So I’m studying a lot these days, and I find myself evaluating and reconsidering the theories of “study” that I’ve been picking up all the way back since grade school. Here is what seems to work best for me, whether I’m learning something new, or reviewing something I “know”:
- Develop/revise a general game plan. I get this from the exam I’m going for, of course, or whatever it is I decided I need to know.
- Read about a topic from a good source (I’m back in love with the SQL Server 2008 Bible this month). I may also look up a tutorial or session from one of the myriad sources online*. While I do this, I take notes.
- Mess around with the topic – in other words, go do it, go break it, fix it, do it again. (Usually this is freestyle, sometimes it’s with the aid of a Books Online tutorial.) Make more notes.
- Take a practice exam that includes the topic.
- Take a hard look at what I got wrong, and why. Make more notes.
- Repeat from (1).
And, drill: As I go along, I gather scripts for tasks that I need repetition on. Say I’m practicing TDE implementation? Get the script together to make it happen (and to tear it down again), and run through a few repetitive drills every day.
Finally, I talk things through. If I’m not sure I fully grasp a topic, I’ll explain it to my monitor (or my dog, or as a last resort, Sean …because you don’t really understand a thing until you teach it. Or in this case, say it out loud. Saying it out loud points out the places where you’re really not sure how it works, or what you need, or if there are exceptions.
It’s entirely plausible that this process wouldn’t work as well for you, or that you’d need to do more of one than the other (say, more reading, or more doing). So tell me: What works for you, if you’re bent on learning something new in IT?
*Myriad sources for tutorials online include: