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Study for exams while you drive, fly, or exercise

Now you can study for certifications while performing various activities, thanks to a line of AudioWhiz tutorial tapes and CDs. Erik Eckel discusses what these audio study guides have to offer and who will get the most out of them.


Some IT professionals enjoy studying while they drive (or work out, clean the house, take the train, or engage in any number of other pursuits). Studying during other activities such as commuting helps busy certification candidates multitask, thereby maximizing available time and squeezing in additional preparation where it otherwise might not fit.

In the past, finding CDs and tapes that cover certification exams was a difficult proposition. No more.

Study in stereo
AudioWhiz offers a complete line of Listen N Learn Audio Products. The concept is quite simple. AudioWhiz CDs and cassettes feature a narrator reading facts tested on certification exams. The recordings also present spoken practice test questions, for which correct answers are provided. By listening to these recorded tutorials, AudioWhiz says, you "reinforce what you are learning during your normal study time, as well as prompt a higher retention level."

The company also claims its products help you learn through repetition. Marketing copy on the company's Web site almost sounds like an ad on sports talk radio: "Repetitive listening will solidify the material in your mind, ready for instant recall. After a few days of listening to our products, you will find as you are studying your other materials, you have the ability to answer questions easier because you know the material more thoroughly."

I don't know whether that's true or not. What I do know is that you'll pick up facts and reinforce important configuration steps and procedures while running errands and commuting to work.

The company sent me its CD packages for three exams. While riding to work, picking up groceries, and heading to the local mountain bike trail with my dog, I was pelted with Exchange 2000 Server administration and configuration facts. While sitting at work, I was fed an uninterrupted stream of Windows 2000 network implementation information. While performing mundane tasks, I listened to the steady, monotonous flow of facts tested on the A+ exam. Drive and listen. Work and study. Then drive and listen some more. I listened until my dog howled.

My experience
Actually, my dog didn't howl, but there was something about listening to Exchange administration tips while preparing to mountain bike (following a draining day at the office) that just didn't match my mood. I also tried to use the CDs while driving to a minor league baseball game. I ended up listening to the pregame show instead. My willpower was low—too low to keep me studying while I drove. I don't enjoy audiobooks, either. The audio methods just don't work for me.

But different people study effectively in different ways. The audiobook business has gotten big because many of you find spoken recordings fit your learning style. I've heard from many IT professionals looking for recorded CDs or cassettes to use in their exam preparation efforts. AudioWhiz has you covered. You'll find its CD and cassette packages are available for almost two dozen Microsoft exams, a handful of Cisco certifications, the most popular CompTIA tests, and even Novell accreditations.

Satisfaction guaranteed
You can try AudioWhiz's recorded tutorials essentially risk-free. The company offers a 90-day money-back guarantee. Should you find the tapes or CDs don't help you study, you can send them back. All AudioWhiz asks is that you provide an explanation of why the product doesn't work for you, which is a fair request, as the company can use that information to improve its products. You'll also have to include a copy of your invoice and pay a 10 percent restocking fee.

I believe you'll find the tutorials are fairly thorough, at least as supplemental training materials. The Exchange administration kit (for Microsoft Exam 70-244) consists of three CDs. Total running time is two hours and 45 minutes. The A+ CDs run seven-and-a-half hours, while the Win2K network implementation kit (for Microsoft exam 70-216) runs two hours and 45 minutes. Prices range from around $30 to $45 for some single-exam CD sets to more than $440 for a Win2K bundle. Cassette versions are also available at slight discounts.

Use as a supplement
Don't prepare for an exam only by listening to AudioWhiz's recorded tutorials. The Listen N Learn products aren't intended to replace classroom training, study guides, or hands-on experience.

Instead, they aim to serve as a training supplement to reinforce your studies while commuting, exercising, or engaging in similar activities. If you're one of the many IT professionals who studies well that way, you'll likely find AudioWhiz's products help bolster your efforts.

Eckel's take
Many IT professionals have long sought prerecorded tapes or CDs they could use while driving to work to prepare for certification exams. AudioWhiz delivers with its Listen N Learn line, which covers a wide range of certifications from Microsoft to CompTIA.

But before you buy, be honest with yourself. If you enjoy audiobooks and you believe you'd listen to these CDs or tapes while driving and exercising, give them a go. If you study more effectively by parking yourself in a quiet corner of your home or a library, or if you don't have the willpower to turn the radio off and listen to hours of monotonous facts and practice questions, think twice. I consider myself to be fairly well disciplined, but I found the temptation to listen to the radio and music CDs difficult to overcome.

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