Certification Survey Extra: Rating Linux certification study materials

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Certification Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Certification Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Certification Survey data.

What study materials should you use to prepare for your next Linux certification?Forrest Gump’s mama always told him that life is like a box of chocolates. The point, for Forrest and his mama — in that one movie about Forrest’s (fictional) life that won all of the Oscars — is that there are lots of different things that life can throw at you, and you never know for certain what’s going to happen next. Just like how when you buy a box of asssorted chocolates, there’s no telling exactly what will be inside.

Sometimes IT training is kind of like that. Even if you know what category of training you’ve selected, there’s no telling, until after you’ve used the product, how helpful and effective it will be. Even a highly-rated study guide, or a popular online course, doesn’t always provide the same experience to every individual who uses it.

It’s also true that we all learn differently, and that it’s rare for two people to have the exact same approach to satisfying all of the variables in the certification preparation equation: finding time to study, allocating available financial resources, choosing the best training of one’s preferred type, and so forth.

Certification is an ongoing pursuit, of course, so you aren’t likely to enter the IT industry, whatever your specialization, with every cert you’ll ever need already in hand. For our recent Linux Certification Survey, we asked certified Linux professionals how they get the best results.

Survey respondents rated the effectiveness, per their most recent certification experience, of various Linux certification study materials. As always, those surveyed had the option to mark “Does Not Apply” for study approaches that are foreign to their experience. Here’s what we learned:

Method of Study Percentage of Respondents who rate this method ExcellentPercentage of Respondents who rate this method Very GoodPercentage of Respondents who rate this method Good Percentage of Respondents who rate this method Fair Percentage of Respondents who rate this method PoorPercentage of Respondents who rate this method Does Not Apply
Self-study books26.5 percent56.1 percent3.9 percent[No responses][No responses]13.5 percent
Product Documentation 17.8 percent21.7 percent30.9 percent8.3 percent4.3 percent17 percent
Instructor-led training at training center13 percent17.4 percent12.8 percent4.6 percent[No responses]52.2 percent
Vendor-authorized boot camp 8.7 percent17.6 percent8.5 percent4.3 percent[No responses]60.9 percent
On-the-job training 21.7 percent26.1 percent22 percent8.7 percent[No responses]21.5 percent
Practice exams 30.4 percent22.2 percent39.1 percent3.5 percent[No responses]4.8 percent
Online university or e-learning course 13.2 percent12.9 percent26.3 percent8.5 percent4.3 percent34.8 percent
Internet mailing lists or forums 4.1 percent8.9 percent8.7 percent25.9 percent[No responses]52.4 percent
Computer-based training or simulations 8.5 percent18.7 percent26 percent8.6 percent[No responses]38.2 percent
Community or technical college courses [No responses]13 percent17.2 percent8.8 percent[No responses]61 percent
Brain dumps from web sites 8.7 percent13.3 percent4 percent13 percent8.8 percent52.2 percent

2021 Linux Certification Survey: Refers to materials used by survey respondents to prepare for their most recently taken exam.

It would probably be wrong to conclude from this data that all training and study materials are well prepared and of unimpeachable quality. On the other hand, almost no survey respondents handed out “Poor” ratings, even for quasi-ethical solutions like brain dumps and largely unvetted ones like internet mailing lists.

And while it may be true that no man is an island, lots of certified professionals, it would seem, prefer to study in a sea of isolation. As happens often with these surveys, we learned that self-study books and practice exams — either of which is a natural fit for flying solo — far outpace the rest of the field in terms of user satisfaction.

The workplace is a key arena of learning for many, as demonstrated by the fact that 70 percent of survey participants have experienced some degree of success in furthering their certification efforts through on-the-job-training. If you know enough to get a job in IT, then you can do work, get paid, and enrich your skill set all at the same time. Other strong options include product documentation and online university or e-learning courses.

Community college courses, boot camps, instructor-led courses, and online mailing lists/forums are apparently beneath the notice of many certified Linux professionals looking to study up for a certification.

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CertMag Staff


Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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