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How to Use Flash Cards to Prepare for IT Certification Exams

By  Nov 4, 2008

Topics: Certification

Hi everyone. I humbly submit to you that using flash cards can be a fruitful method for late-stage IT certification exam preparation. Today I would like to explain in practical terms what flash cards are and how we can best leverage them in a cert-prep context.

Wikipedia defines a flash card (also called flashcard) as "a card that is used as a learning aid. One writes a question on one side of a card and an answer overleaf. Flashcards can bear vocabulary, historical dates, formulas or any subject matter that can be learned via a question and answer format. Flashcards are widely used as a learning drill to aid memorization by way of spaced repetition."

Let's face it, friends: in most disciplines, memorization constitutes the first "rung of the ladder," as it were, to mastering the subject matter. Take computer networking, for instance. In order to begin to apply the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model, we must first commit the model, and all of its various and sundry interdependencies, protocols, devices, and so forth, to our memories.

We have many pedagogical tricks at our disposal to make this memorization happen faster, including mnemonic devices and, yes indeed...flash cards.

How to Use Flash Cards

Interestingly, the About.com:Chemistry page had about the most succinct explanation of how to use flash cards that I could dig up on the good ol' Internets. Here is a summary of Dr. Helmenstine's suggestions:

1. Procure a stack of blank paper index cards.

2. One one side of each card, write a question that covers a concept that you need to memorize. The fewer words you use for your question, the better!

3. On the other side of each card, note the corresponding answer.

4. Proceed through your stack of cards. Set aside cards that you answer incorrectly so you can focus on those specifically.

When to Use Flash Cards

One really cool aspect about old-fashioned paper flash cards is their portability. In other words, the possibilities regarding their application are almost limitless. Consider these ideas brought to us courtesy of the How to Learn Any Language Web site.

You can use your flash cards while you are:

  • Waiting for an elevator
  • Waiting in line
  • Commuting in public transport
  • Waiting on the telephone
  • Waiting at a restaurant

The Next Frontier

To my mind, the next frontier with respect to flash cards is carrying them from the paper medium to the electronic medium. Guess what? We at Pearson Education have bridged that gap with a brand-new Web application called Cert Flash Cards Online. In my next blog post I will tell you all about it. Stay tuned.

Related Pearson Resources

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