Share your exam preparation process, strategies.

m26k9m26k9 Member Posts: 37 ■■□□□□□□□□

I'm sorry if this has been discussed before.
But I wanted to know how people go about preparing for the certifications. Anything you like to share is welcome. I would like to know particulars such as:

1) Studying methodology/process
2) Strategies
3) Duration
4) Material you thought were invaluable for passing
5) etc.

I haven't done much certifications but my basic methodology is:

Decide on the certification to do,
Try to find the best *single* book for studying (read Amazon reviews, etc.)
Read the whole book.
Do the end-of-chapter/end-of-book questions.
Go back to the chapters whenever the answer it not known 100% (no guessing).
Take notes during the process.
Find practice tests.
Take notes.
Study notes.
Do practice tests until confident or had enough and just want to do it and get over with it. (usually it's the later)
Hope the book material and practice questions were of the right difficulty.
Do the exam.

The average time I spend on a certification varies. From 2 months to sometimes more than 6 months.

Would be glad if you guys share yours.



  • RobertKaucherRobertKaucher A cornfield in OhioMember Posts: 4,299 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I try not to take more that twoo months. But it deppends on how well I know the technology and how indepth the exam is. I took just over 6 (I think it was 8, I was shooting for 6) months for my MCSE Security, for example. But I have always followed this method, which was handed down to me from a friend who is an MCT:

    1. Study based on objectives.
    This includes mostlly reading from books and other sources, but includes some lab work.

    2. Fast test, long review.
    For a Microsoft exam I will take the MeasureUp tests and take about 2 or 3 tests per week. I do not answer questions I do not know the answer to. I then print all of the questions I got wrong and review and perform labs based on the scenario in the question until I understand it.

    3. Long test, short review.
    Once I am scoring in the mid 90s I then get SelfTest's exam sim software and begin taking practice exams as if they were the real test. I do faster reviews with more concentrated "mini-labs." About a week before the exam I usually take one practice test perday, just to ensure I am not missing anything.

    It's pretty intense, so I cannot keep it up more than 2 months. Plus, it's just nnot worth it. I only need to pass, I don't need to get a 1000.

    If I do not schedule the exam I usually start to put it off and slack on the study. This is my current problem with the 444. I'm broke and cannot schedule it, so I have neglected my lab environment and stopped cracking open the books. Lazy!
  • brad-brad- Member Posts: 1,218
    The first thing I do is figure out how much money I'm going to spend. I'll use 70-290 for example. I knew I was going to buy the Transcender test prep, the CBT Nuggets, and the MS press book.

    Right after I bought them, I planned out my study days for the next 6 - 8 weeks, i cant remember waht it was. On a monthly planner, I put down the what I was going to read, and what lessons I would watch. Once I had gone through the book and the CBT nuggets, I stopped reading the book, and just did some practical examples and Transcender test questions *this is where i bought and scheduled the exam* . Once I had gone through teh book once, the cbt's a couple of times, and the questions a couple of times, all I did was review and do test prep for about 2 weeks, redoing anything that needed it.

    I was also lucky enough to go to an HP hosted, weeklong course for this class.

    Biggest thing though plan, plan, plan. Just just before you think you are ready, and about to burn out, pay for and schedult teh test. That'll keep your motivation up.

    I dont see myself doing another exam soon, if I do I'll wait for exchange 2010. When I do that exam, I'll buy a CBT nugget and the 'unleashed' book for it. With that as my budget, i'll plan out my study time just like before.
  • snadamsnadam Member Posts: 2,234 ■■■■□□□□□□
    - As for study methods, I really enjoy Royal's study methods. I try to stick to that formula every time. It's good 'as-is', or you can also tailor it to your needs as well.

    - Duration of study depends on your familiarity with the objectives/material. You could take 2 weeks, or 2 months depending on your comfort level with the exam.

    - As for material, I usually go with the CBT nuggets, 2 books (primary and secondary), practice exam software (ie Transcender), this forum and the rest of the web. Oh, and obviously a lab to practice all the stuff you learned :D While I do read amazons reviews of material, I value the opinion of the TE community first, then I go do my research for study material.

    hope this helps.
    **** ARE FOR CHUMPS! Don't be a chump! Validate your material with search engine

    :study: Current 2015 Goals: JNCIP-SEC JNCIS-ENT CCNA-Security
  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,312 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Yea, CBT, book, lab, practice exam is my typical routine. I can typically do an exam in a month if I really buckle down and git'r done, but I'm not above letting them slide to 2-3 months so I can enjoy life a bit.
  • PsoasmanPsoasman Senior Member Member Posts: 2,687 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Here's what I do to pass the exams...13 so far in a row.

    1. read through the whole book, even the glossary.

    2. read through again, taking notes on the material.

    3. do hands-on labs the entire time.

    4. I will type up charts and graphs to help organize the material, especially helpful on the A+ / Network+, where there is an enormous amount of data.

    5. Do some practice exams, focusing on the areas I might have trouble.
    6. Pray

    For my last exam, the 294, I actually typed up all the review questions and chapter noted and read through them every day for 2 weeks before taking the exam..and got one of my highest scores yet.

    For actually taking the exam,here is my strategy: I write down all the numbers and as I go through the exam I put a check mark next to the answers I know for sure. I put a "M" next to the questions I am going to review. I save the sims for last.

    This has worked for every exam I've taken, I hope it helps others out as well
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,426 Mod
    I prefer to have practical experience on the subject I'm trying to get certified on. So I read and read, then I start testing it in LAB.

    Practice questions and exam review come later, and it become very easy once you did the practicals and understood the ins and outs...It really helps if the things you try to certify are part of your day to day job also.

    Check out my YouTube Channel!

  • varelgvarelg Banned Posts: 790
    First and foremost I check exam objectives. I learned the bitter lesson. I just can't trust a single book as a guide, so a lot of side guides and freebies on the net fill in the blanks. Unless it's an official guide published by the same organization that issues your certification when you pass the test. If such a book exists, than I would go for it straight rather than rely on third-party guides, this is another bitter lesson learned. And even if failed, come back at the subject, it doesn't matter how hard you fall as long as you are quick to get up. Don't be afraid to fall, yet another lesson picked up the hard way...
    When you've got the study material under your belt, then you are on to dedicate the time, effort and yes, money to prepare. Be easy on yourself, at first your enthusiasm is high, but as you progress through the material you'll feel less and less enthusiastic. That's the real test of your determination, when you fight yourself over your objectives. You wont be always able to follow the dynamics of your study plan, some days are great some are excellent some other are like you don't even want to think about study. The most important thing is no matter how enthusiastic you are, to do your study every day, may it be a paragraph a day or a bunch of chapters in a matter of hours.
  • m26k9m26k9 Member Posts: 37 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks a lot for all the input guys.
    It is pretty intensive for everybody huh..

    I have not used CBT before but seems people serious about it. Also Transcend. I will definitely get that for my Linux+. And also CBT for the CCDA.

    What I see is from your responses are that lab practice is really important. It is one of the things which I tend to pay little attention. After reading the book I am usually overwhelmed by the amount of facts to memorize I usually do not do much labs.

    Thank you very much again guys.
  • BigToneBigTone Member Posts: 283
    The beer a chapter strategy has worked pretty well so far for me on my CCNA studies... just about ready for the CCENT :) I get a good 6 pack of craft beer and I get to learn the complexity of networks coupled with the intermeshing of hops and grain.
  • murdatapesmurdatapes Member Posts: 232 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I usually try to follow what HandyMan suggested to me below. I usually don't read the book a 2nd time. Usually just skim back through it randomly. After the first good read, I hit the CBT's hard, taking notes on everything. Before a new video I review for about 15min on previous video notes. I hand write my notes. Then get Trancenders or Measure Up (I always liked Measure Up). So by this time, I have my own notes and what I have read in the book, and seeing the CBT's.

    - Research the best book(s) to use for a particular exam, from other recommendations.
    - Read the book through one time, quickly and not too deeply. Gives a general idea of what's going on.
    - Read through again. This time taking hand-written notes of everything that you didn't already know. Do all the practical exercises.
    - Type up your notes in to a presentable document in MS-Word. Use those notes to revise from. You won't need the book any more.
    - Find some practice tests and go through in detail - especially those with answers that are explained thoroughly.
    - Book the exam and try to aim towards that date without having to change it.
    Next up
    CIW Web Foundations Associatef(Knock out some certs before WGU)
    ITIL Intermediate Service Operations
  • NightShade03NightShade03 Member Posts: 1,383 ■■■■■■■□□□
    I usually read through a few books while highlighting what I think are keywords or main topics. On a second pass through the same books I'll take notes and make more in depth study guides. Finally after all the reading I'll try to practice in a virtual lab environment to make sure I have a solid understanding.
  • mikedisd2mikedisd2 Member Posts: 1,096 ■■■■■□□□□□
    snadam wrote: »
    - As for study methods, I really enjoy Royal's study methods.

    Royal? What ever happened to that guy?
  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,312 ■■■■■■■■■□
    mikedisd2 wrote: »
    Royal? What ever happened to that guy?

    He posted a couple of days ago; he still pops in from time-to-time. He's an MS MVP and spends most of his time on his Exchange/OCS blog nowadays.
  • Paul BozPaul Boz Member Posts: 2,620 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I just smoke a huge back of meth and pound out the material until I can test on it later that day.

    But seriously, just read whatever materials are available, watch any CBTs that are available, and lab the material. I always reserve labs for the end. For example, the SANS 502 that I'm doing now has six sets of labs, one for each "day" of material. I haven't done the labs yet because I like to hold all labs until the end. That way I can go through each of them and know that my knowledge has been retained. If I haven't looked at material in a month and all of a sudden have to lab that stuff its a good litmus test as to whether I know the material or not.
    CCNA Security | GSEC |GCFW | GCIH | GCIA
    [email protected]
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