Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Staying on topic

One of the primary things I started this blog to chronicle was my attempt at getting some IT certifications, starting with the CompTIA A+, and shifting my career away from a dead end job at a casino/hotel, and into somewhere that I can feel like I do something useful.

I mentioned in my last post that I was only about 10 days away from taking my first certification exam, but my schedule at my lovely dead end job got in the way, so I pushed my test appointment back one more week. It seemed like a bad idea to work 6 days straight, have only 1 day off, and then take the test in the morning before work.

My first exam is now scheduled for tomorrow at 9:30 am.

When I first started studying for this certification, I was getting practice test scores that were sometimes a little above passing, and sometimes a good bit below.  I've taken all the practice tests I can find in the last few days, and I've been consistently scoring between 96% and 98%.

Along the way, I've picked up a few study tips I thought I would share.

  1. Watching Van Wilder on a loop while you study will not improve your knowledge or understanding, but it will cause you to use more catch phrases.
  2. I was right.  There is no good reason to spend thousands of dollars on a certification course.  A co-worker who is working on a similar long-term goal has been dragging his feet and really not accomplished anything because he is convinced that the only way is to pay a training center $3500 for a 10 day seminar.
  3. I was also wrong.  I bought training materials for the 220-70x series exams, believing that I would be able to study up and get prepare fully for the exams in a month and a half.  I ended up with a lot less time because of some shipping and order processing issues, but it wasn't even close to enough time.  If you have a job and a life, I think 3 months should be enough time with the right study materials.  If you have a crazy life, outdated study materials, or life jumps up and bite you in the butt, you may need a bit longer.  If you're a full time student with limited responsibilities, you may be able to prep for the A+ within a matter of a few weeks.
  4. The CompTIA Marketplace at comptiastore.com is HORRIBLE.  When I ordered my study materials, it took the better part of two weeks to get them when I paid for 2nd day shipping. There are few if any product reviews, and the product descriptions are incomplete at best, making it more than a little difficult to pick the right study materials.  The books I ordered were advertised as having QR codes embedded in the book to link to training videos associated with the various topics, which seemed pretty cool to me.  It turned out that the training videos were really just freely available youtube videos from Professor Messer, and I could have spent about the same amount of money to buy the books that were written by the same people who did the videos, which the videos were really meant to work with.  So, as far as study materials, skip the CompTIA Marketplace, and go to professormesser.com
  5. There is such a thing as, "too much coffee," and you'll know when you've had it.  Unfortunately, you'll only know 2 cups too late, and then you're just left with the regret and the inflamed digestive track.
  6. You have to deal with the CompTIA Marketplace anyway.  I know it sucks, but you're going to have to buy at least your test voucher from CompTIA.  They claim that you can pay for your test at the testing center, but when you check with the testing company, they'll tell you that they don't actually do the testing.  They just provide the tests and certify the testing centers, and your nearest testing center is the local community college.  When you get to the college, they tell you that they only proctor the tests, so you can't schedule the test though them, and then they send you back to the beginning.  Ultimately, it may be possible to skip all the middle men and pay for your test in person, but this is one instance where dealing with the CompTIA Marketplace is probably easier.
  7. It doesn't matter if you're a, "night owl."  Get up early and do your studying first thing int he morning.  Trust me; you'll thank me later.
Well, folks, that's about it for now.  The first test to validate my computer competence is bright and early tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck.