Friday, January 4, 2008

Tips To Certification Success

How to Get Started and Take Off

First, decide to take the exam. Make a commitment.

Make an affirmation, telling yourself you can do whatever you set out to do.
Visualize yourself passing the exam.

Be optimistic--develop a survivor personality. Survivors remember that they are precious people first, and mothers, employees, or otherwise upstanding citizens second. Don't let outside duties keep you from meeting your goal.

Tell someone about your decision to take the exam. Hang out with positive people you know will encourage you to complete the test.

Don't let any unexpected event or fear stop you.

How to Take a Test

General rule: Break each question into the stem and the alternatives, understanding the stem first. Underline key terms and clue words in the stem.

Read the directions carefully. Some questions may be partly correct in themselves, but not when joined to the stem question.

If faced with vague terminology, define in your own words. Think of the correct answer and then look for it among the alternatives.

Don't guess too soon. You must select not only a technically correct answer, but the most completely correct answer.

Be wary of unqualified absolutes such as "never," "always," "is," "are," "guarantees," "insures." These words make the questions highly restrictive and very difficult to defend.

Be wary of the extra-long or "jargon-y option." These are often decoys.
Use knowledge of common prefixes, suffixes, and word roots to make intelligent guesses about terminology you don't know, e.g., hypertension has root word "hyper," referring to high, not low, blood pressure.

Use information and insights acquired in doing the exam to go back and answer earlier items that you weren't sure of. With the PACE exam, you can “mark” questions to pass and go back to and answer. Often, you will get clues throughout the exam that give you the right answer for those questions you have marked.
If you are not certain of an answer, guess . . . but do so methodically. Eliminate some choices you know are incorrect and relate each alternative back to the stem of the question to see if it fits. Narrow the choices, compare them, and make an informed guess.

If you have absolutely no idea what the answer is, and there is no scoring penalty for guessing, choose option B or C. Studies indicate that these are correct slightly more often than predicted by chance alone. Don’t leave the answer blank as that will be an automatic wrong answer.

Think the answer is wrong? Maybe you should change it? Studies indicate when examinees change their answers, they usually change them to the wrong answer. If you were fairly certain you were correct the first time, leave the answer as it is.
Finally, the best way to ensure selection of the correct option is to know the right answer. A word to the test-wise is sufficient.

Watch your time. Do easy questions or sections first. This will help calm your nerves, establish your concentration and build your confidence.

Mark where you should be after one hour or two hours to ensure you are not falling behind. Work at a fairly quick pace. Reviewing carefully may eat up your time. If you're behind after the first hour, you may have to choose between speeding up (and possibly making errors) or not finishing. Keep up your pace by working through the easy questions quickly, then coming back to the more difficult ones. Answer initially only if you are 100% certain of the answer; otherwise “mark” the questions that need more thought.

Process the question. Careless mistakes are often made when rushing through the "stem" or first part of the question, missing important information. Read the question carefully, noting key terms. Watch for negative or positive phrasing, or qualifying words that can drastically change the meaning of a statement.

Before looking at possible answers, try to recall the answer on your own. Then look at the alternatives to see which one best matches your answer. As you review the answers, mark off the ones you know are wrong to reduce your reading time if you come back to the question later. If none of the selections seems close, reread the question to see what you missed. If you still can't get it, go on. Something in another question may trigger your memory so you can recall the answer later.

Two similar answers? Often you must choose the best answer, which may be similar to the second best answer. If this is a problem, you may need to look at how you're studying. You may have concentrated on recognition of terms rather than understanding their significance. Or, it could indicate you need to study the material in more depth. If this is the case, you may have to carefully analyze your errors, possibly using a mock exam. Consider this option before you take the actual exam.

Internet Help

Here’s a great Internet site about taking tests with numerous links for certification purposes…check it out - www.4tests.com/resources/helpfultips.asp.
We've all heard the success stories from those we know who have been certified…a new-found respect at work, a realization that this is a great career, respect for the profession and caring more for the importance of the work we do and its positive effect for the attorneys' clients…the impact on our clients. Certification and what follows can and does create life changes.

Remember, just do it, or just say yes. Pass or fail, testing yourself is always an enriching, learning experience.

Additional websites that will help you improve your spelling and grammar include:

http://www.sentex.net/~mmcadams/spell_tips.html
("How to Improve Your Spelling")

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
(Guide to Grammar & Writing)

http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/index.cfm
(Online English Grammar)

Most of all, make this a positive experience and congratulate yourself for working on your own personal and professional development. The Indiana Paralegal Association is proud of your commitment to yourself and to the paralegal profession!!

By Debi Neale, RP
IPA PACE Ambassador
(with input from Mike Wallace, RP CCPA PACE Ambassador, Central Connecticut Paralegal Association)

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