I am currently studying for a professional certification. It does not matter which one, because what I want to emphasize in this article is that if you want to pass any certification exam the first step of the process is to read the manuals.
I have seen folks rely on their skills, classes, and experiences to pass certification exams. Some of them passed those exams, and some of them failed. Yet my personal experience has always been that the person who actually reads the manual for a product from cover to cover passes the exam.
Why is this? Because while your experiences, skills, and classes might have exposed you to many of the more common features of a product reading the manual exposes you to all of the documented features of a product. Luckily I have never encountered an exam that tested undocumented features, but I have taken exams that tested a person’s knowledge of rarely used product features.
If you really want to get the most out of this approach you should not only read the manual, but also practice on a test system as you read about each feature. This combination is not sexy. This combination is just plain old-fashion work. Yet if you cannot get ahold of or build your own test system you can always read the manual.
Furthermore, while a class may help you retain information long enough to pass a course with reading the manual tends to result in a longer retention period for that information. That has huge benefits, because while your certification proves that you had the information at the time of the test it does not guarantee that you can actually do the work that you were certified for. If nothing else, reading the manual at least gets you familiar with the documentation so that you can more quickly find the right information when you actually need it.
I know that this advice is obvious, but I constantly meet techs who brag “… and I got the certification without even reading the manual!” These people are obviously smart and intelligent. Just imagine how much more valuable they would be though if they actually complimented their natural abilities by reading the manual! Give me an IT professional who read the manual any day of the week over the smart person who just passed the exam.
P.S. In a previous article I mentioned that I was going to give a presentation on FlexPod and cloud infrastructures. I am happy to report that not only did the presentation go well, but it seems there is interest in my giving future presentations. Even better – some attendees are now looking to do business with my company. If you ever have the chance to speak in public about the things that you feel passionately about in your profession do not hesitate to do so! It certainly will result in good things for yourself and your career.