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How much time should I give myself to prepare for a certification exam?

Some people set unreasonable goals such as obtaining their MCSE from scratch in a month. Bar the people upgrading from 2000 who might be able to do it if they are really good, ninety-nine percent of the people who set such a goal will be unable to achieve it. People who set unrealistic goals often become discouraged and they may quit pursuing the certification altogether. For every MCSE out there, there are a lot of people that didn’t get much father than their first failed test. The best approach is to set an obtainable goal based on the number of hours you have to study for an exam.


On average, you should expect to spend about 100 hours to properly prepare for an exam. If you have very little experience with the subject matter, you might spend between 150 and 200 hours preparing. If you’re fairly experienced with the subject, you might spend 50 hours or less.


Let’s say that you are able to study a couple of hours a night three nights a week and fours hours every Saturday. That adds up to 10 hours per week, which means that you will need about 10 weeks to properly prepare for an exam. If you aren’t working

and can study six or seven hours a day (very few people can study effectively for any longer than that), you can probably get ready in a couple of weeks.


You can use ballpark figures such as these to estimate how long it will take you to achieve your certification. If you plan on two months per exam, you would need a year to obtain a certification consisting of six exams. You should also factor in time for vacations and breaks. Studying all the time can lead to burn out. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for each exam and don’t try to rush through things. The extra time you give yourself to study will lead to higher passing scores and better retention of the material.


You will have a much better idea how long it takes to study for an exam after you’ve prepared for and taken a few of them. Don’t beat yourself up before your first exam trying to figure out how much study time you’ll need. Instead, make a ballpark estimate

and adjust accordingly as you begin to prepare.


If you work better with deadlines, book the exam before you start to study. Remember to be flexible and not hold yourself to a hyper strict schedule. If you are a week out from your booked date and you don’t feel ready, reschedule your exam. Don’t plan on cramming in a whole lot of knowledge at the last minute. Exam dates and times are flexible and it is better that you go in relaxed rather than turning up on test day having pulled several all niters to understand the finer points of TCP/IP.

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