Tuesday, December 29, 2020

How I Passed the CompTIA Network+ Certification | Tools, Tips and Resources

I took the CompTIA Network+ exam on November 8th, 2019 and passed!  I know this is a super late post but I still want to share my experience as a follow up from my YouTube video I created on that day.

Given that it was my first IT related certification I was nervous but excited at the same time.  I cannot remember the last time I studied for an important exam.  I read from others who took the exam that it was more challenging compared to the A+ and Security+.  I think what most said was because one had to memorize a lot of protocols and ports.  Regardless I still wanted to go for it because I was naturally curious about networking.  Being in a desktop support role now for my company I wanted to learn how systems communicate and how they are supported and configured.  I did not want the A+ certification because I was already in a computer support role and when reviewing the content I did not feel challenged. I thought about the Cisco CCNA certification but personally thought I was not ready for that.  So, if you are on the fence of which certification or IT path to go with leave a commend down below.

I think many are on the same when it comes to deciding which certification to work on.  My hope is that you can gain some guidance,  encouragement and inspiration with your IT related certification studies.  I will mention what books, video content and other resources I used to help me learn and practice for the exam.

For a book I decided to go with Exam Cram as a reference and guide.  The book provides crammed information on networking and is not very thorough.  It does however include a Cram Sheet and a free Pearson Vue practice test exam software.  I purchased this because I wanted a book that would not take up a lot space in my laptop bag plus it had decent reviews and was reasonably priced.  Another book I would recommend is Mike Meyers' Network+ book.  This book is larger to carry around but I would highly recommend it because goes a bit more in depth than the Exam Cram.  Half way through my studies I was able to get the Mike Meyers' book digitally and used that some times along side the Exam Cram book.  One recommendation before you go reading the book is to print the exam objectives provided by CompTIA.  This is a must have if you want to take your studies seriously.  It worked great as a checklist of what I needed to review and study.  My recommendation is that you buy one book as a reference because watching videos only will not help.

For video content I used several websites and started with LinkedIn Learning (previous called Lynda.com).  The videos I mainly saw on LinkedIn Learning were taught by Mike Meyers.  I liked his teachings so much that I went to Udemy.com to purchase his full course since LinkedIn learning did not have the full series.  I also purchased Jason Dion's Network+ course which included his practice exam. Both provide different teaching styles and offered great content.  Another website that I used was Skillsoft.  This site provides a ton of IT related content.  If you have the ability to get content from different instructors and websites do it.  I think it is important to have diversity while learning.  I learned better some topics from one instructor than the others and visa versa.  One person in mind that really helped is Professor Messer's CompTIA Network+ videos and website. He provides great content, study groups and pop quizzes.   Highly recommended! 

Along side YouTube videos I also listened to Podcasts related to networking on the road because reading books and watching videos was not enough.  It would take at least one hour to drive to work so I took that time to soak in as much content as possible.  But I still needed something else to help me retain the information for the exam because no matter how much I studied I was not able to successfully pass some chapters.  So I knew that I had to do something else to help me remember. 

The application I used is called Anki.  This is a free application available for Windows, Mac and Android that allows one to create decks of flashcards.  Thankfully at that time I had an android to get the free app because the iPhone app cost around $24.99.  I would say this app was the best tool I used to help study for my exam.  Any time I was in a waiting room, at lunch or home sitting on the couch while my wife watch the news I would go through some questions.  I reviewed them as much as I could in the morning, afternoon and right before bed.  I had to learn a lot of protocols, acronyms and port numbers for this exam and it worked great.  As simple as this may sound it really helped me retain a lot of the information needed to pass the exam.  My process of studying was simple.

I would read the chapter, close the book and do my best to write down as much as possible to see how much information I retained.  In addition I would continuously add questions in Anki as I went through the book.  Out of all of the recommended options this is a must have to for my studies. 

My study plan was simple
  • Study at least 1-2 hours per day
  • Take the Exam within 6 months
  • Lab every day (Cisco Packet Tracer)
  • Use Flashcards (Anki app or online)
  • Study 4-6 hours on the weekend (Sat and/or Sun)
  • Review practice test results after each chapter
 Simple enough I guess but if I did not get any questions right on the chapter I would review it and study more on that subject till I felt confident and passed the chapter exam.  As I got closer to my exam date I focused a lot of my time with using the Skillsoft practice exam and when I passed that exam I was confident to take the Net+ exam. I would recommend purchasing at least two practice exams for your studies to provide variety.

Before you get all motivated to start studying one really important step I want you to do do is.  I want you to actually go purchase the exam voucher and schedule an official test day.  Once I purchased the exam I knew that it would expire but I did not want to wait a full year to study and take an exam.  I gave myself a goal of six months of studying.  I believe I purchased the voucher in the spring and soon after wrote down a goal to take the exam at the end of October but no later than the second week of November. I really did not want to go into the holiday season studying.  Once I actually schedule a date for the exam I was super nervous but doing that really helped me to study more every night and weekend.  I was not perfect with my study plan but if I did miss studying during the summer I would make it up the next week.  I really needed to keep myself accountable. 

So I got my phone and I posted a picture on Instagram with the exam cram book to share that I was studying for the certification.  This not only helped to keep me accountable but also showed my friends and family that I was busy studying for an important exam.  Just the thought of telling people that I failed the exam was good motivation for me to study and lab every day. 

In all I will end with this. I wrote down my goals and why and would encourage you to do the same.  I had mine posted at home, work, in my car and in my notebook.  Create daily reoccurring reminders in your personal and work calendar to study for the exam.  One thing I did every day was bring my notebook and Exam Cram book to and from work.  I set them on my desk daily.  Some days I did not study at caring for my kids and home but I did that religiously to help.  Most nights were tiring but it was well worth the time. My best studying time was when I was not home and at a library or coffee shop studying on the weekend for almost six hours.  If I missed studying one weekend for a personal commitment I added more study time for next week.  In the end know what your why is.   Below are some reasons why I wanted this certification. 

  • I want to do it for myself
  • I want to further my career in IT
  • I want to do it for my wife and kids
  • I want to build my certification path and growth
  • I am curious and naturally interested in networking

What is next?  I am not sure but I know I will use what I learned to study for any future certification or exam.  I am thinking to go for Cisco's CCNA, Juniper JNCIA, Sec+ and/or Linux+. Good luck and do not stop learning. 

Feel free to add your suggestions and comments below or in my YouTube video.  Share your experiences, success stories and struggles.  Thank you.