of hours an average student needs to prepare. For instance, IAPP suggests that 30 hours of study time should suffice to prepare for a certification exam such as CIPP/E, CIPP/US, or CIPM. This may be realistic for experienced professionals who have been working in the field for years, but it is certainly not enough for the average student. Additionally, I would be surprised if even 5% of people are exactly like the average student, so these indications can give you a false sense of security and, in the worst case, cause you to book your exam too soon.

So, we have seen that preparing for a certification exam can be time consuming and expensive. Most of the information you find to help with your preparations is generic and not tailored to your individual needs. At 22Academy, we understand that studying is different for everyone, so we have created tailored solutions for each individual. 

Obviously, we have already gathered all the information you need to know for your studies, saving you time and money searching for reliable resources. You don't need to purchase any additional books or tools, not even a textbook; all the information is included in our courses. We also have great features to assist you, such as digital and printable flashcards, audio files, so you don't have to read too much, and numerous quizzes to test your knowledge.

The best thing about our training courses is not only that they are the most affordable available, but they are also tailored to your individual needs. We have created a free assessment that will tell you in less than 15 minutes which training course is best suited for your level of knowledge and experience. You can then adjust your exam date to set a target for yourself, and a study schedule will be automatically created for you. You will know exactly what to do every day. 

At the end of your course, you can test your knowledge in a trial exam that replicates the conditions of your certification exam. Our exams are known to be challenging, so they will give you a good indication if you are ready for the real thing. Furthermore, an analysis of your results will tell you precisely which topics need extra attention.

TIP: Knowing what you did wrong in a mock exam is important for you, as it allows you to focus on the areas that are more difficult for you. While it may be tempting to try to answer the same questions again that you got wrong, this can be dangerous as you may simply remember how to answer that specific question, without understanding the topic in general. This is especially true for multiple choice exams that you may have practiced multiple times; after a while, you may simply remember the correct answer sequence (e.g. A, C, A, B, B, etc.), without actually understanding what you read. As your actual exam will not necessarily include the same questions, it is better to spend your time studying the topics rather than the questions.

Save Time and Money

In conclusion, preparing for your certification exam can be costly and time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. You can easily study alongside a full-time job or other busy schedule, and there are professional solutions available for even small budgets (our training courses start at only 95 Euros). If you take our free assessment (for CIPP/E) on, you'll know what your level is and make the right choices for your personal situation; I promise the 15 minutes it will take you will not be a waste of time!

Make sure you know your capabilities and be honest with yourself (even though it can be difficult). Take good care of your body, as it will help you to focus on your studies. We will take care of the rest for you, if you want. This includes planning, course materials, and practice facilities, so you can spend all your time focusing on your study. With the courses of 22Academy, you can even save time on your study hours, as you can listen to long texts while you commute or exercise. Finally, we won't offer a two-day classroom course but will guide you from start to finish, no matter how long it takes for you to get certified.

Follow us on social media for more tips. 

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