A piece of advice we often give in the forums at CertTutor.net is that when you're studying for a certification, you should book your exam as soon as possible. Scheduling an exam ahead of time gives you a deadline to concentrate on and helps prevent you from procrastinating away weeks of study time. When you book an exam, you're committed to taking the next step in your certification studies. Consider the difference between someone who plans to finish an exam in 2 months time and someone who has scheduled an exam in 2 months time: One has made a commitment, and the other only plans to make a commitment.

The act of scheduling an exam doesn't mean you're committed to taking the exam on that date. As any exam provider should mention when you schedule an exam, a candidate can reschedule an exam as long as that person gives sufficient notice to the exam provider. But before you decide to commit or not commit, let's examine the pros and cons of rescheduling a certification exam.

Generally, a candidate can reschedule an exam up to 24 hours before the scheduled exam time without incurring any financial penalty. This time frame might vary, depending on the exam provider; however, the exam provider should inform you about the details of the rescheduling policy when you book the exam. Make a note of the rescheduling policy, and keep this information in your diary or day planner. Keep in mind that after the rescheduling deadline passes, you're committed to taking the exam or forfeiting the money you spent on the exam.

As the rescheduling deadline approaches, most people know whether they're ready for an exam. Some students, however, can successfully cram at the last minute. Those students will probably reschedule the exam only if they feel that they have absolutely no chance of getting up to speed in the next 24 hours. If you're in this position, do your best to wean yourself from this habit--the best thing to be doing at 2 A.M. the morning of an exam is sleeping, not trying to cram some abstract networking theory into your mind.

So when should you reschedule an exam? Simply not feeling ready is a good reason. Candidates who have a reasonable amount of experience taking exams can usually judge whether they're ready to take an exam. Conversely, candidates who have little experience taking certification exams can be poor judges of whether they're ready. Inexperienced test takers might feel that they're not ready, not realizing that the uneasy feeling comes more from nervousness about possible failure than a valid assessment of their progress. If you haven't taken a lot of certification exams and you aren't a good judge of whether you're ready, be cautious about rescheduling your exams.

Other reasons to reschedule involve life intervening in study plans. Sometimes you become ill a week or so before your exam; sometimes extra pressures turn up at home or work that eat into your study time. If your study plans are seriously disrupted, you should consider rescheduling rather than entering an exam ill-prepared. When rescheduling, try to reschedule your exam 1 week after the original exam date. This short deadline keeps the pressure up but gives you more time to get ready. If you're not feeling quite ready and just need this extra bit of time, promise yourself not to reschedule again.

Sometimes 1 week isn't realistic, but try not to reschedule your exam several months after you were originally going to take it. Never reschedule an exam more than twice. If you find yourself rescheduling for a third time, perhaps you should admit to yourself that you're not ready to take the next step on your certification journey and cancel the exam. Take a break, and book the exam anew when you're confident that you can devote time to your studies.

The biggest problem in rescheduling an exam is losing your momentum. After you reschedule an exam, the immediate pressure is off, which means your attention can move away from exam preparation. Although you might have to deal with being sick, taking on extra work, or addressing family matters, remind yourself of your commitment to take the exam and try to complete even a small amount of studying each day. If you haven't approached your exam materials in several days, you might start to forget some of the things from your prior exam preparation. When you reschedule, you're keeping your commitment to take the exam in the future. If you let your studies slide, you should cancel the exam and come back to it when you have more time.