Last week, MCT Sasa Kranjac contributed an article packed with training and certification tips, plus a massive list of free resources. This week, Sasa returns with more great tips and resources to help you prepare for exams. Welcome back, Sasa!
In my previous article, I recommended a variety of learning styles, from self-paced study to instructor-led and online training; and provided a list of my most valuable resources. This week, I'll share study tips and provide more cool resources to help you prepare.
Study Tips: 5 Steps to Success
1. Schedule an exam early.Book an exam early. Paying and scheduling your exam fixes "the day" and materializes it. "A day" becomes "the day" and it is no longer a fictional day. You don't want to take the exam "when you are ready". You are going to be ready at the time of the appointment, take the exam and pass. I know people getting ready and preparing for years.
The most important thing is to prepare to study. Prepare yourself mentally to learn. Be determined to achieve a result. Say it: "I'm going to be an MCSA on Windows 8 in 90 days."
Be aware that if you reschedule your exam appointment 15 days or less prior to the deadline you will be charged a reschedule fee. See www.prometric.com/microsoft for details. On the left side of the page, click Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. Hopefully this will keep you from rescheduling over and over.
2. Prepare to study, prepare to learn.Find yourself a quiet, comfortable place where you can focus on your studies. A place where you are alone and without distractions. I know that this is not easy, especially if you are working, have a family, or have other commitments; but do whatever you can to keep the distractions to your studies to a minimum. Do not study in a living room or in a kitchen if the rooms are crowded or noisy; in these places, your family sends the message: "please, spend some time with us; put that boring geek book away".
I used to read in the bed. But not anymore. It tells me "come and take a nap; come on, it won't hurt you, close your eyes for couple of minutes". I still read in bed but I do not study in bed. Reading a novel is not the same as studying and trying to remember what you've read.
Speed reading doesn't work either.
"I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."--Woody Allen
A study room in your house or a library is a good choice. Places free of distractions are the best. An hour of uninterrupted, quality studying is far better than three hours of intermittent, constantly interrupted studying.
3. Prepare your mind. Develop your study plan.Set a goal, define an objective, or objectives for your studies. The key is to set study goals that are "tangible". Define study goals that are:
Don’t ever do "some reading" or "some studying". Knowing ahead what you will learn and read generates a feeling of progress or "moving forward". I remember a good inspirational quote:
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."-- Mark Twain
I like this one even better: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!"
4. Keep your goals away from trolls.There have always been and always will be someone that will tell you that certifications are not worth pursuing and exams not worth passing. It is incredible how much energy some people put in convincing you that you threw your money away because you scheduled an exam, paid for a class, bought a book. I remember a colleague of mine telling me that certifications are worthless, that anyone could get one. Interestingly, he himself didn't have any. I am glad I didn’t care what he was saying. Now I have hundreds of (read) books on bookshelves and dozens of certifications under my belt. Recently a client picked me instead of him. I leave to someone else to figure out why.
Keep away from people telling you should abandon your goals, that your goals are not worth pursuing.
5. Which type of study is the best? How to know more?Self-study, instructor-led, online, books, "audiobooks", podcasts, videos, e-books, blogs, articles?
The learning retention graph (well, list) looks like this:
The more styles of learning you use, the most effective your studying will be.
More Cool Resources
I'll wrap things up with links to very interesting documents and resources that will greatly support your studying:
Saša Kranjac is IT Technical Trainer, Consultant and Speaker with almost two decades of experience in the IT field. He began programming in Assembler, met Windows NT 3.5 and the love exists since then. He have held various jobs and roles: Teacher, System Engineer, Systems Aministrator, IT Manager, Consultant, and IT trainer. Now he works mainly as a Consultant and IT Technical Trainer in the Security field and on Microsoft related products and technologies. He can’t forget his first love, Microsoft Office. He is also Member of the Board of Directors at IAMCT/MCT Europe and country lead for Croatia. Read more from Saša on his blogs at sasakranjac.com and kranjac.wordpress.com.
Regarding #5, I find I learn best when a particular skill or feature is required for my job or an issue I'm having on a work-related project, but I find there are a lot of areas on the exams that are not needed at my job. It's tough to pursue a complex project when there's no users with needs to meet. Some features, like SQL Resource Governor or Performance Tuning, are difficult to master in a lab system with one user and therefore no performance issues. Are there tips for getting around this issue?