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Study Tips

Studying Mastery: Conquering IT Exams with Effective Strategies

If you have ever:

  • Read a study guide but can recall nothing afterwards
  • Watched an instructional video but found your mind wondering
  • Can’t seem to ever feel ready to sit your IT exam

Then this blog post is for you.

There is nothing wrong with you or your brain. There IS something wrong with your strategy and this is what we need to address in order to get information to get into your brain and stay there so you can recall it for the exam and in the real world.

Preparing for Information Technology (IT) exams necessitates a nuanced approach, integrating practical components with theoretical knowledge. You can’t just hope to read a book or watch a video course and march into the exam and get 100%. In this comprehensive guide, we delve deeper into the strategies, methodologies, and tools essential for acing your IT exams, incorporating diverse learning styles, leveraging technology, and gauging readiness effectively.

Understanding Learning Styles: A Foundation for Success

We all have a preferred learning style so you need to work out which yours is ~AND use it more than the others BUT you must use all three in your preparation plan. You can’t pass any IT exam now without a combination of practical know-how and theoretical knowledge. Here are the three main learning styles:

Visual Learning: You Learn by Watching

Visual learners, according to educational psychologist Richard Felder, thrive on diagrams, charts, and visual aids (“Understanding Student Differences”). For IT exams, tools like Lucidchart or draw.io facilitate the creation of intricate diagrams illustrating networking topologies or system architectures.

If you prefer visual then read books and watch videos of something being explained.

learning styles

Kinesthetic Learning: Learning by Doing [Labbing Up]

Kinesthetic learners grasp concepts through hands-on experience, as highlighted by learning theorist David Kolb (“Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development”). Setting up virtual labs using platforms like VMware or VirtualBox allows for practical application of theoretical knowledge, reinforcing understanding and retention. Cisco offers Packet Tracer for free if you want to learn Cisco networking or TCP/IP.

Auditory Learning: Embracing Verbal Instruction

For auditory learners, engaging with spoken content is paramount. Listening to IT-related podcasts such as “Security Now” by Steve Gibson or “Syntax” by Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski can supplement textual learning materials, catering to auditory preferences. Find a study guide in audio version or record one.

Synergizing Learning Styles: Maximizing Efficiency

To optimize learning outcomes, blend various learning styles seamlessly. For instance, after reading a chapter on cybersecurity (visual), engage in hands-on activities like setting up firewalls or configuring security policies (kinesthetic), followed by group discussions or explaining concepts aloud (auditory), fostering a holistic understanding of the subject matter.

Harnessing Technology: Apps and Software for Success

Don’t rely¬† solely on books and videos and labs. You need an extra edge to get the information to stick.

For my IT exams I wrote my own cram guides, made cheat sheets, wrote my own study cards with answers on the back and even made audio recordings. Here are a few things you can try:

Anki Decks: Spaced Repetition for Enhanced Memorization

anki

Anki, based on the spaced repetition technique, facilitates long-term memorization through intelligent flashcard scheduling. Utilize Anki decks tailored to IT exam topics, reinforcing key concepts and algorithms, as recommended by cognitive psychologist Piotr Wozniak (“Optimized Repetition and Mnemonics”).

Mind Mapping Tools: Visualizing Complex Concepts

Mind mapping applications like MindMeister or XMind aid in organizing thoughts and visualizing intricate IT concepts. Creating mind maps for database normalization techniques or programming paradigms fosters conceptual clarity and aids in recall during exams.

Practice Exam Platforms: Simulating Real-world Scenarios

Platforms like Udemy, Pearson VUE, or howtonetwork.com offer practice exams modeled after actual certification tests. Regularly assessing performance, identifying areas of improvement, and refining strategies accordingly are pivotal for exam success. There are a ton of practice exams on this website for members.

Crafting an Effective Study Program

Revision: A Pillar of Long-term Retention

Implement a systematic revision schedule, revisiting old content periodically to prevent knowledge decay. The “spacing effect,” as elucidated by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (“Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology”), underscores the importance of spaced repetition in cementing information in memory.

I created the entire Cisco CCNA in 60 Days course using this exact method.

Write out a study plan in Google Sheets. Align it with the exam syllabus and build in revision sessions. Mark the sheet with your score out of 10 for theory know how and practical ability.

New Content Acquisition: Structured Learning Approaches

Adopt structured learning methodologies such as the Feynman Technique or Cornell Note-taking System for assimilating new material effectively. Breaking down complex topics into simpler explanations and actively engaging with the content promotes deeper understanding and retention.

Embracing Efficiency: Speed Learning Techniques

Speed Reading: Enhancing Information Absorption

Utilize speed reading techniques advocated by experts like Tony Buzan (“Speed Reading”) and Tim Ferriss (“The 4-Hour Chef”) to navigate through voluminous study materials efficiently. Techniques such as skimming, scanning, and meta-guiding expedite information processing, enabling comprehensive coverage of syllabi within constrained timelines.

Here is my Speed Reading book on Amazon if you want to take a look.

speed reading

Speed reading is a time tested method to rewire your brain to remember and recall a ton of information but you do need to learn how to do it. Luckily, there are a ton of books and resources to show you how.

Evaluating Readiness: A Litmus Test for Success

Mastery of Recall: Assessing Retention and Comprehension

Regular self-assessment through quizzes, flashcards, or mnemonic techniques gauges recall mastery and comprehension. Achieving fluency in recalling critical information signifies readiness for the exam. As I said above, mark your level on a spreadsheet and aim to get all to 9 at least.

Practical Application: Demonstrating Competency

Demonstrate proficiency in configuring IT systems and troubleshooting simulated scenarios. Platforms like Cisco Packet Tracer or Microsoft Virtual Labs offer hands-on practice opportunities, validating practical skills essential for exam success. This website is the perfect tool in fact!

Practice Exam Performance: Benchmarking Progress

Consistently achieving high scores (>95%) in practice exams serves as a benchmark for readiness. Analyzing performance metrics, identifying weak areas, and recalibrating study strategies optimize preparedness for the actual exam.

Conclusion: Navigating the Path to Success

In conclusion, mastering IT exam preparation demands a multifaceted approach, integrating diverse learning styles, leveraging technology-driven solutions, and adhering to structured study methodologies. By synergizing visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learning styles, harnessing the power of apps and software, and embracing efficiency-driven techniques, aspirants can navigate the path to exam success with confidence and competence. Remember, persistence, strategic planning, and a commitment to lifelong learning are the cornerstones of triumph in the dynamic realm of Information Technology.

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