Editor's Note: This article contains excerpts from "The Insider's Guide to IT Certification" by Jonathan Bischke, available at
Some of the CertTutor.net authors (Dick Lewis, Darren Sargent, Gregory Smith, Orin Thomas, and David Watts) and I recently assembled much of our collective wisdom about how to efficiently and cost-effectively navigate the certification process. Here are some tips and tricks that we've learned about IT certification.
- We know of at least five companies that offer a variety of free demo exams. These demos make perfect "pre-tests" for people who are just beginning their studies. By taking these pre-tests, you can gauge how much you know about a subject and where you need to focus your studies—and best of all, the process won't cost you a dime. Sites that offer free demos include Boson Software, Cert21.com, MeasureUp, Transcender, and, of course, CertTutor.net.
- Training centers often discount their classes. If you see a price listed on a training company's Web site or brochure, treat it as you would the sticker price on an automobile. What you see is usually the price that centers hope you'll be willing to pay, but it's rarely the lowest price they'll accept. Do some bargaining, and you can often talk them down 10 percent, 20 percent, or more.
- You can set up a fully functional home network with just one computer. If you don't have the space or the money to purchase a lot of computers and network them, consider purchasing VMware. VMware lets you host multiple virtual computers within one physical machine. The software is perfect for people on a budget, especially those living in cramped conditions such as a small apartment or dorm room.
- How you set your goals (certification or otherwise) almost always determines how likely you are to achieve them. Do you make your goals as specific as possible? Do you share your goals with someone you trust—someone who will hold you accountable to them? Are you planning to reward yourself with something special after you've achieved your goal? You should be doing all these things to make sure your goals don't become unfulfilled wishes.
- Microsoft offers a free alternative to tutorial courses. If you've never checked out the Microsoft Online Seminars Web site, you really need to. The site offers dozens of online presentations about a wide range of technical topics. In fact, many of the presentations are identical to what you would see if you shelled out a few thousand dollars to attend a conference such as TechNet.
We believe that the certification process can be fun and painless if you go about it properly. Sharing our thoughts about how to approach certification properly has always been a big part of CertTutor.net's mission.