Certification Study: Keeto’s Rule of 5


Lately I have had my head in the ICND2 book, and man, it’s different! I’m going to take a break for a minute and answer a question I’ve been getting lately:

What is your study plan?

Because I have a tendency to feel under-prepared, I purposefully overload myself with study material, fearing that when it’s time to sit for that exam, I’m going to get a question I’ve never learned about. For every certification I have sat for and obtained, I’ve used my Rule of 5:

  • Exam Objectives
  • A Book (or 2… maybe 3)
  • A Video Series (or 2)
  • A Bank of Practice Questions
  • The Internet

Exam Objectives: Once ya’ll decide on a certification to go after, download the exam objectives. This should be one of the first things you do because the objectives is a list that goes over what will be covered on the exam.

A Book (or 2.. or 3): Depending on the type of learner you are, you may be good with just one book. I myself do well with a couple. For example, with the ICND1, I read Todd Lammle’s book first because for me, it was easier to comprehend. Granted, the Lammle book did not go into the depth that Odom did, but it helped so much. After reading the Lammle book, I went on to read the Odom book, referencing the Lammle book for topics I found difficult.

Also, it’s good to have a book in your arsenal because you can take the book chapters and write them down on the exam objectives sheet for quick reference:


A Video Series: CBT Nuggets, SkillPort, Linux Academy, Chris Bryant, David Bombal, Kevin Wallace, Cisco Press, and anyone else out there on the interwebs or Udemy. The dope thing about the IT field is that if you need a video series for a particular subject matter, someone has created it! Some video series can be a bit expensive, but there are some you can purchase for about $10. Some instructors may deliver the content to your liking, some may not. I usually read a chapter or two, watch some videos regarding what I read, and continue on. A video series is great to supplement your studies with because the instructor may explain a topic in a way that will bring you to an understanding of the topic.

A Bank of Practice Questions: You did the reading, you watched the video series. Cool. Time to test what you learned. I personally like to utilize more than one practice exam bank, for reasons:

  • Using more than one practice exam will keep you from memorizing the answers to the questions
  • Exposure to different questions = exposure to how questions are asked. This will in turn get you to think differently, answering the questions using process of elimination, best guess, etc.

When I was studying for my CompTIA exams, I would do a Google search for practice questions for the A+/Net+/Sec+ and end up with a plethora of sites offering practice exams and brain dumps (just say no to brain dumps!). Be careful with the free practice questions because some of the questions out there may not be correct. It’s always good to go with a known vendor, such as Boson, Cisco Press, and even some of the authors I mentioned in the Video series tip above may offer practice exams and labs that are worth the money.

The Internet: Sometimes reading the book and/or watching the video series may not be enough. For me, I struggled with RIP and learning about ACLs. I figured out what about the topics I was stuck on and researched the topics on various sites (Cisco’s site, any networking blogs out there). While labbing and setting up GNS3, I would find myself stuck on a configuration and immediately went to Dr. Google to help me unherp my derp. The Internet can be a powerful tool in your study kit.

There you have it. Keeto’s Rule of 5 (maybe even more, now that I think about it). You don’t have to use 12 books 35 video series and a book of practice questions like I do, but having the basis of a book, exam objectives, and a video series can be enough. Then again, there are people out there who have passed their certification exams without purchasing a book and just used videos and the Internet. It’s ultimately up to you and your learning style.

Hopefully this helps. Time for me to finish learning about OSPF neighbors…. Or go make tacos.



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