Certification Survey Extra: Evaluating computer technician certification study materials
Posted on
August 31, 2023

Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.

What methods of certification exam preparation do certified IT support professional benefit the most from using?

There have been many, many movies and television shows where a character is visited by their future self, who drops in to let them know that a key decision they are about to make will dramatically affect the course of their life. It's clear, if nothing else, that a lot of TV and movie writers wish they could chat with a future self who explains, or at least hints at, what they need to do next.

Unfortunately, it's exceedingly rare, bordering or "has never ever actually happened before and never will actually happen," to get a helpful self-assessment check-in with one's own older, wiser self. This can make it difficult to determine, among many other conundrums, what you should do to prepare for your next IT certification exam.

The range of available certification training and preparation options can cause even experienced IT professionals to become flustered. Even when one has a preferred mode of study, it isn't always the case that training suitable for the next certification exam on one's personal agenda is readily available in that form or fashion. Even your future self might struggle to advise you.

Certification is an ongoing pursuit, of course, so you aren't likely to enter the IT industry, whatever your specialization, with every cert you'll ever need already in hand. For our recent Computer Technician Certification Survey, we asked certified computer support professionals how they get the best results when a new certification exam comes along.

Survey respondents rated the effectiveness, per their most recent certification experience, of various IT support certification study materials. As always, those surveyed had the option to mark "Does Not Apply" for study approaches that are foreign to their experience.

Here's what we learned:

Method of Study Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Excellent Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Very Good Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Good Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Fair Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Poor Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Does Not Apply
Self-study books 45.3 percent 22.7 percent 21.3 percent 6.7 percent 0 percent 4 percent
Product Documentation 16 percent 18.7 percent 34.7 percent 8 percent 5.3 percent 17.3 percent
Instructor-led training at training center 28.4 percent 29.7 percent 10.8 percent 2.7 percent 0 percent 28.4 percent
Vendor-authorized boot camp 24.3 percent 12.2 percent 12.2 percent 4 percent 1.4 percent 45.9 percent
On-the-job training 32.4 percent 31.1 percent 14.9 percent 6.8 percent 1.3 percent 13.5 percent
Practice exams 39.2 percent 35 percent 14.9 percent 4.1 percent 0 percent 6.8 percent
Online university or e-learning course 16.2 percent 27 percent 14.9 percent 2.7 percent 1.4 percent 37.8 percent
Internet mailing lists or forums 8.1 percent 10.8 percent 13.5 percent 16.2 percent 9.5 percent 41.9 percent
Computer-based training or simulations 27 percent 28.4 percent 25.7 percent 5.4 percent 0 percent 13.5 percent
Community or technical college courses 12.2 percent 20.3 percent 13.5 percent 8 percent 1.4 percent 44.6 percent
Brain dumps from web sites 10.8 percent 20.3 percent 10.8 percent 13.5 percent 1.4 percent 43.2 percent

2023 Computer Technician Certification Survey: Refers to materials used by survey respondents to prepare for their most recently taken exam.

It almost certainly isn't the case that all training and study materials are helpful and produce excellent results. When you concentrate on the "Poor" column in the table above, however, it would seem that certified IT support professionals almost never have a bad experience.

It could be the case that everyone who participated in the survey already knows what they like and avoids methods of exam preparation they would find frustrating. There are certainly types of training that large numbers of those surveyed steer clear of altogether.

As often happens when we look at this sort of question, it's clear than many many certified computer technicians are go-IT-alone types. (See what we did there?) They have a strong belief that they learn best and profit most from using learning solutions that are self-guided, self-paced, and don't require interaction with others. This would account for the excellent ratings given to options such as self-study books, practice exams, and computer-based training or simulations.

The workplace is a key arena of learning for many, as demonstrated by the fact that roughly 64 percent of survey participants chose a rating of either "Excellent" or "Very Good" for on-the-job training. If you know enough to get a job in IT, then you can do work, get paid, and enrich your skill set all at the same time.

Another strong option — at least for those who use it — is instructor-led training. Community college courses, boot camps and online mailing lists/forums are apparently beneath the notice of many certified information security professionals looking to study up for a certification exam.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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