Lab Exam Preparation (Part 2 of 3)
Step One: Acquiring Training Materials
Jumping to the next phase in my studying didn’t take me too long, I didn’t want to lose my excitement or drive. So, in February of 2010 I started poking around the Internets to find out what the best way to go about tackling the lab exam would be. There were two ways I could go: 1) do a complete self-study and piece it all together myself or 2) dish out a fair amount of cash and go with a training provider like INE or IPexpert. After looking through the different packages that they both offered and asking around on a few different forums, I decided on IPexpert.
I went with IPexpert’s Voice BLS Self-Study Bundle. It included excellent voice lectures, lab walk-throughs, and many different lab scenarios to practice the different topics that the lab would no doubt cover. I did run into one problem with their 3.0 Voice Blueprint material, it wasn’t ready yet. This knocked my full steam ahead studying momentum back a few notches. So, while I was waiting for the material to be ready, I amused myself with the SRND’s of the various technologies until my IPexpert material came, around the end of May.
Also while waiting for the IPexpert material to be delivered, I started to amass some equipment to build my own lab. I have found over the years that I learn better when I have a lot of hands on training. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to completely replicate the lab, but I would be able to come close.
Through eBay, Craigslist, and work, I was able to put together a pretty respectable lab. The only major item that I was missing was a CUE module. But at $700+, I would wait to work on that with some remote sessions through ProctorLabs.
Step Two: Starting the Studying Process
**Caveat Lector** This study method worked for me. I am not saying that this is how you should go about your process. You should develop your own plan of attack, but if you are having a hard time getting started, then by all means, try what I did. See if it works.**
The Voice BLS included video lectures, practice lab walk-throughs and audio lectures. Their practice labs started out hitting each technology and topic in Volume 1, then tying them all together with their Volume 2 labs.
I started with the video lectures. I watched them from start to finish over the span of a few weeks. These lectures were great and Vik did an excellent job throughout the lecture series. All of the topics were covered and explained, but didn’t cover every detail. This was great because it forced me to go out to the SRNDs to get more information.
In conjunction with the video lectures, I worked through the Volume 1 Workbook on the weekends. Having my own lab was working out great. I was able to work on the equipment when I wanted to and for however long. At this point in my studying process, I wasn’t ready for 8 hour sessions. The one big drawback was that I had to customize the starting configs to work with my equipment. This took me a few days to get them all set, but once they were done, a quick copy and reload, and I was off and running.
The Volume 1 workbook covered every topic individually and built upon the previous section. I found myself skipping a few of the topics but only because I have been working on this stuff for about 7 years and I felt I already knew it.
I worked through the Vol. 1 workbook pretty quickly and then moved on to the Volume 2 workbook. All of these labs are full 8-hour simulations, and as I mentioned before, they tie everything in the Vol. 1 workbook and all of the lectures together.
I would spend both Saturday and Sunday, three out of four weekends a month, working through the Vol.2 practice labs. At first, I was thinking I was going to a pretty good pace, but when my 8 hour timer went off, I was only half way through the stuff that I knew. Not counting the topics that I skipped or only had partially working. When this happened, I would take note of what I was spending the bulk of my time on and concentrate on that for the next weeks studying. During the week studying, I would re-watch the video lectures and re-read the sections of the appropriate SRND.
I would continue this method of studying for the next few months. I also sprinkled in a few remote sessions so I could work with CUE.
Step Three: 5-day Bootcamp and Final Preparations
Since my first lab attempt was scheduled for mid December, I decided that attending one of IPexpert’s 5-day Bootcamps would possibly a good idea. I took a week off work and headed down to Columbus, OH to hang our with Amy Ryan and everyone else attending the bootcamp.
The bootcamp was defiantly a good idea. The lecture was great, but the ability to have hands on work with the equipment was the greatest benefit for me. After lecture was over, we were assigned a some lab practice. After we were done with that, we were free to stay as long as we wanted to work on different scenarios or through issues we had seen in the past. I think I probably averaged about 14 hours each day with lecture and lab work afterwards.
After the bootcamp, I had about a month and a half before my scheduled lab. I continued with the Vol. 2 labs each weekend, and working through my issues during the week. I was working on speed and my plan of attack. Throughout the Vol. 2 workbook I had been going through them in a very linear fashion. Basically, from page 1 to the end, no caring if I had to touch a device 4 or 5 times. This seemed to work pretty well for me. I was finishing the practice labs within the 8 hours, but not really with any time to spare.
The week prior to my lab, I took another week off work and filled everyday with a remote session from Proctorlabs. I worked through the same Vol. 2 labs, but this time I had access to everything, including CUE all the time. Through the whole week, I was feeling pretty good. By the time Wednesday rolled around (my exam was on Friday), I was confident, but a little burned out from labbing for the last 6 days.