Confessions of an exam addict

Veronica Sopher - Microsoft

Guest post by Telmo Sampaio, MCT


 Hi, I’m Telmo. I’m an addict. It’s been eight days since I last took a test. I still remember my first hit as if it were today. It was early in the afternoon on January 12, 1996. I was anxiously waiting, one hand gripping a pencil, the other in my mouth as I bit my fingernails. My eyes were dry like never before as I stared at the 14-inch CRT screen in front of me. I could not blink. Those few seconds felt like hours. But once that screen refreshed, I was hooked for life. I had just passed my Windows 3.1 exam. It meant a new job, back to training people. But what I did not know is that I had just picked up a vice I could never get rid of. I had become an exam addict.

Fast forward to 2014: I have now taken more than 150 exams—and passed more than 115 of them. Yes, I fail every now and then. I am human, after all. I feel embarrassed whenever someone asks me how many exams I have taken or passed. People can be judgmental. Some people automatically classify me as an antisocial geek, while others assume I am a nut job. They are right, to a certain degree. I am a proud geek and a Brazil nut. But I enjoy good conversation, music, dancing, and outdoor activities as much as the next person.

Like every vice, you can only control it when you fully understand it. And you only fully understand it after you learn its real cause. I have been asked WHY so many times. After a few years, I realized that each time I answered that question I had a slightly different answer. As a trainer, I need to be certified to teach a class; as an exam author, I need to be exposed to exams as much as possible; and as a consultant, I need to prove to my potential customers that I have the knowledge they seek. Don’t get me wrong, these are all very good reasons for taking exams. But, after scratching the surface and digging a bit deeper into my TechKnowLogical soul (shameless plug), I was able to face the cold hard truth. It is all about being—and feeling—current.

No matter how long you have been in IT, you have experienced working on a project with a dinosaur. They are all around—the guy who knows Assembler, programs in COBOL, and still maintains a working Trash80 at home. Most of them are a pit of knowledge, but some do not go beyond those outdated technologies. I don’t want to be a dinosaur. I am proud of owning a Trash80, I have a pristine box of 8in floppy disks in my garage, and I cherish my Assembler skills. But I do not want to stop in time. Being current is the most challenging task an IT professional faces. Unlike most traditional professions, ours is ever evolving. And it’s not an easy task to keep up with the changes. Most of us face technological restrictions at work. We use the tools available in our work environment, and sometimes they are outdated. Even when a certain technology is mature, it still might not be adopted by our workplace.

How do we overcome that? How can I learn a new technology if my company doesn’t even use it yet? I cannot answer that question for everyone. But I found my own answer a long time ago. It’s all about exams. Exams force me to set a deadline for learning new technologies and for better understanding the ones I use frequently. Making that small financial investment and setting a date for the exam forces me to study. Along with my fear of becoming a dinosaur, it fuels my desire to remain current, and I am propelled to a new learning adventure each time I make that initial investment. Now, if you would excuse me, I’ve gone too long without my fix. I need to retake that exam I took eight days ago.

Telmo Sampaio is a consultant, trainer, and author. He is also the Chief Geek for his own company, TechKnowLogical.

  • Joseph L Ndlovu
    | |

    Hi Telmo

    I have a similar addiction to you I have written close 50 exams from 2000 to now and I am planning on 4 more exams in the next two months. I think my addiction came when I wrote Design SQL Server 2000 and failed, from that day I have just taken up any challenge failing is the best way to learn

  • Davin Mickelson
    | |

    Thank you for sharing, Telmo!

    I am up to 32 passed exams myself and am happy to hear the challenges and success of fellow MCPs.

    Test on, bud!

  • sensbeard
    | |

    I am by no means addicted but i will admit the only way to learn some things outside of my working environment are to take exams and study up on my mistakes.

    I do not think there are enough troubleshooting aspects in the latest exams.

    | | - I am only up to 25 exams but I did travel to India twice to do courses to get certified.

    I even have a whiteboard covering most of the wall in my home office for planning the current exam. I have worn out 2 whiteboard erasers so far... is just the current plans...

  • Frank
    | |, how big is that whiteboard? I like that setup.

  • Andy Barkl
    | |

    I have taken over 300 in 18 years but that includes Cisco, CompTIA, and Microsoft. My second exam was a Microsoft exam--Windows 95, just after the A+ exam.