Certification exams are not cheap. Depending on the certification (and the certifying body) they can range from $100 to… well, much more. That is one of the reasons I have always been nervous about sitting exams – passing is great, but if you fail… not only do you walk out of the exam room with nothing to show for it, you also end up out the money.
The cost of exams is one of the reasons I used to try to sit as many beta exams as I could… once upon a time, they were free (although that is no longer the case). Any time I was offered an exam voucher, I snapped it up. When Microsoft offered free exams at in-person events (such as Microsoft TechEd) I would take as many as I could. Anything that I could do to save the money, I would do.
It is worth noting that a lot of employers have a deal with their employees where they will pay for the exams… in some cases only for exams that the employee passes, which makes it doubly important to pass the exam. While it is certainly not a gamble (you pass if you know the material, you fail if you do not), it can feel that way… You put your money (the cost of the exam) on the table, and you take the exam. If you pass, you get the money back and you get the certification. If you fail, then you crapped out and leave with nothing.
I have always tried to keep my eye out for certification ‘deals’ to share with my readers and with my students. As I spent most of my career focused on Microsoft certifications, I was always quick to call out Second Shot campaigns, or Exam Replays. A Replay is like purchasing Exam Insurance… if you fail, you get to retake the exam for free. If you pass… well, then you get no benefit from it.
In an email I received from CompTIA this morning I noticed two words as they flashed by… Exam Retake. A few days ago I sat the CompTIA Security+ exam, and as I mentioned in my article I was absolutely convinced I was going to fail. A couple of times along the way I took pause and wondered if CompTIA might not have a Second Shot Free option, and why I did not look before spending over $400 (including taxes) on this exam?
It turns out that they do… sort of. It seems that for each of their exams, you can purchase the exam voucher one of four ways:
- Voucher alone
- Basic Bundle (includes the voucher, the Self-Paced Study Guide, and an Exam Retake)
- Exam Prep Bundle (includes the Voucher, the Self-Paced Study Guide, a Practice Exam, and an Exam Retake)
- eLearning Bundle (includes the Voucher, an Exam Retake, and the CertMaster Learn)
Before you ask: I looked into it, and it seems that you cannot simply purchase the Voucher and the Retake… the Retake is only available as part of one of the bundles.
With that said, there is value to these bundles. The eBook and practice exams are great resources, as could be the CertMaster Learn self-paced learning tool.
The before-tax cost of the Security+ course is USD$381. Had I invested in the book and the Retake (the Basic Bundle) the price would have jumped to $549 – a $168 difference. However, had I failed the exam the first time I would have needed to repurchase it (another $381). So in fact, had I failed the exam, rather than being out an extra $168, I would have actually saved $213. Again, all of these prices are pre-tax. That saving does not even account for the fact that I would have also gotten the book… a huge benefit for students who do not have access to it already.
This week I find myself teaching the A+ course, which actually consists of two classes and two exams. Each of those exams will cost my students USD$239. The Basic Bundle comes to $349 – $110 over the cost, or if you fail, a $129 saving.
But are they worth it?
I have asked myself this question before. I was reading back on some old articles and it looks like I wrote that while I had previously registered for Second Shot vouchers before, I had never needed one. I do not think I ever purchased an Exam Replay voucher. With that said, there were plenty of times when I wish I had – I count at least 9 exams that I have failed only to come back and pass later.
Whether they are worth it or not really depends on your likelihood of passing the exam the first time around. If you are worried, then even just having the official book (or better yet, the practice exams) would make the bundles worthwhile. If you are confident, then maybe you don’t need to put the extra money down.
Whatever you decide, remember this: Nobody buys car insurance hoping they will have to make a claim. We all hope that we are throwing that money away. When we get into an accident, then we are thanking our lucky stars that we ‘threw that money away…’ as it comes back to save us.