Oracle exam strategies

January 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Oracle, Study hints, Transcender news | 6 Comments
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There have been a number of posts on our Transcender blog that address the issue of how to prepare for a certification exam.  Recommendations have included various study techniques, training classes, and certification prep tests.   All good stuff! With this post, however, I’d like to speak specifically to the strategies you should employ when you’re actually taking the certification exam. 

Disclaimer: My experience comes from the Oracle certification exams, where I have taken approximately 10-12 certification exams and fortunately (or maybe just due to dumb luck) have passed them all thus far. So apply in other areas with caution.

Here are the approaches I recommend. You’ll notice that some of these suggestions apply to all tests, but again, I’m coming from the Oracle test taking experience specifically:

  • Try to schedule your test in the morning.   Most people will have an advantage if they take an exam when they are fresh and ready to go rather than trying to take the test after the stress of a long day at work.
  • Be sure to eat a good breakfast before your exam and don’t forget to grab your picture ID before leaving the house.
  • Read the question carefully.  Break it into pieces if it’s a long question.  Make sure you understand what the question is asking BEFORE you start to formulate an answer in your head. 
  • Answer the easy questions first.  (Please note, this is Oracle-exam specific as not all certification exams allow you to move forward & back between questions.) Feel free to skip around looking for the “low hanging fruit” .  I don’t believe Oracle advertises this, but before you can submit your exam it displays a very nice matrix which makes it obvious which questions haven’t been answered.   That way if you jumped around you can be absolutely sure that you didn’t forget to answer some questions
  • Determine the correct answer (if possible) before looking at the alternatives. 
  • If you aren’t sure of the answer, work with the various alternatives.  You are now going to have to make an educated best guess.  Here are some strategies:
    • Delete alternative choices which you know are wrong
    • Often you run into questions with double negatives.  For example, consider a true/false question which says “It is wrong to say that the Oracle DBA cannot determine a user’s password”.   The double negatives cancel each other out, and the question can be transformed into “It’s true to say the Oracle DBA can determine a user’s password”, or just “The Oracle DBA can determine a user’s password”.  Determining the truth value of the last statement is a lot simpler than working with the original statement that contained the double negative.
    • If there is no penalty for wrong answers, it always makes sense to make your best guess.  In the Oracle certification exams, your score is determined by the number of correct answers, so make sure you have an answer for every question on the test.  Sometimes guessing correctly on say 2 of the 5 questions which you totally don’t understand can mean the difference between passing and failing.
    • If you have two alternatives that are just the direct opposite of each other, it is likely that one of them is right.  For example, “the DBA can start up the database using SQL*Plus” and “the DBA cannot start up the database using SQL*Plus” in most cases implies that one of these statements is true.
    • Always be aware of the number of questions you answered thus far as a percent of the total questions, and how that compares to the number of minutes that have elapsed as a percent of the total minutes allowed for the test.  For example, if you have answered 15 questions so far and there is a total of 60 questions, you’ve answered 15/60 or 25% of the questions.  That means you should have consumed about 25% of the total time allotted for the test.  If the test is 2 hours (120 minutes), you should be 25% through the time, or 25% of 120 minutes, or 30 minutes.  If more than 30 minutes have gone by, you’re not on schedule to answer all the questions and you need to accelerate the pace.

Oracle certification exams typically contain between 60 and 90 questions. You should allow between 90 minutes-2 hours to complete, and aim for a passing score between 60% and 80%, depending on the test.  This is a ballpark, average scenario, but remember Oracle reserves the right to change this at any time so don’t hurt the messenger! When a new test is released and Oracle deems it more difficult than the previous version they may adjust the passing grade to a lower value than the passing grade of the previous version of that exam. 

I hope that these strategies will help you on exam day.  The best strategy is always to be prepared for the exam.  That means reading reference materials, using the software to confirm your understanding of the reading, and taking practice exams to test your readiness for the real thing.  Good luck to all with your career goals and however Oracle certification may be a part of that. 

Give me a holler if you have any Oracle exam day questions!
~ Bob

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