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Do-It-Yourself Learning

Self-study is among the top methods certification candidates use to prepare for exams. Find out how you can gain the most from learning on your own.

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If youíve started preparing for any certification exam at all, chances are youíve used at least one book, product manual, self-assessment test, video, or Computer Based Training (CBT) product to aid your efforts. Or perhaps you found a way to gain access to the software or hardware and practice on it, even though it might not be part of your regular job. Self-study is the most popular preparation method used by certification candidates, a fact confirmed by Prometricís co-sponsored 2000 Training and Certification Study. And why not Ė itís convenient, affordable, widely available, and, with the possible exception of CBT, these are formats and materials familiar to all of us.

Crack the Books

Of all self-study materials, books are probably the handiest source of certification training. They are extremely portable, donít require batteries or an electrical outlet, and allow you to proceed at your own pace. Many have been designed specifically to help people pass certification exams. As an added bonus, they can serve as reference tools long after you passed your final exam. The down side is that some of them are so extensive they are intimidating, and threaten to give you a hernia if you have to tote them very far. They also vary quite a bit in quality, although now that certification books have become a virtual industry of their own, this is less of a problem.

Certification self-study books are available at major chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, as well as though online outlets including amazon.com and fatbrain.com. They can be a bit pricey (though not when compared to instructor-led training), so ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation before buying. Typically they fall between $40-$70 per title. Online reviews at the various bookstores are useful too, but take them with a grain of salt as the reviewers may have motives beyond honestly reporting on the book. Once you find a book you particularly like, watch for other titles by the same author and/or publisher as they are likely to be of similar quality.

Another print resource is the product manual. Often overlooked as study resources, well written product manuals can be a valuable learning tools. These manuals contain nitty-gritty details straight from the product vendorís mouth, rather than information that has been filtered through a third party. They also come at the best price Ė free if you have the accompanying product. If the manuals are missing, contact the product vendor to find out if replacements are available. You can also find many manuals and supplemental materials available on vendor Web sites, in the customer support area, or in some cases, listed under whitepapers.

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