A few years back, when someone mentioned that they really, really, wanted to take a Salesforce certification exam, the first piece of advice that I would eagerly offer was outrageously tactical: "You should totally get a webcam!"
It may sound silly, but there is a method to the madness. Let me explain — before COVID stroke, the proctoring system that Salesforce used required connecting an external webcam to your computer. That way, the proctor would be allowed to have a good perspective of your workspace and your environment.
Why was this so essential? Without that webcam, I had to book a slot at an examination center, get there on time, go through the check in procedures,... In short, I would not be in control. What if I didn't feel ready to take the exam? What if traffic was so bad that I did not make it on time? I went through this when I had to go through standardized testing back in my 20s when I was applying to grad school: TOEFL, GRE. It was a big pain, and I'm all for reducing stressors.
But getting that webcam was a bit of a technical pain. There were requirements and specifications to be fulfilled: resolution, minimal definition, refresh rate... It took me weeks to get all the different moving parts together. I even grabbed a tripod to make sure the dining room table would appear in the right angle, under the right amount of light. It felt like I was about to shoot a short. Yes, I was probably overdoing it just a tiny wee bit.
When I felt I was ready to take the plunge, I waited for a night when I was home alone — my wife had left with the kids to visit my folks in Spain, and I was going to join them a few days later, after finishing a couple things at work. By then, I had been working on the platform for a year as a solo admin-eloper, and I went into the exam as something experimental. The main goal was to try the setup, getting the Administrator certification was a secondary goal. It went well. I passed.
With that, I unlocked a new skill: the ability to take exams at any time in the day (as long as there are free slots), from anywhere in the world (twice in hotel rooms, true story — consultant life!), and, if I so choose,
in my PJs wearing athleisure attire. I book the exam for whatever is the latest available date, and I keep the booking like an arrow in my quiver. Whenever I feel ready to take the exam, I change the reservation to take the exam within the next 15 minutes, all systems ready for liftoff, on my terms. An exam can be a source of stress. I don't know what will be on the exam, but I control how, when and where I will be taking it.
Nowadays, the camera requirement has been relaxed. However, the concept of owning your context and your environment to perform better in your certification exams is, I believe, still a powerful idea. Favorable circumstances can help us reach a state of flow more easily and propel us across the finish line. And every small push counts.