11 May 2020 - Exam Anxiety

A few Friday's ago I sat a Salesforce certification. It has taken me about 7 years to subject myself to do this again. 

2013 was the last time I sat any online proctored exam for a Salesforce certification. In that year I passed 2 consultancy exams, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. Back then, there weren't many exams for a professional to take. It was limited to the Admin and Developer streams, the consultant exams and then the CTA route. 

While the exam paths are broadly the same the number of exams that someone can now take are greatly increased and as Salesforce builds on its portfolio it too is adding to the certification potential. If you're serious about Salesforce then you promote your experience with a certification to match.

So why the long stretch between exams you might ask? Well, the simple answer is, exams make me nervous. I'm not a natural brainiac. I have to study, I have to understand what it is that is being said to me. I'm not just someone who will accept the information and just absorb data. I need to be comfortable with the 'why' and 'how' of things. Which means, I may ask to know more than I may need to, but then once I get it, it then sticks better in my brain. And once it's there, I can convert it and relay it to someone else for a different scenario, because I get the context.

When you're in the middle of big projects they can have the tendency to take up a lot of your mind space and so, for me at any road, studying may not get the space its needs to lodge into my brain successfully. It's often in down time that I consider widening my knowledge. 

Trailhead has been a great in-betweener. The modules are small enough that you can tackle them and learn something in little chunks, making them neat achievable goals. I've dived into this platform to keep my learning topped up and have scored a reasonable double Ranger rank. I appreciate there are many who have way more badges than me. I'm in awe of their dedication.

With Covid-19 putting a life pause on many of us I thought it was time to get back on the certification route and see what I could achieve. I did consider getting back on the horse a year or so ago to do the Platform App Builder exam but then work got in my way. (Or read that as, my nervousness about taking exams won over when work got busy and I could justify to myself to stop putting myself through this torture).

Anyway, I had already prepared a load of notes from doing a Platform App Builder Trailmix in Trailhead. I was half way there, I told myself. Next, I signed up to Focus on Force to work my way through their mock exams. I knew the information, it was now getting my head around the question format that I needed to re-acquaint with. It's the ability to really understand what the question is asking and finding the right answer. There are some questions designed to trip you up. You must read each one carefully. And, ah, the beloved stories of Universal Containers...

I took a brave pill and thought, what the heck. I booked the exam. Having an exam looming does help to focus the mind so I spent the last few days prior working through the mock exams, proving to myself I could pass the test. 

In preparation for the exam I had followed the online exam proctor instructions to install the Sentinel software that can control your machine and to smile at the camera so they knew who to expect when I logged in. All checks done, my machine was ready.

On the day I was able to login and launch my exam without any issues. So, here's where things have changed since my last foray into the joys of Kryterion. Now you only have to use the camera that is in your machine and not an additional web camera that takes a view of you from the side. It makes for the set up much easier as you don't have to faff about making sure the camera has you and the rest of your surroundings in shot. It's a temporary allowance during Covid-19 times, but a welcome one.

Another change is if the Proctor wants to communicate with you during the exam the process is now much more customer friendly. The Proctor pauses your test, displays a white screen where they type a message. Mine asked if I could move my machine around so they could see the space I was working in. I think they wanted to ensure that I didn't have any notes or items disallowed nearby. Once I completed the task they thanked me and apologised for the disruption and restored my exam. The whole process was quite painless and I was very grateful.

It's quite a change from my 2013 experience when I last took an online proctored exam in my kitchen. I had to set up the separate web camera. While in the middle of my exam the computer screen changed into the 'black screen of death' with a message for me to call an international telephone number, (speak quickly, I'm paying for this intrusion). 

During one exam I was stopped twice and requested to make 2 calls. During the first, the Proctor asked, "who was I talking to?" My response, myself. I was speaking the question out loud, as it helped me to understand. I was asked to not do this. I complied and the exam was resumed. The second 'black screen of death' with a call request came about 15 minutes later. The Proctor said, "its very quiet there". I responded with, "I'm alone in my kitchen and no one else is in the house. You've asked me not to speak. Would you like me to put the radio on for you?" The Proctor, a little flustered, declined my offer. The exam resumed.

These sort of disruptions can discombobulate a person. It can knock their focus. Fortunately I think I passed the exam but as you can see, it did leave me feeling a bit bruised from the whole experience. 

Wind forward 7 years and I'm here again. Thankful for the change in process, I was able to work through the exam. I gave myself plenty of time to review my answers before hitting the submit button. 


Good enough for me. Very happy with that result. It proved to me that I can do it. I had conquered my exam anxiety. And maybe that is worth more than the certification. Sometimes you just have to try. Be brave. 


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