Taking an exam is usually stressful. There are ways, however, to help employees be better prepared and have less anxiety about their certification exams. One of the most obvious is to have studied well and have a good grasp of the material.
That said, not everyone is good at taking tests. Nerves can derail even the best-prepared examinee. Fortunately, there are ways supervisors and HR staff can help their employees do their best when taking a certification exam that is proctored either online at an in-person testing center. Here are some tips.
- Do a trial run.
It would seem obvious to test out the testing software before the big day, but you might be surprised how many people don’t plan this far in advance. Some people don’t realize they can test drive the proctoring platform or they think it’s a wasted effort. Yet others might feel a test drive will add stress, so they chose to avoid thinking about the looming exam.
To mitigate this reluctance or oversight in your employees, either bring all test-takers together to do a run-through at one time in a conference room, or assign them a specific task to complete before they are allowed to take the certification exam. Remote employees can log in from their remote office and participate from a distance. It makes a difference when you test out the software. It is much better to find the glitches and software limitations before test day.
It’s also surprising how many test-takers don’t allow enough time on test day to log on properly and do the onboarding and verification process. It can take 10 minutes or more to verify a person’s identity and check the testing location. We give thousands of tests every month, and I can tell you with 100 percent confidence that test-takers who have done this process ahead of time are more relaxed, which clearly translates into better performance.
- Know the test rules.
Test rules are set by the testing body. For certification exams, these are very strict because they must protect the integrity of the exam and prevent content from being stolen. If a test-taker isn’t fully aware that they cannot have their phone with them in the room—which is a common test rule—this can cause a significant amount of stress on test day. A parent who has handed off their child to a babysitter for what could be several hours of testing may not be mentally prepared to put their phone away and completely out of reach during the exam. If, however, they understand the rules ahead of time, that parent might make a different choice about when and how to take the exam.
We have people show up to exams with textbooks and long pages of notes thinking they are allowed or that no one will be checking for the materials. In an online proctored exam—just as at an exam center—these things are checked. It helps your employees to know the rules before they show up on exam day.
In many cases, exams can be rescheduled. This is an important fact to know and one that can reduce stress. Knowing this and other rules ahead of time, such as the length of the exam window and if it will cost more to reschedule, helps test takers make the right decisions.
- Consider the options on where to take an exam: exam center or online proctor.
There are as many reasons for taking exams in a physical proctoring center as there are for taking an exam with an online proctor. What is perceived as an inconvenience for those who have to drive to a test center and sit in an unfamiliar room with other people might be more attractive to someone whose home testing location is noisy and chaotic. Perhaps an employee is stressed at their work office and relishes the opportunity to drive across town to an outside location.
Sometimes, simply having that option to choose relieves anxiety. It can feel like the testing situation isn’t so adversarial when you have choices. It feels like the proctoring company and testing authority are there to be helpful rather than trip them up. It’s subtle, but perceptions are important when an important exam looms.
- Monitor training progress to ensure readiness.
Retaking a certification exam after a failed attempt isn’t good for anyone. It squelches confidence, not to mention the wasted time and financial resources. Sometimes when the exam is required for a work promotion or to move to a different department, the employee might rush into it without being fully prepared. One sign to look out for is the outlier who may have finished the training course significantly faster than the average. This can be a clue that they are rushing.
Ideally, there is someone overseeing company training programs who can recognize these trends and watch the training programs’ completion rates. By the same token, it is important to notice how many times a person has had to repeat a unit. These might be signs the individual is not quite ready for the certification exam.
One way to mitigate this risk is to look for competency-based training programs that only allow progression to the next unit after knowledge or skills checks have been completed and passed. It may not be possible to see the training metrics themselves, but simply asking the employee about progress might provide what is needed. Express interest in their progress. If something seems amiss, dig a little deeper. It is much better to understand ahead of time if an employee is rushing into their certification exam, so you can intervene and provide help.
- Realize that proctors are there to help.
Finally, remember that proctors watch exams to prevent cheating, but they are also there to help. Whether online or at a testing center, the proctor’s job includes assisting test-takers with technology problems or validation problems. They also can explain the exam rules. Remember that proctors don’t set the rules, but they are experts at interpreting the testing body’s specifications with respect to notes and reference materials and exam protocol.
Show your employees how to find help if taking an online exam. Alternatively, help them understand what to expect when testing at a physical test center. Either remote or in-person, proctors have the power to pause an exam when a technical or other problem arises. They can make notations to explain when the Internet may have gone down or the test-taker experienced a coughing fit. If the exam is at home, seeing a child run into the room unexpectedly is not a cheating incident and proctors know this. It is simply a daily life occurrence, and proctors are trained to recognize such situations, make notations, and get the test back on track. They are also the test-taker’s advocate. Setting this tone for your employees goes a long way to helping them be successful.