HP Exam Study Strategies
As a survivor of numerous certification exams, and a contributor to many books on cert topics and exams, I’ve learned through experience and analysis that careful, organized study works best to help you prepare you for the HP certification exams. Indeed, while HP certifications are useful, valuable credentials, they don’t enjoy the same level of aftermarket support—in the form of published study guides, exam crams, practice tests and other supplementary materials—that you can find easily for credentials from vendors like Microsoft, Novell, CompTIA and other, bigger programs.
In fact, as far as I can discover by searches online and at some of the bigger, better-stocked bookstores, there are only a very few books that specifically target HP certifications (and those seem to focus more or less exclusively on HP-UX). Likewise, although HP does offer some of its own practice exams for various topics on its Web site, I am unable to discover any third parties that provide additional practice tests, either free or for a fee. This doesn’t mean they don’t exist—it only means that an experienced information ferret like myself is unable to find them. I’m guessing this means they’re somewhat scarce, to say the least!
Thus, the exam preparation strategy for HP certification exams toes HP’s own line on how to prepare for its exams fairly closely. Primarily, that’s because there aren’t sufficient alternatives to support other approaches. In this kind of situation, while I elaborate on their strategy where reasonable and explain how to beef up background and subject-matter studies, it’s difficult to stray too far from the party line simply because such departures don’t lead to many interesting or useful destinations!
Simply put, the whole HP test-preparation strategy revolves around attending HP classes. HP’s Web site states that test analyses conducted by Compaq and Prometric show that the best way to ensure a first-try passing experience—and at this point it’s essential to add that HP exams have become more like the Compaq exams following the merger—is to combine class attendance, self-study and exam review. To be more specific, the HP Web page on this topic says the following:
- Take adequate time to review all the information presented in class.
- Review all reference documentation and support materials.
- Answer all Progress Reviews contained in the student training materials.
- Complete all written and “hands-on” lab assignments.
- Review Self-Assessment Guides.
- Take the appropriate practice exams available*.
(Source: www.hp.com/certification/na/examregistration.html, “Preparing for an HP Certification Exam”)
The bulk of the materials mentioned above, except for reference documentation and support materials, are included as part of HP course materials, or course materials provide pointers to such items (such as practice exams, where available). Since comprehensive, well-organized materials are otherwise extremely scarce for HP certification topics, I conclude that attendance at certification-related HP classes (or at least, access to materials from such classes) is absolutely essential to preparing for HP certification exams.
That said, for candidates weak in or ignorant of various related background technologies—such as storage area networks (SANs) and network-attached storage (NAS) for individuals pursuing StorageWorks-related credentials, for example—it probably makes sense to do some background reading on the subject matter to bootstrap your expertise. This is where a little online research to help you identify good tutorials, targeted Web sites (such as www.searchstorage.com), useful books and so forth comes in handy. In fact, for any relevant subjects where you feel your knowledge base is not completely up to date, a bit of searching and identification of useful resources will be helpful, not just for exam study but also on the job later on.
Alas, the little asterisk that HP puts on its Web site next to the line about practice exams (or practical exams, as they’re also sometimes known in “HP-speak”) fails to mention that such tools are rather more exceptional than commonly available. The HP-UX operating system exams offer the best collection of such practice exams, with coverage considerably spottier for other topics. You’ll have to spend some time snooping around the HP Web site (see the HP Resources section elsewhere in this Study Guide for details) to run things down for the topics that interest you most. Suffice it to say here that they’re not always available for all HP certification exams, however desirable access to such materials might be.
HP also provides some interesting statistics on the best time to take an exam. The same Web page cited earlier in this article goes on to report the following statistics about exam results vis-à-vis exam timing:
- 70 percent of those candidates who take their exams three to seven days after class attendance pass their exams.
- More than 80 percent of candidates fail if they take the exam immediately after a class or more than two weeks after the class is finished.
HP expresses the belief that this optimal interval balances the additional time necessary for outright exam study, review and preparation against the need to keep information covered in the classroom relatively fresh and easy to recall.
Within the HP certification framework, important study materials include these elements:
- Courseware: Various materials included with class attendance, such as Exam Preparation Guides, Student Guides, Lab Guides and necessary software tools, consoles, management agents and so forth (where relevant). Online and classroom training materials are available for all HP certification topics; visit HP’s training and education pages for more information.
- Product manuals: Official HP documentation that relates to designing, installing, deploying, managing and maintaining specific products, platforms and so forth.
- Support and reference material: A wealth of related materials is available online through various product-specific technical support centers (for example, HP’s ProCurve Networking Technical Support at www.hp.com/rnd/support/). Here you’ll find FAQs, manuals, configuration examples, problem reports and more.
- HP’s IT Resource Center: Offers access to a technical knowledge base, online forums, bulletins and patch digests, information about classroom and online training and more (www.itrc.hp.com/service/index.html).
As you get familiar with the HP programs and offerings and start zeroing in on specific topics and technologies of interest, you’ll be able to look for tightly focused information resources, exam reporting and coverage. You’ll also find that certification portals like CertCities.com, GoCertify.com, CertMag.com and so forth tend to take varying views of HP’s numerous credentials. (Some don’t list the sales and consultant programs, others still list Compaq and HP separately and so forth.) But if you stay focused on the exams and related topics that interest you, you’ll be able to find lots of useful information within HP’s own Web pages and a fair amount of material elsewhere as well. I’m hopeful that the current dearth of aftermarket coverage will ease in the year to come and that books and practice exams will start to be easier to find and use. That said, if you persevere, you’ll find useful materials at your fingertips that will help you pass these exams.
Ed Tittel is president of LANwrights Inc. and is contributing editor for Certification Magazine. Ed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org