As someone who has written countless articles on a variety of IT-related subjects, I tend to get a lot of email messages from people who are planning to take a Microsoft certification exam. One of the questions that I am asked most often is, “How should I prepare for the exam?” I decided to write this article as a way of sharing the exam preparation techniques that have worked for me.
For the first ten years or so of my IT career, I worked for large companies who also had large IT budgets. As such, I attended a number of different classes at Microsoft Authorized Training Centers. These classes usually lasted for a week and covered everything that you needed to know in order to be able to pass a specific exam.
At the time, my memory was really good (a lot better than it is now), and I found that as long as I paid attention in class and asked questions about anything that I didn’t understand, I could usually take the exam without any further preparation. Of course, it helped immensely that the instructors at this particular facility would make it a point to draw our attention to potential test questions.
About eleven years ago, everything changed. I was getting fed up with the corporate rat race and all of the long hours that come with working in IT. I realized that I could make more money and work fewer hours if I became a freelance technology author and consultant, so I walked away from my corporate job and went to work for myself.
One of the first things that I realized was that unless I wanted to become completely out of touch with what was going on in IT, I had to keep my skills sharp. Unfortunately, I no longer had a “corporate sponsor” who was going to pay for my training. I was on my own.
Being that I was running a one-man operation, I didn’t really have the luxury of attending training classes at Microsoft Authorized Training Centers. Those types of classes tend to be really expensive, plus attending a class would have meant taking time away from my business. Instead, I began to focus on finding free or low cost ways to train myself on the latest technology.
In a previous article, I explored some of the free training resources that I use. However, getting access to training resources is only one piece of the puzzle. If you want to get certified you have to be able to pass the required exams. As someone who stays incredibly busy, I knew that I needed to find efficient study methods that would allow me to make the best possible use of my time.
A Quick Disclaimer
Before I tell you what I do to prepare for an exam, I need to mention that everyone learns in different ways. The techniques that work really well for me might not work at all for someone else. I am sharing my own personal study techniques in the hopes that I can help others, but please keep in mind that these methods are not guaranteed to work for you.