“Yo, his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy.”
With the CTS “exam season” approaching in June, chances are many people are feeling the words of Eminem’s song Lose Yourself. For good reason. Many of those preparing to take the CTS are putting a lot of time and money into the exam. If you chose to the take the course and the exam at InfoComm, you are putting thousands of dollars into getting your certification. To make your palms even more sweaty, it is likely that employer is paying the bill for this, and your boss will be anxiously awaiting the results of your exam.
At Bates College we encourage and support all of our classroom techs to get their CTS exam. Both of our classroom techs (Ben Lizzotte and Ben Pinkham), and I, all have our CTS. In fact, Ben Lizzotte is one of those rare people who have the general certification and both specialities. I took the opportunity to discuss with them how they prepared for the exams in the hopes that you can use some of their hints to make the exam a little less stressful.
Ben and Ben both took the CTS prep course at InfoComm and then took the test the day after the course ended. They also both passed the exam on the first attempt. Their preparations started months in advance though. They both bought the CTS Exam guide book about six months in advance of their trip. They used the book to prepare for the exam before they took the class. Both Bens told me that they believe this was a big advantage for them. It allowed them to walk into the preparation class feeling a bit more confident with the subject matter. It was clear to them that some of the people in the class had not worked through that level of preparation. They felt that having already looked at the book one time, they could focus on what was being taught and knowing where they had questions.
In addition to reading the books in advance, they also put what they were studying into practice. While this sounds pretty basic, it made a big difference. Over the course of the months they were working on the book, various design, setup and support questions had to be answered. By using what they learned in the book, they were able to commit it to memory, along with giving it real life exposure.
When we discussed the value of the classes, we all felt that the classes were an important part of prepping for the exam. It gave them a few “study partners” to work with over the three days of the course. It also gave them access to certified professionals (the instructors) to ask very detailed questions. Although the two Bens had different experiences with the quality of their instructors, they still both felt that the experience was well worth the money. One major thing that they pointed out is that by taking the prep course and the exam all at InfoComm, and in the course of four days, they were able to have a very focused experience. The show had not begun, and the evening festivities were still a few days away. This allowed them to focus on the course, and study in the evening.
Another important aspect of the in person courses was the ability to talk with people who know the structure of the exam. Listen to the hints they give you for taking the exam. You have to remember during the exam that you are looking for the best answer. Your instructors can give you tips about what that means.
The most stressful part of the exam for all three of us was the idea of having to put formulas into practice. Not that we are afraid of math, none of us were. Rather, we were afraid of “losing ourselves in the moment” and going blank of the various formulas you had to remember. Ben Pinkham’s experience provided a good hint. His instructor told the class that the way the exam is structured you could actually get every single formula question wrong and still pass the exam. That is actually a great tool for helping people relax. He was not suggesting that they don’t learn the math, quite the opposite they spent significant time on it, but rather, he was trying to tell them not to freeze up if they stumbled on a simple formula question.
So, as any good test taker would do, I am sure you are taking notes from this blog and condensing them for study purposes. Let me save you a few minutes and do that for you. The study tips in a nutshell:
- Purchase the Exam Study Guide in advance and use it to prepare for the course. Walk into class prepared to ask questions and clear up confusing material.
- Find time on a weekly basis to do some quiet studying. Talk to your boss about whether this can be during the workday. How about an extra hour after lunch time, twice per week?
- Force yourself to use what you learn in your daily work. Whether this means using it in the design and install of a new space, or, to evaluate current spaces and see if good design and install was practiced, using the information will help commit it to memory.
- Take the CTS prep course and the exam while at InfoComm. It is understandable that not all companies will pay for this, but the experience will allow you to focus on the subject matter without distraction.
- Learn what the format of the exam will be, and the best tips for taking the exam. This will be covered in your course and will help you knew what to expect and relax during the exam.
- On the day of the exam, don’t panic. Your preparation has given you the tools you need to pass the exam. You don’t need to get every question correct, remember that and forgive yourself and move on if you get stuck.
Image via InfoComm Twitter account