January 23, 2021
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Study Strategies: Increase your Comprehension and Learning While Studying for IT Certifications

  • By Steve Rowe
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Let's take a look at how you might approach this active learning activity with your reading. Let's read the following excerpt from Mike Gunderloy's MCAD/MCSD Training Guide (Exam 70-310) Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Visual Basic .NET and the .NET Framework (ISBN 0-7897-2820-6) and then I will give you some of the points I pulled from the paragraph:

"Once you have developed an application and ensured its quality, the next step is to distribute and install the application on the target computers. This process is called deployment. The planning for deployment and the process of deployment may vary depending on the type of a program and its targeted users. This exam objective requires you to know what's involved in the deployment of a Windows service, a serviced component, a .NET Remoting object, and an XML Web service. The deployment of Web applications and Windows application is covered in more detail on the 70-305 and 70-306 exams respectively."

In the preceding text, you see I have made some items bold. As I read this section, I found the bold items to be the important content this paragraph offered. If I were taking reflective notes on this paragraph, I would indicate in my own words that deployment is the act of distributing and installing an application to target computers. I would also note that different types of programs and the different uses of programs to be deployed will certainly affect the planning and process of an application's deployment. Finally, I would note that the exam will expect me to know about deployment scenarios for Windows, XML Web, and serviced components as well as for .NET Remoting Objects.

This exercise probably seems simple enough to you. Most can find the main points of a paragraph or section of content. It may even help you to use a highlighter while reading to highlight this critical text. Where the "reflective" part comes in is through your writing of the content in your own words. Putting the content in your own words forces you to process the information on a deeper level than what you would process by simply copying the text.

You can even personalize your notes even more by adding any personal experiences you may have encountered with the actions or concepts the text is explaining. In the case of our sample text, if you have experienced deploying any of the items mentioned and have had successes and pitfalls during the deployments, mentioning these items in your notes and/or journal will also help increase your comprehension (not to mention help you remember actions you may have successfully taken that might help you answer one of the common scenario-based questions you will likely face).

Make Your Own Exam

One last activity you can do to help you actively learn examination content is to make your own exam, complete with an answer key that explains correct answers in a full paragraph. Here you can assume the role of the exam giver. Pretend you have been tasked with creating an exam that will be used to examine the knowledge of your peers. Using what you know about the topic, along with any objectives lists or information from the testing body, determine what you feel the real exam may well ask you and build your own exam on this knowledge.

When creating your exam, deliver questions that are recall in nature, but step up the difficulty of your questions as well by requiring your pretend audience to be able to piece together several items and apply their knowledge to the scenario you created. By being creative and building higher-order questions that require application, comprehension, or synthesis of knowledge to answer, you are imprinting the exam knowledge very well in your own head as part of the process. Plus, writing out full explanations for correct answers will also help you conceptualize and comprehend critical test data. If you have never taken a certification exam before, consult any number of practice exams in books and as standalone products to help you get a sense of what goes into creating an exam. Try to come up with as many questions as possible in this activity because in the long run the more questions you create, the more technical the ground you cover.


In this article, we have explored three exercises you can do to help you keep certification study active and interesting. The end-goal of any learning activity you undertake is to comprehend and learn the material required for passing the exam. The exercises given in this article are heavily centered on writing. If you learn better by listening, seeing, and so forth, use your creative juices to develop learning activities that better suit your learning style. If you make the study process a little more fun and challenging, odds are you will be more likely to stick with your certification studies, comprehend more, and increase your odds for exam success.

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This article was originally published on June 12, 2003

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