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Using Routine to Avoid Certification Journey Pitfalls

Potential IT certification exam takers, imagine yourself in the following scenario.

The night before your exam you review your notes — and you’re not sure you studied a particular concept well enough. You determine that you need to do some last-minute studying. As you rush to find your study book, gather your notes, and start up your lab, you ready yourself for a cram session.

You grab two 4-packs of Red Bull and some chips and then barricade yourself in your study space for the next six hours. At some point, fatigue kicks in — and you fall asleep face down in your study book! A cold wake-up shower is now your only hope of performing well on the exam. 

As you walk into the test center, you take one last deep breath and hope the exam gods are kind to you. Just then you see the tears of others who finished and failed their exams. 

You say to yourself, “That’s not me! It won’t be me!”

Some 90 minutes later, you walk out of the room — having failed the exam, too. Big surprise, your all-nighter approach fell flat. 

Yet, many people think that cramming helps in these types of situations. It often works in high school and college, right? When it comes to IT certification, however, cramming seldom ever works. There’s just too much content and comprehension. So, how do we avoid having to cram in the first place?

Importance of Routines While Studying

If we can learn anything from the multitude of advice available on the internet it is that we all learn differently. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in regard to studying for exams. However, all of us can benefit from establishing routines. 

Think about it, you use routines every day, whether you’re getting ready for work or preparing dinner. With that in mind, a routine can also be applied to learning IT and studying for certification exams. Ultimately, a routine can help you avoid having to cram and hurting your brain’s ability to retain information. 

How to Develop a Routine

Developing a routine is fairly easy. Most of the time, we call routines, “habits” — and use the two interchangeably. A habit is something that you consciously agree to, similar to the way a bodybuilder makes it a habit to go to the gym. 

It takes mental effort to follow a habit and the rule of thumb says it takes 30 days for a new habit to stick. Maintaining a routine is simple. Let’s use the example of getting ready for work. As we run through a typical morning checklist, we see things like: 

  • Wake up
  • Eat breakfast
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Drive to work

But our morning routines often run deeper than that. We might also tell ourselves to eat a healthy breakfast, change the razor blade, and stop at the most convenient gas station. Those decisions help make our routines successful. 

And the beauty of it all is that you do this naturally with no mental effort — almost as if you were on autopilot. So, how do you accomplish it in the first place? Here’s a simple three-step approach. 

  1. What’s the Purpose. First, ask yourself what is the ultimate purpose? That is your prize! It could be a certification or self-enlightenment. No matter what you choose as the prize, keep your eyes on it! Everything that you do after this is meant to get you to the prize. Remember this part.
  2. Choose the Right Training Materials. Next, gather your study materials. Don’t worry about the price of training; focus on the training materials that work best for your learning needs. That could mean CBT Nuggets, a study book, and a good lab!
  3. Set Your Schedule. Now it’s time to plan your attack. Look for time slots throughout your day that you can fit in short bursts of studying. Even 10 minutes a day adds up.

Remember that consistency is key, from start to finish. By repeating these three steps regularly during your certification journey, you’ll move closer to your “prize.” The challenge is repeating this process every day until the exam. Here’s an example of how to apply the steps to your daily routine: 

Play CBT Nuggets videos during your commute to work or school. At lunchtime, use practice flashcards or other memorization exercises to work on areas that need better retention. Use these learning tools to help your brain engage with that information throughout your day. Finally, after work, you can drill down further with books or labs!

Success Requires Effort

Does this seem like a lot of work? Well, of course, it is. Few things are ever easy. But if you make studying a part of your daily routine, you will earn your prize. That means no more guilt — so eyes on the prize!

 

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