Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 7 of 10 – If It is Broken – Fix It!

May 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Sometimes in certification, you can encounter a resource that is just not working for you. Perhaps it is an instructor that just really rubs you the wrong way, perhaps it is a book that reads like a dishwasher repair manual, perhaps it is a simulator that is so buggy it does not feel like the actual device at all. These problematic resources might cause you to lose your passion for studying the topic and could potentially derail your goal achievement. Remember, if this happens, or is starting to happen – do something about it!

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One post that you see many times in Certification Support forums is something along the lines of  – “Is there another way to practice XYZ technology other than using this product?” I love these posts. It demonstrates the student is not having the best time with a particular training resource and they are ready to ask their peers for another.

Do not settle for anything but the very best resources that work for you as you look to take your career to that next level.

Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 6 of 10 – Find the Mix of Right Resources for YOU

May 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

In this tip, let us discuss another key to certification success that many students might not pause to think about. Before you dive into a new professional certification pursuit, you might want to take some time and really plan the resources that you are going to use. This includes deciding on the right mix for you. For example, I am a big reader, so when I am planning a new certification journey, I like to load up on texts that cover the material.

For others, this might not be a big part of the plan at all. Many are simply “viewers”, they master the certification material by watching CBT Nugget videos on the topics many times over. They might really dislike trying to learn from text reading. Videos are their key.

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Everyone is different. Some really enjoy the pursuit by mixing it up. Reading about a topic for an hour or so. Watching the 20 minute Nugget on the topic, and then labbing it up to practice. You have to really self examine and determine just what the right mix is for you. This is so important because you want to enjoy the study process as much as possible. Enjoying it and learning with a passion makes the mastery process so much more effective and efficient.

So, survey the mix of materials that are available to you, and plan your attack today.

Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 5 of 10 – Ask Questions

May 5, 2014 at 1:27 pm

“The only stupid question is the one you do not ask!” I am not really sure who originally said this, but it sure is true. You do not just want to learn to the basic level – if you really want to succeed in the world of IT you have to dig deeper. Asking questions incessantly can be a big part of this process.

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But wait! You are addicted to CBT Nuggets and I do not blame you for that, but the instructor is not there live in front of you…how will you get all of those questions answered? Did you realize we have added a Comments tab to each course in our offering??? This is a wonderful place to post a question about the course content. Chances are one of your peers will have an answer and respond. As one of the instructors at CBT Nuggets, I love to hang out there and answer questions. I also answer every single question here at the blog. Is Cisco your thing? Check out the Cisco Learning Network. Notice the top two responders there are Keith Barker and Scott Morris of CBT Nuggets.

Dig deeper, ask those questions. Perhaps we should change our motto to Watch, Learn, Ask, Conquer. OK – that does not sound nearly as good.

Thank you for reading. Remember to study with passion.

Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 4 of 10 – Hands on Practice

March 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Remember from an earlier tip article that when you see words like “configure”, and “verify”, and “troubleshoot”, it is a really excellent indication that your certification features some good, old-fashioned, hands-on simulations.

Fortunately, especially at the earlier levels of Cisco certification, there are many affordable options to gain this valuable hands-on practice. Some students love to purchase used equipment and build their own home test network. These adventurous souls love the thrill they get out of “racking and stacking” the physical gear and then initially configuring the equipment. I know plenty of Microsoft students that also set up small pilot labs in which to actually experience the technologies.

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But today there are other options for experiencing hands-on. There are simulations, like in the exams themselves, that look to duplicate the behavior of the actual operating system environment. One of these that I had the privilege of editing was done by Wendell Odom and is a simulator for the CCENT and CCNA levels.

There are also several emulators available. Emulators seek to run the actual OS in a virtualized environment right on your desktop. Some students absolutely swear by this approach since they know they are dealing with the actual operating system. I can recall the day when CBT Nuggets own Scott Morris finally made the jump to emulation for testing some off the functionality of Cisco routers.

Speaking of CBT nuggets we have also entered into this important area of certification practice by providing virtual labs on such critical subjects as big data, SQL Server, and SharePoint. Yes, you will see the list of virtual labs grow.

How much hands-on practice you need varies from candidate to candidate. Some students already possess a tremendous amount of hands-on practice, perhaps from their job or some other certification they have been studying for. These students need less hours in a particular subject area. Just remember to use your tracker and be honest with your assessment of yourself as you go through and master the material of your certification exam. Hands-on practice not only provides a deeper and richer understanding of the material, it can also mean the difference between a passing or failing mark.

Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 3 of 10 – Track Your Progress

March 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Progress tracking with my endeavors is now so important to me, I really cannot imagine life without it. Whether I am trying to run a 15K, gain a certification, or win at online poker, tracking my progress is a necessity. I would suggest you consider this strongly as well.

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Specifically, for your pursuit of a certification, I recommend that you start with the study blueprint. In fact, you can even copy and paste the blueprint contents into a program like MS Project or Excel. Now develop a tracking system that works for you as you seek to master each item on your list. I like to assign a number to each item that rates my knowledge. I use the following system:

1 – I have never even heard of the technology, I have no idea what it does.

2 – I have heard of the technology before and I can provide a brief overview of it.

3 – I can describe the technology in great detail and I understand its configuration and verification, but to perform these, I need the assistance of documentation.

4 – I can perform an implementation of the technology with ease and without documentation guidance.

5 – I can troubleshoot the technology effectively.

Notice that for some certification topics – level 3 might be all you need. These blueprint items tend to begin with the word “describe” and then a particular technology. For the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) exams, this is often the level of competence we need for the written exam.

No matter what tracking system you use (and some go as far as to track actual hours of study in Project Management software), doing so can greatly increase your effectiveness and reduce stress.

Until my next tip – study with passion!

Anthony’s IT Certification Tips – 2 of 10 – Know Your Exam

February 26, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Welcome to the second of ten tips (in no particular order) that I am featuring on Certification success. In this tip, I need to remind you to become an expert in the particular exam you are seeking to conquer. Be sure you gather every ounce of information that you can regarding the exam prior to scheduling it and even preparing for it.

Cisco does a better job than many vendors at making information available. Let me provide a quick example. Let’s you and I pretend that I am going to try the DCUFI 5.0 exam from Cisco. This is one of the exams that maps to the CCNP Data Center Certification – and it can also be used for a Cisco Specialist Certification. The first thing I will do is locate the “home page” for the exam at Cisco.com. I do this using the Training and Events menu at Cisco.com. There is a Certification section and you will find DCUFI tucked neatly into its CCNP Data Center category. Here is the exam home page structure:

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Notice how much information we have just here. We now have the official exam number 642-997, we know the specific Certifications this exam can help fulfill, we know it is a 90 minute exam and will be 65-75 questions, we have a link for registration, and very importantly, we can review and practice with the types of questions we will actually face in the exam. This is critical because it is a timed exam and you do not want to waste any of that time in the actual test trying to determine how a question type works. While all of us might feel comfortable with simple multiple choice, simulations and simlets in the exam might warrant practice.

Notice that you can also click Exam Topics in order to get a specific lists of the topics you must master. For this exam, here is partial output of this area:

Screenshot 2014-02-26 13.40.45Here we see Cisco makes it clear that 14% of our exam will focus around describing the Unified Fabric products in a Cisco Data Center Architecture. Cisco goes on to list what those specific products are. Note that for each bullet, we are to “describe”. This is not configure and/or verify, but it is just to describe. It is important to read very closely like this with the exam “blueprint” so you have an idea of what technologies you will actually be expected to configure.

In the next tip of this series – I will teach you how to take this exam information you have obtained and turn it into a valuable tracker for your study progress. Until then, as always, thank you so much for reading and keep enjoying those studies immensely.