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 These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.
Just as with skinning the proverbial cat, there is more than one way to study for a certification exam. As anyone who has been through the pre-exam preparation phase could attest, there are numerous different kinds of IT certification study materials available, and there's not necessarily a "right way" to choose from among them.
Even newcomers to IT, for example, probably have some idea whether they learn better by reading from a book or listening to someone else explain concepts. There are videos, online classes, and in-person classes. Some people get informal advice from others via internet forums or mailing lists. Computer learning platforms often blend a variety of teaching methods.
For our recent Big Data Certification Survey, we asked certified Big Data professionals what works for them. Survey respondents rated the effectiveness, per their most recent certification experience, of various certification study materials. As always, respondents had the option to mark "Does Not Apply" for study methods that were foreign to their experience.
Here's what we learned:
Self-study books and practice exams tend to be the most popular and relied on methods of study in our surveys, and there's further evidence of that here. Self-study book got our strongest rating of Excellent, and also had solid Very Good and Good numbers. Practice exams didn't score quite as well in the Excellent column, but are widely deemed Very Good or Good.
Online learning courses, whether from universities or independent providers also got a strong vote of confidence, with 40 percent of respondents rating them Very Good, and a further 24 percent putting them down as Excellent (12 percent) or Good (12 percent). Product documentation and instructor-led training also get high marks.
Interestingly, product documentation is the only method in the survey that didn't get any Does Not Apply responses. So even though 20 percent of survey respondents didn't get much out of, in essence, reading the manual, rating product documentation either Poor (4 percent of those surveyed) or Fair (16 percent), everyone who took the survey included some degree of product documentation in their exam preparation.
Even seemingly archaic methods of study and preparation like interacting with peers in forums and via mailing lists didn't suffer the indignity borne by boot camps of being the least popular approach listed. While most who did choose boot camps gave them high marks (an not a single respondent rated them as Poor), 36 percent of respondents steered clear of that route entirely.