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You know your own body. If you're an evening person rather than a morning person, slate the exam for as late in the day as you can arrange it. The point is to take the test at the time of day when you normally feel productive and energized.
Get Fired Up
When taking the timed exam, you don't have the luxury of breaks, making a phone call or two to interrupt the tedium, or walking around the building in midtest to get the blood flowing. So you put yourself in a good position to sit down for 100 minutes or so and focus like a laser beam the entire time.
What helps you focus? People are different, but here are some suggestions:
* Get plenty of sleep the night before: Don't party hardy on Exam Eve. You know how much sleep you need to be at your peak; for most people, the amount is between seven and eight hours.
* Exercise: The morning of the test, oxygenate your brain. Run, swim, walk, pump iron, or just do some jumping jacks and running in place. For most people, a little exercise improves alertness.
* Eat light: Don't chow down on heavy food before the exam. A full stomach means naptime. Eat a light breakfast or lunch that won't weigh you down. And avoid fast-food burgers, which induce drowsiness.
* Drink a caffeinated beverage: If a mug of java or a can of soda (Mountain Dew has high caffeine content) revs your engine and doesn't violate your religion, go for it. However, keep the quantity low, so that you don't have to waste valuable exam time on an unplanned biological imperative.
* Eat cinnamon: No one knows why, but cinnamon seems to be an energizing spice. A suitably sinful cinnamon roll half an hour before the test may be your tasty ticket to alertness. If that would weigh you down too much, go for a slice of cinnamon toast, or just sprinkle some in your coffee (see previous tip).
One substance you don't want swimming through your veins on test day is alcohol. If you're taking an afternoon exam, the lunchtime martini, beer, or glass of wine slows you down. Celebrate after you pass, not before.
Get Warmed Up
Whether you believe that 'cramming' is a good idea, warming up shortly before the test seems to help most of the people whom I've talked with about the exam. I always do it. The difference between cramming and warming up is one of degree. You don't want to be exhausted before you start the exam, but you do want to get your brain going so you don't have to shift from first gear into fifth as you enter the testing center.
Spend some time before you go to the test center shifting your mental momentum. You can do this several ways: with the CD-based material in this book, with the sample tests, by running through some of the labs, or simply by flipping through the book looking for points that you highlighted and making sure you understand them.
My advice is to spend between one and two hours on your warm up. Too little time doesn't do you any good; too much makes you tired.
Tip Reread Chapter 1 as part of your warm up. It'll remind you of what to expect regarding the mechanics of the exam.
Kill a Tree
The testing centers I've visited are strangely stingy about the amount of scratch paper they provide. Some just give you a small whiteboard.
If you don't get at least a dozen sheets of paper, ask for more. If you aren't comfortable with the whiteboard, ask for paper. (Bring your own pad just in case. I did that once, and after the administrator looked it over to be sure I hadn't written notes on a tiny sheet tucked up by the adhesive strip, or scratched answers onto the pages with a leadless mechanical pencil, I was allowed to use my pad. Good thing, too; all the center provided was the marker board, which I hate. Why waste time erasing that thing every 20 seconds?)
Your own mini-diagrams can be a great help, especially in the scenario questions that tell a rather long story. The last thing you want between you and a successful exam is a problem as mundane as not having enough paper.
Jump the Gun
Warning Remember that the exam clock doesn't start running until you click the button that displays the first exam question. Here's a clever trick: Write down any charts, mnemonic devices (such as the OSI model), or other memory-joggers (such as the address range of Windows XP's Automatic Private IP Addressing feature) on your scratch paper before starting the exam. Why use up valuable exam time for this sort of thing if you don't have to? True, you may not use all the bits and pieces that you jot down ahead of time, but, on the other hand, it doesn't cost you anything and it can't hurt.
Don't Reinvent Wheels
Time Shaver When I take a nonadaptive multiple-choice certification test, I mark off a half-page on the first sheet of scratch paper to keep track of eliminations: answers I know are wrong on questions I plan to review later. If you study question #19, for example, and you're not quite sure what the answer is but you know it isn't B or C, you mark '19. A B C D' on the scratch paper and cross out the B and C. When you review tough questions after your first pass through the exam, you don't waste time figuring out all over again that B and C aren't correct answers. Putting this 'record of eliminations' on the first sheet of your scratch paper means that you don't have to hunt for these notes.