What Are Performance-Based Questions?

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If you are preparing for CompTIA certifications to get a job, here’s something that should really excite you!

Getting a job is not about certificates, and getting a promotion is not about your score in your CompTIA exams; what really makes you indispensable is how much problem you can solve.

Most CompTIA exam questions come in the form of multiple-choice questions, but what really tests your readiness to work in an industry and solve problems is a question type known as PBQ, Performance-based questions. so…

What Are Performance-based questions?

Performance-based questions are created to test your ability to perform a task or solve a problem using a simulated environment.

A simulated environment is a computer-generated environment that looks so much like reality to the person experiencing it.

Performance-based questions are generated in this kind of simulated environment to provide situations that will seem like real-world problems that often come up in the course of work.

Being used to, and performing well in performance-based questions demonstrates your ability to solve real-world problems, and this is what every employer looks out for.

How Does CompTIA Implement Performance-based Questions?

CompTIA does not specifically create exams where all the questions are performance-based; what they do instead is to blend multiple-choice and performance-based questions to test IT pros on their knowledge and hands-on skills.

Performance-based questions allow you to better execute your hands-on skills and practical experience in scenarios that resemble real-life situations. They are paired along with traditional multiple-choice questions, in which you select the best answer to the question asked from a list of available options.

For the performance-based questions, the question types within the exams are built and designed based on the typical job roles related to that particular certification.

For example, the performance-based questions given in CompTIA A+ exams will differ from those given in Security+ and in each case, the questions given will be the kind of real life problems you are expected to face in the course of working either as a security specialist or IT support person.

Performance-based questions can come in two question types:

  • Simulations: Simulation test questions provide a technology environment, such as a firewall, network diagram or operating system. The functionality is limited and aimed to allow numerous potential responses or pathways to complete the simulation.
  • Virtual environments: Virtual testing environments use virtual machines or systems that run specific operating systems and software. Because these environments provide a complete and full feature-set, all forms of accurate and inaccurate steps or pathways can be completed.

How Does CompTIA Mark Performance-based Questions?

CompTIA certification exams are marked by the exams’ testing provider, PearsonVUE, for both in-person and online testing.

CompTIA keeps the scoring between each question confidential and so it can not be definitely predicted.

However a question that commonly comes up is: since performance-based questions are based on hands-on experience, there can be more than one way to solve some of the problems. So, will you get the desired score if you solve the problem in a way different from the expected way?

The examination providers have answered this, saying that there may be questions for which there is more than one way to answer correctly. In these circumstances, you will receive a valid score if the right solution to the problem is achieved.

Another common question is: Is any mark given if I answer a portion of a performance-based question but cannot get to the end of solving the problem?

For this, some of the performance-based questions offer partial credit while others do not. In addition, some performance-based questions may offer higher point values as compared to others.

CompTIA does not provide specific details of how each performance-based question is scored nor the total point values offered on each exam.

Things To Note Before Taking A PBQ, According to CompTIA’s Official Site:

  • Identify the type of PBQ. Simulation PBQs cover the entire testing area and have a reset button, virtual PBQs do not.

  • You can skip simulation PBQs and return to them later, you cannot do the same with virtual PBQs! If you don’t feel confident about answering a simulation PBQ, move on to the next question. Click the Next button to proceed with the exam. Your work on the simulation PBQ will be saved as you work and when moving to another item.

  • When you encounter a virtual PBQ, you must complete it at that time. There is a warning screen prior to entering the virtual environment alerting you that you cannot skip the item and then return to it. When encountered, the best strategy is to complete the virtual PBQ to the best of your ability, then click the Next button to continue with the rest of your exam.
  • There can be multiple ways to solve a question or challenge posed in a PBQ. Scoring addresses different possible approaches.

  • Partial credit may be given to virtual PBQ, as it is for simulation PBQs.

How To Get The Best Out of PBQs

The PBQs are usually the first questions you will be asked. It might be a better idea to skip them and move onto the multi-choice questions as many are intimidated by the PBQ’s and spend too much time on them, losing valuable points from multichoice questions they could have correctly answered.

So, for the PBQ’s, do them at the end of the test. Some of the multiple choice questions may help you on the PBQ’s by “jogging” your memory.

Preparing For PBQs

To do well in the certification exam, you need to be ready for the type of questions you will be asked.

Start by downloading the exam objectives for the certification you are going to attempt. Take note of what you may already know versus what will likely be new concepts to you. Then come up with a study plan to learn the skills you need to master.

Then ensure that you are trying to get hands-on practice as you learn, and when you feel like you have covered all you need to, do not assume that you are prepared enough, but take practice tests to ascertain that.


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