Salary Survey Extra: Rating certification study and training options (Part 2)
Posted on
November 19, 2016

Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

There are many different study and training options available to individuals preparing for a certification exam. Every person doesn't use every method of study and training, but most people end up trying

There are many different study and training options available to individuals preparing for a certification exam. Every person doesn't use every method of study and training, but most people end up trying more than one. In our most recently Salary Survey PLUS, which focused on networking certifications, we asked survey respondents to rate the overall effectiveness of the various methods they have used to study and train in the past.

In the first part of this feature, we looked at self-study books, product documentation, training centers, boot camps, on-the-job training and internet mailing lists or forums. Next up are practice exams, online courses, computer-based training, college courses and brain dumps.

[Note: This is Part 2 of 2, covering 5 of the 11 options we asked survey respondents to rate. Read Part 1 here.]

Practice Exams
Excellent: 30.9 percent
Very Good: 32.7 percent
Good: 21.3 percent
Fair: 6.2 percent
Poor: 2.5 percent
Does Not Apply: 6.4 percent

Aside from using books for self-study (No. 1) and  using computer-based training and simulations (No. 2), practice exams got the highest overall ratings of any of the study and training methods we inquired about. More than 60 percent of survey respondents rate them either Excellent or Very Good. And with the second-lowest Does Not Apply rating in the survey, it would appear that practice exams are also part of almost everyone's pre-certification preparation.

Online Courses (University or e-learning)
Excellent: 14 percent
Very Good: 19.5 percent
Good: 19.9 percent
Fair: 8.8 percent
Poor: 4.4 percent
Does Not Apply: 33.4 percent

Online courses are surprisingly unpopular, both in terms of how many people actually use them (a third of all survey respondents took a pass), and how poorly rated they are. Despite the exploding number of MOOCs and other e-learning courses that are available to people, it would seem that few are actually accustomed to learning this way, or have had a very good experience doing so.

Computer-Based Training or Simulations
Excellent: 31.9 percent
Very Good: 32.1 percent
Good: 20.2 percent
Fair: 5.2 percent
Poor: 2 percent
Does Not Apply: 8.5 percent

If anything is going to displace books in the near future, this is the top candidate. Computer-based training is competitive with books at every rating level, and many people already use it. Computer-based training tends to be more individualized than online courses, with students able to work at their own speed, review material covered previously at any time, take frequent quizzes and practice exams, and — perhaps most importantly — use simulations to see how things actually work in a real world setting.

Community or Technical College Courses
Excellent: 11.6 percent
Very Good: 17.7 percent
Good: 20.4 percent
Fair: 8.4 percent
Poor: 4.4 percent
Does Not Apply: 37.5 percent

Two-year college courses were dismissed by more survey respondents than any other method except for boot camps. And the people who've taken IT classes at community or technical colleges seem reluctant to rate them Excellent, with most settling on either Very Good or Good.

Brain Dumps
Excellent: 14.6 percent
Very Good: 18.4 percent
Good: 19.5 percent
Fair: 9.6 percent
Poor: 6.6 percent
Does Not Apply: 31.3 percent

Somewhat controversially, more than two-thirds of survey respondents gave brain dumps a rating. This would seem to indicate that a significant number of all certified professionals have used them at least to some extent, at some point in their certification preparation. Cheaters! Maybe it's like using CliffsNotes to prepare for a high-school or college exam about War and Peace, or Moby Dick. It's not something people are proud of having done, but it was considered a necessity at the time.

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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