How to pass the ITIL Intermediate exams

Being the Pragmatical ITSM dude I am I still needed to pass all the exams since I am also a teacher. Of course, to support my clients I do need to know the theory really well. From working with ITIL for a long time, I really know what is worth knowing and if I want any details, I simply look it up in any of the good books of ITIL. Having said that, the tests are still somewhat tricky, some of them even difficult, even if you have a deep knowledge of ITIL and IT Service Management. However, I passed all the exams, now I am going to take the practitioner, since I want to be able to teach all courses.

There are a few great ideas how to drastically increase your chances to pass the all intermediate ITIL exams and I am going to give you the ones that worked for me.

Of course, you need to know your ITIL theory, the overall big picture, know the fundamentals for each process and understand how things fit together, there is no escaping that, but that is why we do the courses and take the exams. Besides this, obvious, part you should consider doing these things. Now, some of you are going to do the exam directly after the course, maybe on the last day of the course, some of you might succeed right away, congrats, but to those that failed or choose to do the exam later on, these advices are even more useful.

As most of you know the intermediate exams are so-called complex multiple-choice, there is actually only one wrong answer and the other three are more or less right and there is one bulls-eye, the 5-pointer. My method is about reducing the low point’s answers; avoid stupid mistakes and learning how to always find the two best answers.

First you simply download the sample exams for the intermediate exam you are taking, make sure that you get all three papers, the exam, the case study and the answers and rationale. You should get at least two of those. Do the first exam without any preparation at all, just to understand what types of questions there are. You then correct it yourself and take notes of the things you missed, to be able to target your studies. After this, you read/repeat the sections you missed and make sure to repeat those a few times. Now you are ready for your second sample exam.

For the second sample exam and the actual exam, I recommend these techniques.

  1. Plan your time. The time frame for the intermediate exam is tight. The idea is for you to be a bit stressed out, but you cannot freak out. Decide how many minutes/question you will use. Also, make sure to glance through the case study. This is important. Some questions will be clearly asking for things related to the case study. This means you have to take that into considerations, it is no longer just the theory, often failure in including the case study will make you fail in the other steps mentioned below. Do not fumble this.
  2. Make sure to really read the questions, I will never forget my first teacher, a Scottish ex-military that simply wrote RTFQ on the white board before we took the first test. He then explained, in brilliant Scottish accent “Riiid Thah Faakiin Qveestion”. You really need to understand exactly what they are asking for, also the way they are asking. Sort out what you assume, suspect or guess; just go with what is actually there, the facts. This very thing will increase your score with 10-15%.
  3. Learn how to spot the distracter, the irrelevant answer, thus avoiding getting 0 on any question. You will get a good feeling of when something in the answer is just wrong, it is not ludicrous but it does not answer the question at all. Simply cross that one out for your brain to know that this one is irrelevant, not to be computed any more. This will increase your score with an additional 5-10%.
  4. Learn to identify what are the differences between the other three answers available, this is especially useful if there is a bulleted list. Simply compare the answers and make sure to identify exactly what are the differences. Teach your brain which these differences are, than take a quick look at the actual question again. You will now be able to at least recognize the one-pointer, the almost wrong answer. This will increase your score with an additional 5-10%.
  5. Now, what will help you pass your exam is finding the correct answer out of the two ones you have left, based on what you know and have learned about this intermediate course, being a lifecycle or capability module. There is really no way of helping you with this last step. But you can be sure that you now have permitted yourself to fail a couple of times and “only” selecting the almost correct answer, the 3-pointer, since you have already earned 20-35% of the score from the previous hints I gave you.
  6. The last one, that actually saved me once, is common sense, even if you have no idea about a question and the time is running out, do a really quick analysis of the question and simply pick something, never never ever leave a question unanswered.

These are the things that helped me pass all the ITIL exams, of course, you need to know your theory but many people still fail because they do not have a good method; this is my method that works like a charm.

I blog about IT Service Management in general based on my life as a pragmatical ITSM consultant that is very proud of making things really work in practise in my client organizations. Please visit for more stories and pragmatical advice on the wonderful world of IS/IT services.

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