Condensing Data: Summary Sheets and Flash Cards

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When confronted with the vast amount of information you’ll have to have down prior to taking a certification exam, your first instinct might be to freak out. Fortunately, there are ways to organize and abridge all of that data to manageable sizes that won’t tax your sanity. Two of the more effective ways in which to do this are with those study-aid mainstays that most of you probably used in high school: flash cards and summary sheets.


Flash cards, of course, are those familiar two-sided pieces of paper with a question or blurb on the front and an answer or explanation on the back. They’re an especially good tool for memorization, because they condense facts and figures down to easy-to-understand, quick hits of data. Here are a few examples of flash cards, courtesy of Kaplan IT, that cover subjects in Cisco exam #640-801 – NetCert: Certified Network Associate:



  1. Q: Can full-duplex Ethernet be used on a connection that connects a hub to a switch?
    A: No
  2. Q: Which Ethernet transmission mode is more susceptible to collisions: full-duplex or half-duplex?
    A: Half-duplex
  3. Q: How many broadcast domains exist in a network that was migrated from a single Ethernet segment to a network with three segments separated by a router?
    A: Three
  4. Q: Which device could you use to reduce the number of collisions on an Ethernet network while keeping a single broadcast domain throughout the network?
    A: Switch


Note how the questions presented are very simple and straightforward. They ask “What?” instead of “Why?” The answers are pithy as well, containing no more than a few words. Often, it’s just one word—a yes or no, a number or an object.


On the other hand, summary sheets usually contain more information than flash cards and are better suited for organization of data, usually in the form of an outline. As such, they place the various data points of flash cards into a context. Still, summary sheets are fairly stripped down and don’t go into a great deal of detail.


One of the main shared advantages of flash cards and summary sheets is that the very act of creating them is a means of study. As you compile and record the information contained therein, you begin to retain it. This knowledge is reinforced as you use these exam preparation tools time after time—they’re gifts that keep on giving!


Here are a few ways in which you can optimize your studying efforts with flash cards and summary sheets:



  • Make a Game of It: Because the way the data is presented in these study aids, they’re perfect for a game-style format. Invite a few tech buddies over, get some chips and salsa, and come up with a game to help you learn the topics. (The game show “Jeopardy!”—with its reverse Q&A set-up—comes to mind as a possible format for this.)
  • Take It with You: Both flash cards and summary sheets are portable and easy to go over in virtually any setting. If you’ve got a long morning commute on a bus or train, have a cross-country flight or have to spend an idle hour or two at the DMV or doctor’s office, bring these with you. You’ll learn more and pass the time.
  • Get Help on the Web: The Internet has several resources for flash cards, which include sites that can help you figure out how to design them and archived offerings that cover many different subjects. You can start your search online here, here or here.
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