Setting Certification Goals

NetworkingStudentNetworkingStudent Member Posts: 1,407 ■■■■■■■■□□
Setting Certification Goals:
Hello, everyone
I’m just wondering if anyone has a good idea on how to set certification goals. I only ask this because I have trouble setting them myself. I have been studying for my A+ certification for 6 months, and you think I would be ready to take my exam, but I know I’m not. My goal is to take the exam in September of this year, and then to take the IT technician Exam in October or November. Here is what I’m using to study for the exam:
Exam cram book-Measure up CD -I’m getting 70-75% on the practice CD
Cert blaster-I got this A+ software testing program from my instructor at school, he gave our whole class copies of this testing software. I’m almost at 90% using this software and it has 4 essential tests.
Transcender-I bought A+ testing software to help study for the exam, because the company says that they guarantee you will pass, if you use their products to study for the exam. These exams were the hardest I have ever tried to date!!
Additional things I have been doing..
I took an A+ Essentials college course last semester, which helped me understand the concepts.
I bought the sybex A+ bundle kit---I bought the kit , and I have been reading the book from the beginning to end, and I’m reading chapters that I’m weak on. I also take notes on note cards and look over them periodically. I had some trouble with printers, so I’m studying that area. I have been making note cards, which seems to help me.
I spend an hour or 2 a day on studying, and that does seem to help a little. Anyone have any advice on increasing my score on the practice exams, and on how to set my cert exam goals? I really want to get 90% on at least one practice exam before I attempt the real thing.
As far as the IT technician exam goes I have been In the process of building a computer, and my dad offered me internship with his computer repair business that he owns.
Also, in general is there a good time limit as to when you should be ready to take the different vender specific exams such as: Comptia vs Microsoft vs Cisco exams?
It just feels like I having a hard time remembering everything. Also, feels I should have taken the A+ essentials exam by now. Thanks advance for all your help!
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened."

--Alexander Graham Bell,
American inventor


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    dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,312 ■■■■■■■■■□
    What are your study techniques like? Do you take notes? Do you get any hands-on experience?

    An hour or two per day for six months is beyond overkill for the A+. You might want to take a look at how you're spending your time and see if you can find more productive ways to spend it.
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    Forsaken_GAForsaken_GA Member Posts: 4,024
    Everybody has their own pace at which they study.

    For me, the key is to set aside enough time to drill down into the details of the things I'm not sure about, and to get enough hands on time where applicable.

    My process works something like this -

    I begin by reading through, cover to cover, any books which are appropriate for the exam I'm studying for. Depending on what I'm studying, this takes anywhere from two to four weeks. As I'm reading, I take notes on concepts which I'm finding hard to grasp, and I make sure my notes are in my own words, not just verbatim what the text says. This forces me to order my thoughts in such a way that it usually helps me grasp what I was having trouble with. It also gives me something to refer to as stuff I need to study more in depth later.

    Once my initial read through is complete, I take a few practice exams. This generally tells me what material I know well, and what areas I'm weak on. As I'm taking the practice exam, I make notes on which questions are giving me trouble. After 2 or 3 practice exams, I go back and spend more time with the text that are relevant to the areas, and I seek out additional information sources. Since the majority of my studies are Cisco related, there's a wealth of information on cisco.com to supplement my reading texts. If lab time is appropriate, then I spend enough time doing hands on labs to get myself up to speed.

    Once I'm confident I've gotten myself up to speed on the areas I was weak in, I take a few more practice exams to see if I'm where I think I need to be. If I'm not, the process is repeated for the areas I'm having trouble with. If I am, then I schedule the exam. I try to give myself at least a weeks lead time, though for some exams I have gone to as little as 36 hours.

    In the days leading up to the actual exam, I focus my study efforts on the little details, like command syntax. Things like that can screw you up on a few questions. If lab time is appropriate, I spend time making sure I can do those tasks with relatively little difficulty. I keep taking practice exams, at least one a day. I wholeheartedy endorse Transcender, they're stuff is usually harder than the real thing, so if you can pass their exams on a consistent basis, you can go into the exam with confidence that you're likely to pass.

    The day before the exam I do absolutely no studying. I go out to dinner, I relax, I watch some TV, and get a good nights sleep. By that time I either know the material well enough to pass, or I do not. It is much more important to go into the exam with a clear head and a good night's rest than it is to spend the hours before the exam studying at a breakneck speed.

    So that's my individual exam method, and it works for me - I have yet to fail a certification exam. My prep time for most exams is generally between 2 and 3 months when I start to get serious about it, and for some exams, that's overkill and I cut it to a month when appropriate.

    You have to set yourself deadlines, otherwise you'll find yourself preparing endlessly. And if you fail, well the cost of a retake should be enough to keep you honest in your study habits.

    As far as a certification path goes, I determine what I want, and I set deadlines to get there. I'll give you an example of my current certification path timeline -

    CCNP by July 1st (easily accomplished this, about 2 months ahead of schedule)
    CCDP by end of 2009 (planning to take the CCDA next week, leaving me about 4 and a half months of study time for last CCDP exam, which is more than enough, though it's realistically 3 months give or take..... I don't get much studying done during the holiday season)
    CCIP by July 31st, 2010 - Don't see much difficulty in reaching this, as I don't expect the QoS exam to take me more than a month, leaving me about 3 months each for the other two exams)
    CCIE R&S Written by January 31st, 2011
    CCIE R&S Lab within 18 months

    If I'm ahead of my timeline for any of these exams, then I start in on the next one, I consider it additional time for whatever the next goal is. I try to move through them as quickly as possible, for example, I'd *like* to have my CCDP and the QoS exam and BGP exam done towards CCIP before the end of the year, and I think I can accomplish that, but I drew up my goals timeline to be somewhat realistic. If I can accomplish it sooner, good, if I can't, then as long as I'm on schedule, I don't feel too bad.

    Oh, one other helpful rule that I enforce on myself - After I pass an exam, I take a week off from all studying. I just let myself be more or less braindead and let the batteries recharge. This has been a big help in preventing burn out. I also force myself to maintain a somewhat regular life. I try to spend at least 4 hours a day studying, but I also force myself to go out, exercise, watch tv every once in awhile, and so on. Otherwise you'll just get yourself to a point where you loathe cracking the books. You have to get to a point where your thirst for knowledge is such that you look forward to your study time.
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    brad-brad- Member Posts: 1,218
    omg people. effective use of white space FTW.
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    AshenweltAshenwelt Member Posts: 266 ■■■■□□□□□□
    You know, I am not so worried on my goals. I have my next 12 certs picked out (unless the industry changes in a different direction than I think). What drives me crazy is the order I plan on doing them. I have a tendency to scatter all over the place.

    Anyone else have that issue?

    Oh, and having a deadline, as said before... that is mandatory. If you don't have a deadline, you never get done.
    -Always working on something...
    -The RepAdmin Active Directory Blog
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    exx1976exx1976 Member Posts: 15 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Generally, I buy a book (or two), and I read it (or them), cover to cover. TWICE.

    Then I register for the exam (having a date that I MUST know the stuff by helps to motivate me).

    Then I take and re-take practice exams until I score above 90%, EVERY TIME.

    Two days before the exam I do nothing but re-read high points of books and take practice tests from morning till night.

    The day before I don't even think about the exam material.

    It also doesn't hurt that to date, every exam I've ever taken I've had more than my fair share of hands-on time. I have never taken an exam that I didn't have hands-on experience with the technologies/topics covered. I think that would be incredibly difficult.

    As someone else said, you are most likely doing something incorrectly in the way you are approaching your A+ studies. Granted, everyone is different, but there was a span during my NT4 MCSE studies that I took and passed 4 exams in 3 months...
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