Certification training is increasingly important for technology and developer professionals, as attaining a certificate validates an individual’s credibility and proficiency within an area of technology. According to CompTIA, “91% of employers believe IT certifications play a key role in the hiring process and that IT certifications are a reliable predictor of a successful employee.”
Technology certifications require a significant amount of training and preparation. As a training professional, you can ensure your information technology (IT) team is ready. Here are five best practices for helping technology professionals prepare for certification exams.
1. Reinforce Learning With Multiple Training Modalities
Providing access to multiple forms of training can reinforce learning. Plus, not everyone likes to learn in the same way. These reasons are why it is so important to offer more than a one-size-fits-all approach to certification training. While video-based training is preferred by some, others prefer to read books.
Other ways to reinforce learning include providing access to mentors who have already passed the desired certification, sample exams, hands-on practice, and even bootcamps or instructor-led training (ILT). Blending these resources together can improve the first-pass rates for technology team members who sit for exams.
Tip: Look for training partners that can provide a range of training modalities to support the needs of your certification candidates.
2. Provide Hands-on Practice
In the past, certification candidates could prepare for and pass an exam just by reading books or taking courses, but this approach resulted in certified employees who didn’t have the real-world experience needed to perform a highly technical role. As a result, mangers and hiring organizations started downplaying the value of certifications.
Certifying authorities have responded to this criticism by mandating that candidates practice the skills in real-world environments in order to pass an exam. It is critical that today’s candidates have access to platforms and tools that they can use to practice the hard skills associated with a certification.
Tip: If you don’t have instructor-led training in your organization, look for vendors that provide cloud-based training environments aligned with exam objectives that candidates can access as needed as they progress through their studies.
3. Provide Learning That Is Organized and Easy to Follow
Some vendors claim that they support learning related to a certification — but it is up to the learners to figure out which courses and resources they need and what order they should take them in. This approach wastes learners’ time and makes it easy for them to miss important topics or skills they need in order to pass the exam. Certification candidates should be able to easily locate the relevant training resources, and those resources should be presented in an organized manner that guides them through their learning journey.
Tip: Ask potential certification training vendors how their resources are organized, and find out how easy is it for candidates to progress through their training in an orderly, efficient manner. Also, ask if all the major topics the candidate will be tested on are covered by their training.
4. Provide Learning That Fits Into a Busy Schedule
Technology professionals are already operating at maximum capacity, and leaving the office for a week to attend a certification bootcamp can be difficult. Instead, help candidates fit certification training into their schedules. Look for training solutions that allow candidates to progress at their own pace during the time frames they have available.
Ideally, learners should be able to train and practice after business hours from a mobile device. Some vendors offer online certification bootcamps with live instruction delivered in smaller increments (e.g., three of four hours per day spread out over two week instead of an entire week of eight hours per day in a classroom). Some of these online bootcamp vendors also provide access to recorded versions of the sessions to accommodate people who can’t attend every live session.
Tip: Make sure to look at vendors’ mobile capabilities to see whether candidates will be able to continue their training outside of normal office hours.
5. Provide Access to Practice Exams
Becoming familiar with the exam — including the format, types of questions, etc. — can help make candidates ready to sit for the exam. There are many books, both digital and print, that include collections of sample exams, along with explanations of the answers to each question.
Many training vendors also provide access to online sample exams, some in both a “study mode” (learners immediately find out if they are right or wrong and why) and a timed “exam mode” (learners have the same number of questions as the exam, with the same amount of time to answer them). After taking a practice test in exam mode, learners have a good idea of whether they are ready to pass the exam.
Tip: Consider providing your learners with access to practice exam books as well as online practice exams.
Most of the major IT and developer training organizations provide some certification preparation training, including instructor-led training organizations and online only technology and developer training companies. As I recommended in my last article, the first step is to determine which certifications are important to your team and find out how learners are currently preparing for them. Then, approach your current training vendor to find out whether it aligns with the exams your teams need and if it provides the resources to support the best practices listed above. If there are any gaps in the vendor’s coverage or ability to support best practices, learn about other vendors’ offerings to see if they are a better fit.