Taking Exams? Know your learning style

I’ve noticed a lot of activity online about people taking exams before a particular deadline.

  • VCP Delta Exam
  • VCP-NV (No course requirement if you’re a CCNA/CCNP)
  • CCNP R+S Exam (Last 642 Series exams before 29th Jan 2015)

And just exams in general, regardless of a deadline.

spongebob_exam

I’m writing this post, mainly because I’ve been struggling to revise. And others will too, also being out of education for a number of years, you forget all those great techniques you never bothered to listen to when you did your exams in high school.

But now, you can re-learn and enhance yourself. 😉

Revision

I hate it, I always have. Its hard, it’s boring, and I could be doing other stuff I hate like tidying up.

You rarely meet people who like revision. To be honest, I’m taking my CCNP Route Exam shortly, and instead of revising, I’m writing a blog post about how to revise better! Ironic?

Also there are various materials out there which you can use for your revision, knowing which is the right one is hard at times;

  • Paper based text (Revision Books, physical or electronic)
  • Lab Manuals (same again)
  • Instructor Led courses (online or in person)
  • Training Videos
  • Q+A’s (such as on Microsoft’s E-Learning platform for their exams)

For me, I prefer text-based resources, as with training videos I tend to stop listening after a while and my mind wanders. However I need to read technical information in a quiet room to absorb the information. Reading Game of Thrones however, I zone out, so it can be on the tube and I’m fine, weird eh?

At the same time for my Cisco CCNP Exams, I went and took an instructor led course, so I could play on real hardware, break it and ask questions.

Learning Styles

So the reason most people “fail” at revising is due to not understanding their needs. I quote the word fail, because it’s not actually the correct term, we don’t fail, we just mis-use our time.

So a learning style, is the particular way of digesting information in a way that resonates with yourself. Your learning style is essentially unique to you, although others may be similar, its about how you respond to learning and remember new information. By understanding your own needs, you will be better able to adapt your revision and learning in a way that can be committed to memory better.

Seven Learning Styles (The science bit)

So there are 7 learning styles

  • Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    • Such as creating diagrams.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
    • Alternatively using audio-books, or training videos
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    • So writing down the information, repeating that, either by talking out loud to yourself, presenting to peers, or copy down the information again.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    • Setting up the physical equipment, getting to know what connections are used etc,
    • Problem solving physical issues, but also clicking through the CLI as well
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    • Creating Mindmaps, whether on paper on in your head to help break down the problem solving.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    • This might involve presenting information back to peers
    • Working out common problems in groups to come to a common solution
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
    • Self explanatory

learningstyles

You will find that you don’t actually fit into just one category, but a few. Which is fine, this is normal. By understanding the categories you do sit in, you can use a range of revision materials and techniques to ensure you don’t get bored, by for example, using pictures and images all the time.

You can take an online test to help pinpoint your learning styles, such as this one;

Here’s my result, which when you read below, part of it doesn’t sound like me, however you can see how it can help me.

learning style result

An example, based on me

So my personal learning and preference style is a bit mixed.

When learning new things, I like to get my hands on something, so I want to do it myself. Whether its setting up a new piece of hardware, using the GUI/CLI to configure a piece of software/hardware.

I can work in a group whilst doing this, contributing to hit the end goal, which is something that is set up and working as designed. I have an odd habit of reading the instructions or manual as well, even if I’ve done it before. I used to do this when I was a kid, I had to know everything that the official line says on it. But at the same time, I’d be happy to investigate new things and jump straight in should no manual be available.

When revising for an exam/test, I’m slightly different. I can’t work in a group, it’s an added distraction to be honest. I like to sit in a quiet room, maybe with the TV on with the volume set to one, just to break the silence slightly, as background noise.

I will play around with hardware and software, but only to confirm what I know, or what I may struggle to understand from my main revision materials, which are always text-based. This can be the product manual, the study guide or the quick exam guide. I usually then take notes from the official text, breaking it down into smaller and smaller chucks, enabling me to remember the important facts.

I’ll go through the study guide Q + A’s, mark them myself, and then take notes on anything I got wrong, even if I made a mistake and I knew it, I’ll write it.

By writing stuff down it helps me commit the information to memory easier. I’ll also create diagrams and annotate them, for particular design’s, such as Network Policy Based Routing.

What doesn’t work for me, training videos, I quickly turn off. Usually its the presenter, and the lack of showing me what needs to be done and how to do it in a real-life situation. Also there’s never enough white boarding. And basically training videos aren’t interactive.

That said I bought Chris Byrantt’s CCNP Bootcamp off Udemy, and that is really good, but I still can’t use it for my main revision aid.

Music and all that in the background, well I listen to heavy metal, so it usually distracts me in the end.

Some revision do’s and dont’s

I’m not trying to teach you all again, grade you back to high school. But sometimes people forget the basic things, which can help them in the long run.

So this is just a recap;

  • Clean, tidy revision area, the more mess the more distracted you will come.
  • Routine, revision at the same times during the day, or go the full hog and create yourself a revision timetable
  • Remember your breaks, don’t do huge periods, break it up. 15/20 min break every 90 minutes.
  • Use a range of resources to revise from, books, videos, blog posts, doing it yourself, etc. Match to your learning style.
Summary

If you’re revising now to take exams, I don’t really need to motivate your, your under no obligation (probably) to do the exam, but you’re doing it anyway.  So take my thoughts as a stepping stone, if your interested in learning more, then know doubt you will research it further on how to get more from your revision.

This blog post was just to help ground you again and remind you there is a right way to revise, rather than bury your head into some text and hope for the best.

And finally, good luck in your exams!!

spongebob exam

 

Regards

Dean

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