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5 Steps to Train for a Marathon--and the RCA Exam

December Kinney

The next time you ponder the theory of six degrees of separation, consider this: you’re likely connected to someone who runs.

Up to 45,000 runners register for the Chicago Marathon alone each year. There are plenty of runners here at Team Relativity, and we’ve noticed that preparing for a race is not unlike preparing for the Relativity Certified Administrator (RCA) exam. Both require plenty of planning and result in an accomplishment not many people can call their own.

Neither a marathon nor a certification exam will turn out well if you show up cold—but complete either, and you’ll make your passion for your field known. RCAs, after all, are recognized experts in the administration of the software and are highly sought after on case teams who want to make the most of their e-discovery workflows. While all training plans are different, here are five general steps that can help you in both pursuits.

Step 1: Ensure you meet the prerequisites.

Prior to beginning marathon training, ensure you’re comfortable running at least three miles to help prevent injury and overtraining down the road. You can’t jump into a 10-mile training course without laying some groundwork first. Similarly, meeting the RCA exam prerequisites better equips you for success. This includes having at least three months of intensive experience working in Relativity.

It’s also worth considering your training history. Despite having competed in a race three years ago, I wasn’t ready to run one this year without first doing a couch-to-5K program. Even if you’ve attended admin training or internal sessions before, you may want to return if you feel rusty or want to hone your knowledge of the latest Relativity features. The software is evolving rapidly, and the exam is never far behind.

Step 2: Complete your registration.

After you register for a marathon, you typically receive a confirmation email with details about the course and schedule. Upon RCA exam registration, you also receive an email with information about the exam location and technical requirements. Though it may seem like nothing special at first glance, the race email may also contain tips about training in particular conditions, or where to find gear. Likewise, the RCA exam registration email contains additional details that point you to study resources, including the RCA exam workbook, documentation, and Q&A webinars. Take advantage of them.

Whether you’re signing up for a race or an exam, it’s also important to claim your spot in advance. The nation’s biggest marathons fill up fast, and so do exams offered on the road or in conjunction with highly attended events like Relativity Fest or the Relativity Spring Roadshow.

Step 3: Determine a plan.

Once the race date is set, it’s time to develop a training plan that works with your schedule—or find a readymade one that suits you. For the RCA exam, the three-month study plan is designed to be a starting point. This plan, housed on the Customer Portal, outlines suggested items to complete over the course of 12 weeks—a timeframe we’ve found to be practical for most test takers. You can use it as presented or modify it to fit your timeline (maybe you’re a rock star and will be taking the exam in five weeks). The plan also references a study roadmap. Setting deadlines to complete each task on the roadmap will add additional structure to your preparation.

As for running a marathon, there are plenty of recommended methods to help you get started—though, granted, some are more scientific than others.

Step 4: Ensure you’re hitting milestones.

Race training plans generally increase in mileage and have runners check off specific milestones as they go. For example, the plan for a given week might require two days of cross-training, two shorter runs, and a long run. As you build in mileage and hit those goals for longer runs, you should be hitting certain milestones in your RCA work as well.

Completing the RCA exam workbook in the prep environment is like one of the runs in the first weekend of training, which may be three or four miles. Taking the Relativity Certified User exam to validate your knowledge of core features, or poring over a recommended document like the Searching Guide, is akin to completing a long weekend run. And timing yourself on the hands-on projects in preparation for the practical component of the exam is like one of those taper runs in the weeks closer to the race—once you have a solid foundation, you can spend less time training, opting to focus more on agility.      

Step 5: Bring the right attitude on the big day.

I’ve found that I don’t run as well if I go into it nervous or distracted, dreaming of being anywhere (preferably somewhere with pints of ice cream) but on the course. On race day, it’s best to trust that the time spent training, stretching, and eating well will enable me to perform my best.

The same is true of the RCA exam: all the time spent practicing the hands-on projects, completing the practice quiz, attending Q&A webinars, and taking advantage of the other study resources will have prepared you to succeed.

Ultimately, if you complete the necessary steps, you’ll see your hard work pay off in both endeavors. And when it comes to your e-discovery work, being certified is going to put you ahead of the pack—verifying your expertise and making you a go-to resource on your team.

December Kinney is a former certification specialist at Relativity.