The Right Fit: Find the Training That Works for You

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Three years ago, I decided to get my Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification on Windows 2000. As a busy IT professional, I didn’t have time to attend an instructor-led class. Instead, I went to an online book retailer and purchased a text-based training kit. My plan was that I would study in my spare time and go take the exams after a couple of months.

You can probably guess what happened.

As I write this, the books are still sitting on my bookshelf—little-used. To my credit, I did make an effort to get through them. However, I doubt that I read more than 40 pages. Needless to say, I didn’t complete my Windows 2000 MCSE certification. My problem was that I chose a learning product that didn’t fit my learning style.

Getting an IT certification can be an expensive proposition. Before spending your hard-earned income on a training package, you first need to assess your own personal learning style. Then, use that assessment to determine what kind of learning experience will be the most successful for you.

Assessing Your Learning Preferences
There’s no one-size-fits-all learning method. Some people learn best in a large group with lots of social interaction. Others learn better alone in a quiet corner of the library. Some need to hear it with their ears. Others need to see it with their eyes.

I’m going to present a simple analysis that will help you assess your personal learning style. This will help you develop a personal learning profile that will guide your certification learning choices. There are four major personality facets to be considered:



  • Interactivity: Do you need to interact with instructors and other students to have a successful learning experience, or do you prefer to learn on your own?
  • Motivation: Can you sit down and force yourself to study, or do you need a structured environment to be successful?
  • Stimuli: Do you learn best by reading a textbook, or do you prefer a lecture?
  • Spontaneity: Do you decide to do things on a whim, or are you the type of person who organizes his life down to the smallest detail?


All of these factors help determine your personal learning style. Before beginning, it is important for you to realize that there are no “right” or “wrong” personality types. When you analyze yourself, be as honest as possible. Instead of projecting how you want to be or what you think others want you to be, try to genuinely reflect your personality and preferences as they are.

With that said, let’s analyze your learning preferences. In Table 1, read each line carefully. Then decide which statement best describes you. Write the respective letters of the cell at the end of each line.

Table 1: Assess Your Learning Preferences




I absolutely can’t study unless I have an instructor and classmates to interact with. I rarely engage in self-directed learning activities outside of class.


I prefer learning from an instructor and classmates, but I also tend to supplement my classroom learning with further self-directed study.


I prefer to learn on my own; however, I occasionally supplement my personal study with a formal class.


I prefer to study on my own. I find it difficult to learn in a classroom setting.



I can organize my own course of study and make myself stick to a regular study regimen without supervision.

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