This content is part of the Essential Guide: QUEST 2014: News from the conference
Manage Learn to apply best practices and optimize your operations.

IT professional certifications: Action plan for acing the CSTE, CSQA

Earning IT professional certifications can be the gateway to advancing one's career.

Obtaining IT professional certifications can be crucial not just to advancing one's career, but to obtaining a position as standards rise. At QUEST 2014, Advantage Leadership Inc.'s President Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Capgemini Senior Manager Mike Ennis will head up software certification prep courses for the CSQA and CSTE respectively.

Man closely inspecting laptop with magnifying glass

While a combination of studying and experience can help ensure IT professional certification exam success, there are techniques test-takers can apply to help obtain a high score or simply get back into the groove of what it's like to be a college student preparing for his or her next exam.

Get the ball rolling

After determining which IT professional certifications make the most sense to obtain and the appropriate preparation has been completed, don't delay registering for a certification exam. Ennis said people make the mistake of waiting too long to put their newfound knowledge and testing techniques to work. It can easily take someone two or three months to go through study materials and then not be able to take the exam until a month after that. "By that time you've forgotten a lot of the material you've gone over," Ennis said.

With a date set to take a certification exam, don't sit back and relax too much. While part of the CSTE exam focuses on knowledge acquired from personal experience, that doesn't mean a test-taker should think he or she can simply wing the exam. "It's a short test, but there are some very tricky answers," Ennis said.

Make sure you really put in your study time, advised Ennis, who noted the CSTE is among the IT professional certifications that require professionals translate their own professional knowledge into the exam's vernacular.

Three can be a charm

Once you are sitting down and ready to take the certification exam of choice, stay calm. Take three passes at multiple choice questions, Reinstein recommended. "A mistake people make is they often just go through in a straight line trying to answer questions," she said. "They get a question out of three or four that they don't know and they spend time and they mull over it."

The first time through, Reinstein recommends an exam-taker look for questions he or she absolutely knows the correct answer to. On the second pass, questions a test-taker thinks he or she knows should be visited. The third pass should entail taking an educated guess on the remaining questions. By the third time, Reinstein said exam-takers are less likely to panic over questions they are unsure of.

"If you've gone through and you go back, that third pass you've got more confidence," Reinstein said. "You may know a lot of things and you know you probably figured out correctly most of the others."

A similar tactic used on multiple choice questions should be employed on the essay section. To help keep thoughts organized, Reinstein recommends a test-taker also make a bullet-point list of important topics he or she wants to include in the essay. "They [test-takers] get wound up in the grammar and the proper way to say this or that and they forget the key points they were going to make," she said.

As with multiple choice questions, Reinstein said essays should be tackled in order of what the exam-taker feels most confident in. By making bullet points for each essay, exam-takers can then go back and answer each question by elaborating on the notes taken earlier.

It's also important on the essay portion to go by the "less is more" adage. "It's much better to take it in a straightforward way, bullet point it and write just what they ask for," Reinstein said. "You don't get extra points for writing more and the likelihood that you'll write something wrong or might get confused goes way up."

Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at

Follow us on Twitter @SearchSOA and like us on Facebook.

Dig Deeper on Distributed application architecture

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Do you think IT professional certifications set job candidates apart?
With IT professional certifications its a statement of telling prospective employers that there is some extra that you are specialized in. There is now more consideration given to candidates with more IT professional certifications because it shows that candidates have been tested and are able to deal with unique IT situations through a practical approach.
Hi baguma,

Thanks for sharing your input. Maybe someday professional certifications will be the norm. It already sounds like there are employers who require certifications for some positions.