See if this sounds familiar: You find a great column or resource on the Web and resolve to visit it regularly. But inevitably, countless distractions arise, unforeseen events occur, life happens, and you forget to return and read new installments or updates.

That’s a problem, particularly in the IT certification arena. Many IT pros resolve to maintain accreditation or earn new certifications every year. Studying or reviewing a few sample test questions each day is an excellent way to stay focused. But then, as with the helpful columns and Web sites many of us vow to revisit regularly, other tasks come up and we end up forgetting about the test questions.

Transcender has taken steps to help IT professionals stay focused with a new Question of the Day e-mail service. Although this is a great concept, the actual execution needs more focus. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

New Transcender Club feature
You have to join the Transcender Club to receive Transcender’s new Question of the Day e-mails. Membership is free. Provide your name and contact information, and you’re in. There are no fees or troubling initiation ceremonies.

The Transcender Club has other benefits, too. In addition to the Question of the Day e-mails, you can receive discounts and new product notifications and access exclusive content.

If you’ve used Transcender’s products before, you know how thorough they are. I’ve heard many IT professionals claim Transcender’s simulation exams are often more difficult than the actual tests. It’s commonly accepted that if you can pass the Transcender exam, you’re ready for the real-world counterpart.

Thus, the quality of the Transcender e-mail questions is first rate. It’s not surprising; They’re taken directly from existing Transcender products. New questions arrive each weekday, but that’s not all. Each e-mail also carries the answer to the previous day’s question, as well as reference information, should you want to conduct more research on the topic presented.

But there’s a snag, and it’s a big one.

Rich concept, poor execution
Unlike CramSession’s CramChallenge e-mail questions, which allow you to specify the exam you’re studying for (CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, and others), Transcender divides its four Question of the Day e-mail newsletters into broad topics. You can elect to receive general Cisco, CompTIA, and/or Microsoft questions. There’s also a random Question of the Day option.

Those categories aren’t sufficient. Each covers too much ground to work well. Take the CompTIA questions, for example. If you’re preparing for the Network+ exam, you’ll have to sit through numerous Linux+, A+, and Server+ study questions for several days waiting for the next Network+ question to roll around. It can take awhile, as there’s only one question per e-mail and only one e-mail per day.

I subscribed to Transcender’s Question of the Day e-mails for a month. During that time, the CompTIA questions regularly rotated among different exams. Of course, questions for other CompTIA exams don’t usually help if you’re studying for the Network+ test.

The Cisco and Microsoft questions work the same way, regularly rotating among design, development, and administration questions. That just doesn’t work very well.

Eckel’s take
The Question of the Day e-mail service is a great concept, and Transcender can offer some excellent material for this service based on its solid preparation exams. This type of service can go a long way toward helping an IT pro stay focused on maintaining or earning a new IT certification. However, Transcender needs to break each exam into its own e-mail list. Of course, the Tennessee-based testing titan will have to guard against cannibalizing its existing simulation software when it does, but such a split is essential if the feature is to prove effective.