Ranty Tips for Passing your ITIL V3 Intermediate Exam

Two things happened this week that inspired me to write a little rant.

First: APMG just released the average pass rates for ITIL V3 Foundation and Intermediate-level classes. You can check it out here. They’re lower than you’d probably think. (Thanks to ITILNews for the link.)

Second: The other day I received a phone call from a training company sales person looking to hire me to teach an ITIL V3 Intermediate course. Apparently someone else taught an Intermediate course for one of his clients, and “only half of the students passed,” he said. The client was very unhappy of course, since the training was obviously bad if only half the students passed. </sarcasm>

The sales guy asked me what I would do differently to “make sure all the students passed.” I told him blankly, “Any instructor who says they can guarantee a pass rate, especially for an intermediate exam, is either full of hooey or is doing something they shouldn’t be doing.”

Folks, we instructors can lead the ol’ horses to water, but we cannot make ’em drink. We can give students the tools they need to be successful, but only the students can actually use the tools, put the Blackberrys down and fully participate in class, make the time to study appropriately each evening, remain calm during the difficult exam, carefully read each question and answer, and pass it. What makes the best instructors so great is that they inspire students to focus and work hard. That’s it.

Every instructor teaching Intermediate classes has to be a Certified ITIL Expert who is also accredited to teach that specific class; plus they have to use accredited materials which cover the exam syllabus thoroughly. Unless you’re dealing with unusual circumstances, students are taught the same topics no matter who is doing the teaching. Granted, one teacher’s style might be Death by PowerPoint, and someone else’s might be mostly facilitated discussions and exercises; so students should shop around for an instructor whose teaching style matches their learning style. So I’ll say it again: What makes the best instructors so great is that they inspire students to put their Blackberrys down, focus and participate in class, study after class, get their heads in the game, study hard, and take responsibility for their own success.


Remember “Paper MCSEs?”

Intermediate exams are meant to be challenging; if they weren’t, every doofus on the corner would have an ITIL certification and then the certifications would become worthless.

Remember back in the late 90s when every guy on the corner had their MCSE? They’d pay a few thousand bucks to attend a boot camp where they memorized the Transcender exam answers and hey whaddaya know: they’d pass. But if you got ’em in an interview and asked them what their favorite login script tool was, they’d get the deer in the headlights look. (I was a huge fan of Kixtart, myself.) We called these people “Paper MCSEs” because they had the certification on paper, but no actual skills or experience to back it up… and these folks were a dime a dozen.

Compare that to the PMP program. If someone has their PMP certification, chances are they’ve really earned it. I don’t know many Paper PMPs. It’s supposed to be hard, because it’s an honor to hold the cert.


Set Yourself Up for Success

Do you know how many students show up to an Intermediate class without owning the actual ITIL books? Folks: ITIL is a set of books. You’re spending around $3,000 to take a week-long class to learn how to implement what’s in one or more of these books. Shouldn’t you be interested enough in the topic to um, have purchased the book(s) for yourself at some point?

An analogy: If you want to be an authority on all of the geeky goodness in The DaVinci Code, shouldn’t you own a copy of the book? Just sayin’. :-)

Five Tips for Passing your ITIL V3 Intermediate Exam:

  1. Buy the ITIL Book(s) that your class is based on, and read them. Don’t skim them, read them before class. Heck, after you read them, you might not even need the class.

  3. Shop around for a training company with an instructor who teaches in a style that you like. Do you prefer lectures? Do you prefer exercises to apply what you’ve learned so it sticks better? Do you like taking a zillion practice exams? Ask yourself these questions first, and then ask your training provider. If you sense BS coming from the sales person, ask to talk to the instructor. You’re not being a pain, you’re being smart.

  5. If your class is scheduled during a week where you happen to have a lot of production issues, reschedule the class. You need to be focused in class, not fighting fires via your Blackberry.

  7. Shut off the WiFi. Bring your laptop to class if that’s your preferred way of taking notes, but stay off the internet. No work email, no personal email, no Google Chat, no Twitter, no Facebook, nada. Immerse yourself.

  9. Get a copy of the course/exam syllabus (either download it from APMG, or ask your instructor) so you know which topics from the ITIL books you’re expected to know. Highlight those sections in your book (the actual ITIL book, not your student workbook), and study those each night, outside of class. This might mean you need to get a babysitter.

This may be hard for some of you to hear, but I’ll say it anyway:
Not everyone is going to pass. Not everyone deserves a gold medal. You get a gold medal for winning, not for just showing up.
But if you study hard and really know your stuff, you’ll have no trouble earning that certification.

Good luck!

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