Overcoming Failure in IT Certification


This post is dedicated to everyone who ever flunked an exam, and more specifically a certification exam as that will be the main focus of this piece. You are not alone. You are not unique. You are not the first to fail, neither will you be the last!!

In the year gone by I have interacted with a number of people who were unable to pass one certification exam or the other. Myself inclusive. Twice. With time I have come to believe that success is a destination arrived at by embarking on a journey, not a sprint, and failure is a temporary stop on that journey. Just like a pit stop made by an F-1 race driver to gas up or change a flat tire and afterward resume the race, so is failure.

It is a signal to you indicating the need to stop, fix what is wrong and get moving once the problem is resolved. Failure doesn’t mean you are finished. Failure doesn’t mean you are doomed. Failure doesn’t mean you are useless.
It’s tough to see an “F” grade or a FAIL exam score, but F doesn’t stand for Failure.               F stands for Fight, it stands for Focus, it stands for Fortitude and it stands for Forge on! It’s painful putting in those hours and investing your time and energy to study for a certification exam only to realize you didn’t pass.

That was my experience when I was met with my own exam failures some months back. I booked the exam on a working day. That day turned out to be the most hectic that particular week. From equipment failure in remote locations to WAN link issue and application performance issues. The phone was ringing off the hook. Text messages and emails were flying in the dozens. Exam time was booked for 3PM. I literally had to make a fast break at 2:30PM to the testing center, speeding and maneuvering my way through traffic which thankfully wasn’t too bad that day. Till the moment I was asked to put my personal belongings away I was taking calls. I remembered I had to make a final urgent call after sitting at the test station but the proctor wouldn’t allow me.I begun the exam just wanting to finish so I could get back to the office.In my mind, it seemed as if my cell phone kept vibrating in the locker all through the exam.

I sped through the exam clicking through to the final question and did a hurried revision of my answers. Now to end the exam.Fingers crossed. Click…FAIL!!! By 8 points. Bummer.Long story short I had a chance to retake the exam for free due to a bug in one of the simulations that I detected and reported to the exam vendor. I rescheduled for a weekend and with a clear and relaxed mind took my time to resit the exam and came out with near perfect scores.

I had failed initially, but I had used the period  up to the retake to focus and assess the reasons for my inability to pass the first time and remedied them. The second exam I failed I was kinda glad it went that way as I knew I wasn’t fully prepared.I was complacent. Blame it on the free exam vouchers. It  was more of a first-time attempt to “audit” the exam. Surprisingly the areas I thought I was strongest in terms of mastery of the content gave me the worst marks. Reality check. I needed to sit up if I was going to pass this exam. And sit up I did. That’s what failure should do to you. It’s a pit stop for you to analyze what went wrong and find out the best ways to right those wrongs and re-strategize toward victory.

Failure is not meant for you to throw up your arms in despair and wail in self-pity further inflicting pain on your already bruised confidence. Like I told one gentleman who failed his initial attempt at the CCNA, the only way he was going to become a CCNA was to re-attempt the exam and pass it. Same goes for everyone that has ever failed an exam.        You don’t become successful by wailing in despair over the money invested in learning materials or moaning over the hours spent in studying and attending classes. Take that score report which is oh-so painful to view. The scores don’t lie. Observe your weak areas. Read the content again. Watch some videos. Lab it up. Attempt some sample questions.  To be double-sure you have mastered it well enough…Offer to teach or explain it to someone else!!

It’s amazing when you think you know a topic well enough but find yourself fumbling when teaching someone else. That’s a sure sign of a lack of mastery of the subject. You need to be honest with yourself and do an objective analysis of your failure. Coming up with the honest reasons for your failure sets you on a trajectory for success.

Lastly, reschedule that exam and give it your best shot. Probably,like in my scenario, you might need to look at a time which is more relaxing so you can think straight, understand the question syntax and choose the best answers. With this strategy, every exam you take is gonna be a bulls-eye hit. All the best in your studies and keep the FOCUS!!

This entry was posted in Certification, Cisco, Networking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Overcoming Failure in IT Certification

  1. Kofi VMware says:

    Simply put –> FAIL=First Action In Learning<–
    As aslways, you get that excitement of "YES – I DID IT!" after the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th attempt.
    Never give up – same experience with my MSCA Network Infrastructure and VCA-Cloud exams 🙂


  2. Adawudu says:

    Congrats Boss. A wonderful masterpie
    ce you have here


  3. Moses Ayando says:

    Nice one there brother


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