I've said elsewhere that the problem with passing IT exams isn't the lack of study materials. This may have been the case around 5 to 10 years ago, but now there are almost too many study resources. It can actually be overwhelming because they all promise results.
The problem isn’t the study materials as such. The problem is people aren't using them correctly or enough. So without further ado, here are my tips.
1. Speed Reading
No, it isn't hype. Top speed readers can read and retain huge amounts of information in a very short period of time. They train themselves to do this over years.
“In 2007 the six [time] World Champion Speed Reader…Anne Jones read ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ at Borders, Charing Cross Road, London in a record breaking 47 minutes and one second – 4251 words per minute.”
I believe in this method so much in fact that I wrote a book on the subject. It’s free if you have access to howtonetwork. Otherwise, here is the link:
Never attempt to understand every word you read in any technical manual. Instead, just turn each page and glance over the words and diagrams. Do this several times, and then do it for the chapter you are studying today.
After doing this a few times, you can start to actually review the information. Forget about retention at the start, it will be sinking in so just trust the process.
The only way you can really get information to sink in is to rewrite it. Write out important facts, protocol information, and commands. Eventually, you will be able to write out the information from memory AND you will have created a handy cram guide to carry around with you.
You can read out part of your study guide into a dictaphone or into your PC using free software such as Audible. Audio versions of your study guide are invaluable, which is why I created one for my CCNA in 60 Days book. [No Longer Available Sorry]
Forums are your friend. Use them to post questions or post your current understanding of a topic and ask for feedback or constructive criticism. Try to stick to howtonetwork.com or vendor run forums because many private ones are populated by angry people who like to troll others.
I’ll share a little secret with you here. I used to lab stuff up long before reading the theory. This worked well with Frame Relay for my Cisco CCNP exams. I followed labs not understanding how or why they worked, but when it came to reading the theory, I could recognize all the important terms and commands right away. It seemed to sink in right away.
Never be afraid to lab stuff up, even if it makes no sense at the moment. Who cares, right?
Studying is a lonely business. Find a local or distance study buddy. Get somebody who is motivated and at your level. You don’t want somebody who keeps falling behind or wants to use you to teach them. You’ll know which ones to approach by checking on the forums.
7. Breaking Stuff
I don't mean with a hammer, but half of the battle is fixing things when they aren’t working. Find how how many ways you can break the technology by disabling parts of it, changing commands, and observing what happens. Then fix the issue.
Best to do this on your home lab, of course!