Certification Survey Extra: Test, fail ... repeat?
Posted on
September 14, 2023

Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.


Don't let failure stand in the way of passing your next IT certification exam.

Depending on who you ask, storied inventor Thomas Edison tested a thousand, or thousands, or possibly even 10,000 different designs for an electric light bulb before discovering something he could successfully patent and that would be commercially viable.

The point, however, is not that Warren De la Rue successfully developed an electric incandescent light bulb with a platinum filament in 1840, seven years before Edison was born. The point is that sometimes you have to make more than just one attempt in order to succeed at doing something.

This is as true of IT certification as it is of anything else in life. Some exam candidates do, indeed, succeed on their first attempt to pass a given IT certification exam. That's not how it goes for everyone, however, and failure to pass a certification exam should not deter anyone from trying again.

We like to quantify things around here, of course, and that's one reason why we asked participants in our recent Computer Technician Certification Survey about their experience taking exams. More specifically, we asked them what is the highest number of times they have ever failed while attempting to pass a certification exam.

For a considerable majority of survey respondents, failure is an obstacle they have rarely needed to overcome. A notable 36.8 percent of those surveyed have never failed a certification exam, while 32.9 percent of respondents have never failed more than once while attempting to pass a certification exam.

That leaves us with a little less than one-third of those surveyed for whom exam failure is perhaps not common, but also not entirely or mostly out of the question. Roughly 17 percent of respondents have failed twice on at least one occasion, while 9.2 percent have failed three times on at least one occasion.

A little less than four percent of those surveyed have had at least one experience of failing four times. And that's it — nobody who took the survey has ever failed more than four times while attempting to pass a certification exam. The question also lets you answer that you have failed five times or "six or more," but nobody needed those answer options.

We asked a related question about IT certification endurance. Sometimes it can take a year or more to prepare for and pass a certification exam, especially when tackling an expert-level credential. With that in mind, we asked survey participants what is the longest length of time they have ever needed in order to get from cracking open that first study guide to making a new résumé entry.

Here's what we learned:

Q: From start to finish, what is the longest length of time it has ever taken you to earn a computer technician certification?

0 to 3 months — 19.7 percent
4 to 7 months — 34.2 percent
8 to 11 months — 17.1 percent
1 year — 13.2 percent
13 to 16 months — 2.6 percent
17 to 20 months — 3.9 percent
21 to 23 months — 2.6 percent
2 years — 3.9 percent
3 years — 1.3 percent
More than 3 years — 1.3 percent

There are clearly some speed demons out there, those who have never needed more than "0 to 3 months" to prepare for an pass an exam. And some people have needed a year or more on at least one occasion to see a certification endeavor through.

For most survey respondents, it would seem — including the speed demons, of course — certification has never been too terribly time-consuming. If you're contemplating a computer technician certification, don't be too intimidated by the process. There's a good chance you won't need more than 11 months, at the outside, to go from start to finish, and you're fairly likely to succeed at passing the actual exam on either your first or second attempt.


About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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