The views expressed here are mine alone and have not been authorized by, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citrix.

Are you considering a CCA and don’t know how to start preparing? Do you have a goal around getting your CCA and are nervous about how you will work toward meeting this goal? As an Exam Developer and test candidate, I can tell you how I did it.

The Journey Begins
When I first joined Citrix as an Exam Developer in December 2008, one of my personal and professional goals was to increase my technical aptitude. In my quest to master XenApp, I needed a motivator and a measure to assess my skills. After much contemplation, I decided that the best way for me to work at learning XenApp and prove that I really knew my stuff was to prepare for and take the XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008 (A05) CCA exam. And thus my journey began.

However, deciding to take the exam was only the beginning; now, I was stuck with the dilemma of planning how I would prepare for and conquer the A05 exam. There were definitely some long days spent studying as well as a lot of hard work in my lab environment, but today I can proudly say that I am Citrix certified; and you can be too! Here’s how…

Step 1: Obtain Study Materials (Including Product Documentation)
For me, whenever I want to know more about a topic and/or how to do something, I begin by doing some research. One of the first things I did when I started preparing for my exam was download the exam prep guide, the product administrator’s guide, the installation guide, and other useful technical documentation. Once I had these documents, I stored them for reference purposes or for when I needed some additional information on a topic. Now, you might say to yourself, “There’s so much documentation out there, how do I know what will be useful?” That leads me to my next point.

Step 2: Refer to the Exam Prep Guide
Every Citrix exam has a corresponding preparation guide that can be downloaded from www.citrixeducation.com. The prep guide has a plethora of useful information, including the number of questions on an exam, the topics that will be tested, and even some sample questions. To answer the question posed before about which documentation will be useful, the exam prep guide even lists the technical documentation used to develop the questions on the exam. I’ll tell you in a little bit exactly how I used the prep guide to guide my studying, but to learn more about how to access and use the exam prep guide, read here.

Step 3: Set Up or Obtain Access to a Lab Environment
In my opinion, an integral component of my success on the A05 exam was that I spent a lot of time getting hands-on experience with the product. With the exam prep guide detailing objectives that would be tested on the exam, I was able to go into the lab environment and try to complete the task that the objective outlined. For instance, one of the objectives in the exam prep guide was: “Given a scenario and/or requirements, determine how to configure a XenApp Services site.” In my lab environment, I went through the steps for creating and configuring a XenApp Services site and familiarized myself with the various options available as well as the differences between them. I repeated these steps for the objectives that required hands-on experience, and after a while, I felt comfortable completing a lot of the tasks without the use of documentation. For objectives that were more conceptual, I referenced the corresponding course and/or product documentation to gain an understanding of the concept being tested.

I would stress to anyone preparing for an exam that hands-on experience, whether in a personal lab, in the lab of a self-paced online course, or in the Citrix practice labs, should be a fundamental part of your study regimen. It definitely made a world of difference for me.

Step 4: Make Time to Study, Study, Study
With hectic work and personal lives, I’m sure this step is easier said than done, but in the end it will pay off. I had to block off time on my calendar during which I focused on studying and using the product in my lab environment. Had I not allocated time, I think I would have easily put studying on the backburner and gone into the exam unprepared. Citrix exams are designed and developed using rigorous processes, so as a word of advice, you do not want to go into an exam unprepared.

If you think you may be unable to stick to a self-disciplined study regimen or you would like to add more structure to your learning, you may want to consider taking a Citrix instructor-led training course. In addition to my work in a lab environment, I attended authorized Citrix training, and it provided me with the foundation I needed to start studying on my own.

Step 5: Familiarize Yourself with the Registration Process and Citrix Exam Policies
The last step before actually going in and taking an exam is registering for the exam. Citrix exams are offered worldwide at Pearson VUE testing centers, and it is important to note that the process for registration differs for various people. For instance, there are different processes for those who have taken an exam before versus those who are new to Citrix exams. The process also differs for those who are Citrites versus those who are not. For more information on registering online or over the phone, visit www.pearsonvue.com/citrix.

In addition to the familiarizing yourself with the registration process, it might also be beneficial to take a look at the exam policies and candidate conduct policies. For instance, did you know that you must wait 24 hours before retaking an exam for the second time, and for additional attempts after your second attempt, you must wait 14 days? You can find out more about exam policies and candidate conduct policies by visiting www.citrixeducation.com.

The End of the Road
In the end, I registered for, took and passed the exam. I learned a lot from my experience. Being on the other side of the fence as a candidate taking an exam gave me insight into the efforts required to prepare for an exam. The most important part of preparing is strategizing. Scheduling your hands-on time and gathering the appropriate resources makes the process go a lot more smoothly. If you have a goal to pass an exam, just remember that all the resources you need are right at your fingertips. Once you have them, make a concerted effort to study and get hands-on experience with the product. I did it, and you can certainly do it too.

Good luck on your journey!