How To Complete A Tech Certification In Seven Days

How To Complete A Tech Certification In Seven Days

Certification is a necessary evil if you want your IT career to advance. But do you have to spend months on the process? One trainer argues you can complete some certifications in a week.

Training picture from Shutterstock

Tim Warner works for online training firm CBT Nuggets and specialises in Microsoft Windows systems administration. He told Lifehacker some of the more basic Microsoft certifications can be completed in seven days, provided you take the right approach.

The suggest approach combines three obvious elements: learning the theory, putting in hands-on work with the software, and then taking practice exams that mimic the approach of the actual certification exams.

Warner suggests this timetable:

Days 1-5: Go through each exam domain in turn, starting with theory, integrating practice, and “playing” with the cert exam simulations Day 6: “Sweeping up the shavings”: Last-minute content/hands-on tweaks; more time with the simulations Day 7: Cram on the practice exam software, research the theory material to fill in remaining gaps

With the theory component, you need to recognise that the “correct” answer is often as much about marketing spin as about what you actually do with the technology. “With Microsoft you have to know a lot of their marketing quite honestly,” Warner said.

That’s also true of other certifications. “This is a money-making exercise for these vendors — they have a motive behind what they’re doing, and one motive is to create certified professionals who are evangelists for their product. Almost uniformly, you have to contend with the marketing fluff.”

Exam practice is essential, Warner says. “I’ve seen people with lots of experience fail because they didn’t have the exam routine down. It’s almost a flow that’s necessary to get into the mood.”

Microsoft’s entry-level certification, the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), can be completed within seven days with this method, Warner suggests. If you’re an IT worker with between one and three years of experience, a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) in Windows Server 2012 might also be possible.

Other Microsoft certifications will require a longer period of study and experience: for MCSE, three years is the minimum Warner recommends. “If you’re already a veteran, you could cram out the MCSE, but that path is only going to be feasible if you’re really expert in the topic.”

CBT Nuggets is introducing free seven-day trials for its subscriptions from 3 February. The trials include access to all its video training content (potentially useful if you’re planning a cramming frenzy).


  • “Certification is a necessary evil if you want your IT career to advance.”

    Really? According to my boss, it doesn’t mean anything in the ‘real world’. What matters is your experience…

    • I think it depends on the job. If you want to be a network engineer, a lot of places won’t even look at your resume if you don’t have Cisco or Juniper certifications. As a developer though, I don’t think I’ve ever had an employer ask if I had any certifications, they only cared about a university degree and/or relevant experience.

    • Unless you boss is in HR, he/she doesn’t count.

      HR look for a way to weed out unsuitable job hunters. When there aren’t enough peolpe applying for a job, they’ll use the lack of qualifications as leverage for a lower pay rate.

  • Because the industry can never have too many paper certified professionals. 🙂

    That aside, I wanted some letters about 15 years ago when I was job-hunting. I knew Windows and UNIX, and I did the MCSE in less than 60 days, I think, and the MCSE+Internet in another 30 or so days after that.

  • You can cram for any and all of these “exams”. There’s no creativity required to complete these, it’s not a freeform examination testing your intelligence to use the applied learnings, you just answer multiple choice questions on a computer.

    An MCSE on a resume should mean as much as someone saying their hobbies include computers. Interesting to know, but in no way, shape or form, relevant to their skills for working in IT.

    • im interested to know

      does MCSE cost alot to take?
      what does it cover in terms of scope for everyone to bash, suggesting its worthless

      would it be worthwhile to brush up on some of the more difficult family it helpdesk issues?

      • It’s about $200 per exam, and I think it’s about 5 exams. So, that’s likely the minimum cost. of course how much you spend to study for those exams is up to you, if you’re cramming, you’ll want to buy the practice exams, which cost varying amounts depending on the publisher (or if you’re just going to pirate them).

        “MCSE” has actually changed since what it used to mean. Now it’s a specialised certification, you pick a subject to be certified in (eg, Servers, Business Intelligence, Messaging), and take those exams. In the past it used to be all about Servers (plus some optional add-ons)… In any case, nothing to do with helpdesk issues.

  • Step 1: spend 6 days studying. Wow. Top article.

    Agree with 90% of commenters above – these certs certainly aren’t REQUIRED, but can be helpful – though I believe largely misguidedly.. How much can you learn in 7 days? How long will you remember 90% of that for?

    I spent nearly a year doing my CCNA’s of different levels, even still to date I cannot remember a damn thing.. Though i’m sure looking at it again I would pick it up a lot FASTER, but that isn’t really the same thing as meaning you should hire someone qualified because they’re going to magically fit your needs better..

  • Well, if you’re wanting to learn stuff, cert or not.. CBT Nuggets videos are the best. The trainers are actually interesting to listen to and not all boring. It almost gets addictive to watch them because they are so enthusiastic. Haha

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