Leadership optimize

The 10 best IT certification Web sites

The world of IT certification has changed considerably over the past several years, as the demands of the IT industry and the market for tech talent have shifted. IT consultant and exam veteran Erik Eckel offers an update to his list of top 10 certification Web sites.

The world of IT certification has changed considerably over the past several years, as the demands of the IT industry and the market for tech talent have shifted. IT consultant and exam veteran Erik Eckel offers an update to his list of top 10 certification Web sites.


It's no surprise that a ranking of the top IT certification Web sites would change in six years, which is when I last published such a list for TechRepublic. What is surprising is just how much the IT certification landscape has changed.

Since I drafted the first version of this article back in the spring of 2002, the economy has seen many ups and downs. As of late, there have been a good many more downs than ups. In response, increasing numbers of computer, programming, and other technical professionals are scrambling to do all they can to strengthen their resumes, boost job security, and make themselves more attractive to their current employers. Toward that end, certifications can play an important role.

But that's not what industry certification was about just a short six or seven years ago. No, certifications then were a key tool that many job changers wielded to help solidify entry into the IT field from other industries. When technical skills were in higher demand, technology professionals leveraged IT certifications for greater pay within their organizations or to obtain better positions at other firms.

As many career changers subsequently left IT over the years, and as most technology departments -- under the reign of ever-tightening staffing budgets -- began favoring real world skills, certifications lost some luster. But even like a tarnished brass ring, there's still significant value in the asset. You just have to mine it properly.

Technology professionals, accordingly, should update their thinking. Gone should be the old emphasis placed on brain dumps and test cram packages. In their place should be a renewed focus on career planning, job education, and training. Instead of viewing IT certification as a free ticket, which it most certainly isn't (and never was), technology professionals should position certifications as proof of their commitment to continued education and as a career milepost -- an accomplishment that helps separate themselves from others in the field.

Fortunately, there remain a great many resources to help dedicated technology professionals make sense of the ever-changing certification options, identify trustworthy and proven training resources, and maximize their certification efforts. Here's a look at today's 10 best IT certification Web sites.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#10: BrainBuzz's CramSession

CramSession, early on, became one of the definitive, must-visit Web sites. With coverage for many Cisco, CompTIA, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, and other vendor certifications, the site continues to deliver a wealth of information.

The site is fairly straightforward. While it appears design improvements aren't at the top of BrainBuzz's list (the site's not the most attractive or visually appealing certification destination, as evidenced by some missing graphics and clunky layouts on some pages), most visitors probably don't care. As long as IT pros can find the resources they seek -- and the site is certainly easily navigable, with certifications broken down by vendor and exam -- they'll continue coming back.

In addition to the site's well-known study guides, which should be used only as supplements and never as the main training resources for an exam, you'll find certification and exam comparisons, career track information, and practice tests, not to mention audio training resources.

#9: Windows IT Pro

CertTutor.net is one of the Web sites that made the previous top 10 list. It did not, however, make this revised list. Instead, Windows IT Pro magazine's online site takes its place.

The long-running Penton publication is a proven tool for many tech pros. CertTutor.net used to be part of the magazine's trusted network of properties, but the certification content has essentially been integrated throughout its larger overall Web site. Certification forums are mixed in throughout the regular forums. For example, the Microsoft IT Professional Certification topic is listed within the larger Windows Server System category, while security and messaging exams receive their own category.

Within its Training and Certification section, visitors will also find current articles that track changes and updates within vendors' certification programs. Such news and updates, combined with the site's how-to information and respected authors, make it a stop worth hitting for any certification candidate.

#8: Redmond Magazine

Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine, long a proven news and information resource for Microsoft certified professionals, became Redmond Magazine in late 2004. Thankfully, the Redmond Media Group continues to cover certification issues and maintain an online presence for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.

MCPmag, as the online presence is known, may remain the best news site for Microsoft professionals looking to keep pace with changes and updates to Microsoft's certification tracks. In addition to timely certification and career articles, the site boasts industry-leading salary survey and statistical information. Visitors will also find dedicated certification-focused forums, numerous reviews of exam-preparatory materials, and a wide range of exam reviews (including for some of the latest certification tests, such as Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista desktop support).

#7: Certification Magazine

Besides a Salary Calculator, the Certification Magazine Web site includes another can't-miss feature: news. For certification-related news, updates, and even white papers across a range of tracks -- a variety of programs are covered, from IBM to Sun to Microsoft -- it's hard to find another outlet that does as good a job either creating its own certification content or effectively aggregating related contextual information from other parties.

That information alone makes the site worth checking out. Add in study guides, timely articles, and overviews of different vendors' certification programs, and Certification Magazine quickly becomes a trustworthy source for accreditation information.

#6: Cert Cities

CertCities.com (another Redmond Media Group property) also publishes a wealth of original certification articles. Site visitors will find frequently updated news coverage as well.

From regular columns to breaking certification news, IT pros will find CertCities an excellent choice for helping stay current on changes within certification's ever-changing tracks and programs. But that's not all the site offers.

CertCities.com also includes dedicated forums (including comprehensive Cisco and Microsoft sections and separate categories for IBM, Linux/UNIX, Java, CompTIA, Citrix, and Oracle tracks, among others), as well as tips and exam reviews. There's also a pop quiz feature that's not to be missed. While not as in-depth as entire simulation exams, the pop quizzes are plentiful and can be used to help determine exam readiness.

#5: InformIT

Associated with Pearson Education, the InformIT Web site boasts a collection of ever-expanding certification articles, as well as a handful of certification-related podcasts. You'll also find certification-related video tutorials and a helpful glossary of IT certification terms.

But that's not the only reason I list InformIT in the top 10. The site also provides an easy link to its Exam Cram imprint. I've never taken a certification exam without first reading and rereading the respective Exam Cram title. I continue recommending them today.

#4: Prometric

Of course, if you're going to become certified, you have to take the exam. Before you can take the exam, you have to register.

Prometric bills itself as "the leading provider of comprehensive testing and assessment services," and whether you agree or not, if you're going to schedule an IT certification exam, visiting the Prometric Web site is likely a required step. The company manages testing for certifications from Apple, CompTIA, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Nortel, the Ruby Association, Ubuntu, and many others. Thus, it deserves a bookmark within any certification candidate's Web browser.

#3: PrepLogic

Training and professional education are critical components of certification. In fact, they're so important in a technology-related career that I'd rather see computer technicians and programmers purchasing and reviewing training materials than just trying to earn a new accreditation.

While there's certainly been a shake-out in the last few years, a large number of vendors continue to develop and distribute self-paced training materials. As I have personal experience with PrepLogic's training aids, I believe the company earns its spot this revised top 10 list.

With a large assortment of video- and audio-based training aids across a range of vendor tracks, PrepLogic develops professional tools that can be trusted to help earn certification. Visitors will also find Mega Guides that cover all exam objectives.

Other training aid providers that deserve mention include QuickCert, a Microsoft Certified Partner and CompTIA Board Member that provides guaranteed computer-based training programs, and SkillSoft, which delivers online training programs covering tracks from Check Point, CIW, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, PMI, Sun Microsystems, and others.

#2: Transcender

Just as I never attempted a certification exam before studying the relevant Exam Cram title, I also never sat an accreditation test before ensuring I could pass the respective Transcender simulations. The method worked well for some 10 IT certification exams.

Whether it's the confidence these practice tests provide or that the actual simulation so well replicates the real-world exam, I'm not sure. All I know is I always recommend candidates spend hours with practice exams after completing classroom or self-paced course instruction. And, when it comes to simulation exams, I'm a believer in Transcender products. I've repeatedly used them and always found them to be an integral component of my certification preparation strategy.

Other outlets offering quality simulation tests include MeasureUp and PrepLogic (previously mentioned). All three companies (Transcender, MeasureUp, and PrepLogic) develop practice tests for a large number of technology certifications, including Cisco, Citrix, CompTIA, Microsoft, and Oracle.

#1: The certification provider's own Web site

The most important site, though, when preparing for an IT training exam is the certification sponsor's own Web site. Nowhere else are you as likely to find more accurate or timely news, information, and updates regarding a certification program. Vendor sites are also an excellent source for officially approved study aids and training guides.

So if you're considering a Microsoft certification, don't skip the basic first step: Thoroughly research and review Microsoft's Training and Certification pages. The same is true if you're considering a Cisco, CompTIA, Dell, or other vendor accreditation; their respective training and certification pages can prove invaluable.

It's always best to begin your certification quest by visiting the vendor's site. And to avoid unpleasant surprises, be sure to revisit often as you continue your certification quest.

Those are mine...

That's my list of the 10 best certification Web sites. What are yours? Post your additions by joining the discussion below.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

10 comments
testingweb
testingweb

Training and professional education is very necessary for critical components of it certification. In fact, they???re so important in a technology-related career that I???d rather see computer technicians and programmers purchasing and reviewing training materials than just trying to earn a new accreditation. PingBack from www.testkingweb.com

pw2766
pw2766

Thanks for this info. I am just getting started, just finished my computer certification Mount Laurel, NJ and am not sure what plan of action to take. I know there are several certifications I need. Just need to figure out which ones to tackle first. This info was very helpful.

davidcert
davidcert

1. Transcender 2. ExamsExpert 3. ExamsKing 4. SelfTestEngine 5. CertsKing 6. CertificationTutorials 7. Aonetesting 8. TestkingPrep

BigBlueMarble
BigBlueMarble

I've earned numerous certifications through Brainbench.com including "job role" certifications as well as specific certifications in various languages, applications, platforms, and job skills. These certifications make it a lot easier to highlight a varied background on a resume. For example, many management-level positions now require technical skills as well as HR, communications, project management, and other non-technical expertise. So far, I've had good success with these on my resume. As with all certifications, though, they should be renewed every couple/few years.

kjohnson
kjohnson

May I put in a word for Tibco's certification page? It shows the intended audience for the certification programme, the examination subjects, durations of examinations, number of questions, pass mark, complete and detailed syllabuses, recommended reading sample questions and answers to the sample questions. In other words it tells you pretty much everything you need to know, including what the questions can be. Prometric runs the Tibco certification programme. I have an interest in this site, since I am a Senior Education Consultant working for Tibco in Britain.

keith_eves
keith_eves

I work for IBM and they have there own certification programme. I've often wondered if other companies take any notice of in-house certification

yankee_racers
yankee_racers

I was really surprised to see PrepLogic on the list. You probably haven't had any problems with them, but I have and they have developed a very bad reputation with me. I recently got "had" by one of their deals that was as misleading as legally allowed. They sent me an email that said if I bought one of their practice exams they would pay for me to take the corresponding exam. This email ad had no fine print whatsoever. I went to their website and it seemed to be true, there was a big promotion happening there and they repeatedly stated on the website that they would give me a free voucher if I bought any practice exam. Here is one of many similar quotes from the site: "PrepLogic is going to pay for you to take your exam. Just buy any PrepLogic Practice Exams and we'll pay for your admission to the real exam. Now is your chance to get ready to pass your MCSE, A+, CCNA, Network+, MCITP or Security+ and let PrepLogic worry about the entrance fee." In that quote they even specifically mentioned Security+, which is the exam I wanted to take. I ordered their Security+ practice exam and then afterwards they sent me a Voucher Redemption form that said they would pay for the voucher up to $155. Well, the Security+ voucher they sell are $228 so I would have to pay $73 to get my supposedly free voucher. So much for taking Security+ and letting "PrepLogic worry about the entrance fee". I have never seen something so misleading before. It is not entirely their fault though. Something I failed to see, hidden among all the graphical banners promoting this offer was a little light grey colored text link that said "How it Works" clicking on that link revealed the fine print which included a line saying "Gift card may not cover the full cost of the exam". It didn't even say how much they were willing to cover, so technically I guess this little bit of "fine print" would let PrepLogic give you a $1 towards your exam and still be within their legal limits. I guess that, considering what this fine print says, it is generous of them to offer $155 towards the exam since they would technically give you any amount and just point at the fine print and say "Gift card may not cover full cost of the exam"! And that is pretty much what they did when I emailed them about this. They did not seem concerned or bothered or sorry that people were being misled by their promotion. Personally I think they were proud of themselves for hooking me. I mean, the ad was obviously designed the way it was purposefully. So technically the fine print was there, but is this really the type of company I want to support? No, its not and there are a lot of other options out there that have so far been very straight with me. I recommend CBT Nuggets and TestOut for videos, MeasureUp, SelfTestSoftware, Boson, and Transcender for practice exams, and Boson for NetSim. There are also some great free sources that may be useful depending on what exams you are studying for. I recommend MCMSCE and Proprofs.

yankee_racers
yankee_racers

I was really surprised to see PrepLogic on the list. You probably haven't had any problems with them, but I have and I found their Customer Service to be terrible, i.e. completely ignored my emails. I also got "had" by one of their deals that was as misleading as legally allowed. They sent me an email that said if I bought one of their practice exams they would pay for me to take the corresponding exam. This email ad had no fine print whatsoever. I went to their website and it seemed to be true, there was a big promotion happening there and they repeatedly stated on the website that they would give me a free voucher if I bought any practice exam. Here is one of many similar quotes from the site: "PrepLogic is going to pay for you to take your exam. Just buy any PrepLogic Practice Exams and we'll pay for your admission to the real exam. Now is your chance to get ready to pass your MCSE, A+, CCNA, Network+, MCITP or Security+ and let PrepLogic worry about the entrance fee." In that quote they even specifically mentioned Security+, which is the exam I wanted to take. I ordered their Security+ practice exam and then afterwards they sent me a Voucher Redemption form that said they would pay for the voucher up to $155. Well, the Security+ voucher they sell are $228 so I would have to pay $73 to get my supposedly free voucher. So much for taking Security+ and letting "PrepLogic worry about the entrance fee". I have never seen something so misleading before. It is not entirely their fault though. Something I failed to see, hidden among all the graphical banners promoting this offer was a little light grey colored text link that said "How it Works" clicking on that link revealed the fine print which included a line saying "Gift card may not cover the full cost of the exam". It didn't even say how much they were willing to cover, so technically I guess this little bit of "fine print" would let PrepLogic give you a $1 towards your exam and still be within their legal limits. I guess that, considering what this fine print says, it is generous of them to offer $155 towards the exam since they would technically give you any amount and just point at the fine print and say "Gift card may not cover full cost of the exam"! And that is pretty much what they did when I emailed them about this. They did not seem concerned or bothered or sorry that people were being misled by their promotion. Personally I think they were proud of themselves for hooking me. I mean, the ad was obviously designed the way it was purposefully. So technically the fine print was there, but is this really the type of company I want to support? No, its not and there are a lot of other options out there that have so far been very straight with me. I recommend CBT Nuggets and TestOut for videos, MeasureUp, SelfTestSoftware, Boson, and Transcender for practice exams, and Boson for NetSim. There are also some great free sources that may be useful depending on what exams you are studying for. I recommend MCMSCE and Proprofs.

oliver
oliver

Some time ago, TechRepublic published PMI's CAPM and PMP certifications as the best paying in IT. Therefore, I would put sites on top which relate to them: www.pmi.org - PMI's website www.oliverlehmann.com - concise information and many sample questions www.rmcproject.com - the author of the best selling prep book in the field Jack Sloan