Guest post by Davin Mickelson, Microsoft Certified Trainer
Microsoft’s certification exams can be quite challenging, as everyone who has taken one knows. Usually, most of the other people in the testing room are very respectful. Most do little to attract attention to themselves, and they make it easy to focus on the exam. However, there are those others…
I began taking Microsoft exams 16 years ago, and over time, I have discovered some of the most annoying exam-takers. You’ve probably sat in a room with some of these people—or perhaps you are one of them. (To tell the truth, I, too, have been one or another of these personalities in the past and probably will be in the future.)
By the way, I almost added one more to this list—the Exam Veteran. You can spot her right away. She has been taking technical exams for a few years (and likely also exhibits some of the characteristics on our Top 10 list). She is also the one who adjusts everything before she even takes her seat, including the mouse, mouse pad, monitor, keyboard, and the chair height. She wants to be comfortable for the next couple of hours. OK, guilty as charged. I definitely do this.
Do you recognize any of these characters from your own exam experiences?
The Sicko There's always a guy taking the exam who has a cold and who can't seem to clear his sinuses or throat—especially in the winter. He constantly reminds everyone else that he is suffering—right over there. He is often a “sniffler” on a 30-second loop. If he is a throat clearer, he has to punctuate with a loud "Uh!"
The Exam Whisperer These people drive me batty and are often related to the Victory Yeller. They are so concerned about missing something that they whisper (not necessarily quietly) each and every exam question and each and every answer. This guy makes it very hard to focus on your own exam. It's no wonder that they offer headphones at most testing facilities. Honestly, if I wanted to read it with him, I'd sit next to him.
The Seat Adjuster/Bouncer These people just can't get comfortable. Usually, it's a younger "bouncing off the wall" college student who is constantly adjusting her seat. She's not a seasoned cube dweller, and she hasn't yet learned how to adjust the standard office chair so that her feet don’t dangle. Her nervous look says, "This is office life?" Welcome to the real world, kiddo.
The Whiz Kid Occasionally, there’s a tester seated near you who finishes and gets up to leave—while you’re still on question 17. What kind of exam was she taking? Alphabetize 10 words? Answer five simple questions? I’m always jealous that she finished so quickly!
The Wandering Eye Bored? Scared? What are they looking at? Are they looking at me? Or my test? The odds of any of us taking the same exam are extremely rare. This person is probably just curious. And no, I've never seen anyone kicked out of an exam room for this (or any other) behavior. In fairness, this is just a minor nuisance, so I ignore him and focus on my exam. But if I finish first, I may give him a dirty look on my way out the door.
The Victory Yeller Seriously. You’ve seen this guy. As soon as he sees “You passed the exam” on the screen, he jumps up from his chair, pounds the desk, and yells "Whoo-hoo!" He throws his chair up against the desk and proudly struts out of the testing room. My concentration is completely blown until he leaves the room (and often for a few minutes after that)!
The Writer I don't necessarily blame the exam-taker for this. Some exams require more typing than others. Or perhaps a tester is offering Microsoft some detailed feedback. I have to admit, though, that I find these folks to be a distraction. Mouse-clickers can be annoying too. They often click in a repeating rhythm. But I’m guilty as charged, once again. When I go back to review my answers or when I scroll on tiny screens, I’m a mouse-clicker. The extra noise is definitely a distraction, so I try to keep it down.
The Leg Shaker Somebody drank too much coffee! He is shaking his leg to relax himself. This is usually not a problem unless the chair squeaks along with it. If the floor is not rock solid at the testing center, you may even feel the vibration in your chair or table—or worse yet, your monitor may jiggle. Argh! It’s like taking a test on the high seas!
The Stinker Have you ever ended up sitting next to someone who smoked three packs the previous night (probably studying) and didn't have time to shower before the test? I’ve sat near people who are wearing the scents of their most recent meal. It’s hard to forget these folks if you’re seated next to them.
The Conversationalist If you want to be the target of a lot of angry glares, find a friend in the testing room and start chatting. Once, an acquaintance of mine walked up to me—mid-test—and tried to strike up a conversation. We're not supposed to talk in there! I definitely wanted to disappear.
Unfortunately, I see a little of myself in all of these personalities. You might see yourself in them, too. To be fair, we’re all human and testing can be stressful. But if we put ourselves in the shoes (or the chair!) of the person next to us (well, not literally) and try to be more mindful of causing distractions, testing could be a more positive experience for everyone!
Given a choice, I will go to a test center that focuses on IT. I find that cuts back on the riff-raff. Unfortunately for me, the best place in my area does not offer all the exams, so I end up mixed in with all the other people that Prometric serves.
I guess I am the Veteran. I move all the stuff to the exact left-handed position I like, adjust the tiny monitor to the correct height, and align my dry erase board and pen with the geometry of the desk. After lamenting the unsanitary conditions, I click next and dig in.
It took me quite some time but I found the perfect place (and time) to take the exams: it is a clean/clear room, with a good view (sometimes I leave a hard question opened and go to see the sky in order to see if I get something from the clouds...) and the most important: no one around and 9h00 AM when I normally take them!
Things that other veterans also do ;)
The bad news is that I'm (normally) about half of those people. The good news is that I go to a REALLY small testing center and almost never have anyone else in the room with me. The two times I did have people in the room with me, I was a good boy.
I could add a couple more based on my long experiences in sitting in test centers.
Drawer - person spending lot of time drawing and scribbling stuff on papers and shuffling the papers more or less loudly around the table. Especially in design exams I’ve done this myself since I need to draw things on paper to fully visualize what a good solution is.
Fiddler – person needing tactile feedback when thinking. Rotates stuff in hands, taps on table, goes back and forth in chair and in worst case is clicking the pen all the time.
The Whiz Kid could be sadly a Brain Dumper as well. If you can answer the question in few seconds barely after reading the question this sounds like somebody has been memorizing the answers beforehand. I think these are the most annoying exam takers.
Sadly, yes, many "Whiz Kids" probably are brain dumpers. Some of us genuinely know the subject that well though. Brain Dumpers are the most annoying ones. Genuine Whiz Kids, I don't think are annoying. If you are annoyed by a genuine Whiz Kid, then you're probably annoyed at yourself, not at them.
Bangles & Dangles: As both a frequent exam taker and an instructor [have to keep those certs current], please remind women to remove their metal bracelets – bangles & charms – anything that makes noise when she moves her arm or when the metal bands / dangles hit the table. She is so accustomed to the sound she no longer hears it. But everyone else in the room does – and it will always echo.
Fragrances: And let’s not forget about the people who douse themselves with cologne, aftershave or perfume in order to "feel good" for the exam. Even if you adjust to the overwhelming scents, your body still smells it and you get a raging headache from their overused toiletries.
I can tune out most sounds [I have kids], but the headaches...If you pass the exam with a raging headache, you KNOW your material.
As uncomfortable as it is to be in a confined space with this person, I can sympathize a little with the Sicko - nobody wants to pay that rescheduling fee, and I've never met anyone who can feel an illness coming on 15 days in advance.
I confess to being a Victory Yeller. It's tough not to do when you pass an exam after 3 failed attempts and you've considered changing careers to a Walmart Greeter.