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Ten Tips for Passing the ITIL V3 Foundation Exam

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Nervous about taking the ITIL V3 Foundation Exam? Whether you’ve taken an ITIL class or chosen the self-study route, try these tips and tricks from Certified ITIL Expert Jill Knapp, author of ITIL V 3 Foundation Exam Video Mentor, to boost your confidence as well as your score.
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Because I'm a Certified ITIL Expert and Accredited ITIL Trainer, students and fellow IT geeks always ask me for tips and tricks for passing the ITIL V3 Foundation Exam. Perhaps you're still fuzzy on some concepts, or maybe you have some test anxiety. Check out my top suggestions to prepare yourself for the exam and pass with flying colors.

Tip 1: Practice Makes Perfect

Take at least one of the official sample exams (also known as sample papers) from APMG, and then read the Answer Rationales. If you've taken a class through an Accredited Training Provider, you should have been given at least one sample exam. If you've decided on the self-study route, you can download one sample exam from APMG's official ITIL site.

Every official sample exam from APMG comes with an answer key and a list of the Answer Rationales; however, some training providers neglect to provide the Answer Rationales for their students. The Answer Rationales are very handy, because they explain these important details:

  • Why each answer on the sample exam is correct
  • Where in the Core ITIL Publications you can find the answer
  • Which section(s) of the exam syllabus are being tested with that particular question

Study the sample questions and the Answer Rationales so you can understand how you're expected to approach each question.

Tip 2: Read Carefully

When taking the exam (or the sample exams, for that matter), slow down and read each question and all possible answers carefully. It's very easy to miss a question if you skimmed it instead of taking the time to read it thoroughly.

You also need to read the wording of each question very carefully. I can't begin to tell you how many students miss questions because of one or two missed—or imagined!—words. For example, some questions are phrased as negatives: "Which of the following is not a subprocess of Capacity Management?" If you miss the word not in that question, you could very well get the answer wrong.

If you're taking a paper-based exam, it's helpful to circle important words as you first read the question, just to make sure that you understand what's being asked.

If you're taking a computer-based exam, that's all the more reason to slow down and read extra carefully, since the test-taking software doesn't allow you to jot down notes.

Tip 3: Think ITIL, Not Your Organization

Give the ITIL-based answer, not the answer that best fits how your organization operates. You're being tested on how well you understand the ITIL processes, functions, tools, roles, and general concepts as presented in the five ITIL books—you're not being tested on what your company does.

Tip 4: Know Your Keywords

Certain ITIL concepts have keywords loosely associated with them. Learning these keywords can point you in the right direction when taking the exam, and in your own practice, too:

  • Does the question sound like marketing lingo? ("How do we create value for our customers?" "Why should a customer buy our services?") Is it talking about setting policies and objectives, or other "big picture" ideas? If so, it's related to Service Strategy.
  • When you see the word negotiate, think of the Service Level Management process. The Service Level Manager (or the Service Level Management process) negotiates all of the following:
    • Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
    • Operational Level Agreements (OLAs).
    • Underpinning Contracts (UCs). Of course, UCs may also be negotiated by the Supplier Manager.
  • When you see phrasing like fairness and transparency, think Governance.
  • When you see the word relationship, think of the Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM) process, or the SACM-related tools that record and manage those relationships:
    • Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Records relationships between Configuration Items (CIs), assets, infrastructure, and services.
    • Configuration Management System (CMS). Records relationships between different types of data, such as incidents, problems, CIs, services, changes, known errors, documentation, and so on.
  • If a question mentions data centers, this usually points to the function known as Facilities Management, since that team is typically responsible for managing data centers, as well as the HVAC systems inside to keep them cool, the backup generators, cabling, raised flooring, etc.
  • The phrase self-contained unit is often used when defining the word function.
  • The phrases pre-authorized or pre-approved should make you think of a Standard Change.
  • The phrase pre-defined approach is often used to describe models: incident models, change models, request models, or problem models.

Tip 5: Avoid Legalese and Use Measurable Targets

Your SLAs should never contain legalese. SLAs that are written in complicated legalese won't be read, which means that they won't be followed. SLAs should be written in clear, concise, simple language—but they should also be complete. Leave no ambiguity or wiggle-room in your SLAs.

All targets in your SLAs, OLAs, and UCs should be measurable. If your targets aren't measurable, you'll have no way to prove whether an SLA target has been met. This leads to arguments, nasty-grams, and a general mistrust between IT and the business.

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