Resources Posts

Skillset’s New Look Delivers the Most Personalized Certification Study Experience Yet

Ever since we launched Skillset, our goal has been to help the user. To help them explore cutting-edge IT skills, to see how it all fits together into larger groups of industry knowledge, and to prepare for inevitable necessity of earning broad (and specific) certifications offered by reputable organizations.

Along the way, we’re exploring the concept of professional education, and helping people develop their careers at the same time.

Using the site has always been ostensibly easy, and the immediate function is obvious: Free certification practice tests. But there are plenty of websites that provide certification sample questions and tests (most of them charge a fee, but still).

The truly advanced functionality of Skillset has always been a bit more complex, however. It takes people a little practice to realize that the site is actually tracking their progress, noting which skills they’re experts at and which ones they need to work on.

It all culminates in our most-complimented feature: The exam readiness score.

Skillset Certification Exam Readiness Indicator

The score tracks not only how many questions you’ve answered correctly, but also how many you’ve answered overall, how long it took you, and what proficiency you’ve reached. It’s an enormous time-saver and an eye-opening experience for users who are used to simply taking blind practice tests and seeing if they passed or failed.

But all of that data has been, shall we say, less obvious.


Preparing for A Professional Certification Exam: Everything You Need to Do to Pass

As you begin to prepare for your certification exam, there are some common-yet-powerful techniques that can make sure you’re not overlooking anything in your preparation. So many professionals prepare for a certification by reading a book and then they’re disappointed if they don’t pass the exam. The reality is, knowing the source information is only a small part of the preparation most people need to go through in order to take their certification exams.

Obviously, at Skillset we offer certification practice questions and study tests for hundreds of skills in a variety of fields, from Cryptography to Project Management — that’s because we believe taking practice tests is the very most valuable thing a professional can do when preparing for a certification exam (in the IT certification field or otherwise). But even taking practice questions is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of exam prep.

Today, we are sharing tips and tricks that will allow you to pass your certification exam regardless of which type of certification you are aiming for.


Review the Exam Blueprint

The first thing you want to make sure that you have is your exam blue print, which is also known as a text plan. Consider your exam blueprint as an outline to the exam. With the blue print, you will know which topics hold the most weight on the exam and plan to study accordingly. Reviewing the exam blueprint is what you do first, to maximize your study time.


Review the Exam References

In your exam handbook, you will find exam references, also known as a bibliography. This is where you will see the references used by the writers to determine the correct answers to the exam questions. You can go to each of the references yourself to help you better understand the type of questions to expect on your exam.


The Importance of Reviewing the Exam References

By reviewing the exam references, you will have gained additional insights as to how the exam questions were composed and the text that they are based off.


Take as Many Exam Practice Questions as You Can

Certification exam practice questions are the most valuable resources many studiers ever find. The will help you refresh all of the information that you have learned during the duration of your courses. This is very important if you want to pass. Some of the things you learned in the beginning of the course may have slipped your mind. Additionally, by doing the practice questions, you can see what areas are your strongest and which ones you need to focus on more before the exam day.


Practice Makes Perfect

The practice questions are similar to the actual exam and practice makes perfect. You will become faster at answering the questions correctly, and be prepared for anything that comes your way. If you do not take any of the other advice from this article, make sure you do the practice questions. Additionally, make sure you do as many practice questions as possible.


New CompTIA Network+ and Security+ Practice Certification Exams Added to Skillset

When we launched, we started with tens of thousands of questions grouped across hundreds of individual skills. To make things even easier, we focused those questions on a few major IT certifications: The PMP, CISSP and CEH exams.

But we promised we weren’t going to stop there, and we haven’t.

We now have additional certification practice tests for CompTIA exams, each with thousands of sample questions and practice tests of their own.

The new certification groupings include:


Security+ IT Certification Exam


Security+ is one of the most sought-after InfoSec certifications out there, and we’re proud to be able to offer it as part of our predictive testing engine. Like all certifications one can study for on Skillset, the Security+ exam is divided into individual skill-based tests and designed to help you see where you need the most improvement, what topics you can be confident about, and how close you are to being able to take the real Security+ certification exams.


Our Security+ practice test grouping includes individual skillsets like:


Five New Paths to Self-Education for Career Development

It seems like 2015 is going to be the year of revolutionary educational models. Every few days, a new startup seems to appear with a new vision for how people can learn, grow, or even teach, all on their own.

But even as the long-smoldering debate over whether and how (and how much) to disrupt the university model starts to produce some actual flames, it seems like the demand for new learning methods isn’t coming from a lack of faith in the old, but rather from someplace unexpected: Career development.

Personal development is a big part of it, too—learning to play guitar on YouTube is only the tip of that iceberg—but the thing that really seems to be driving these new sites, systems and software is the idea that what you learned in college isn’t going to be enough to carry you through your career anymore.

In the past 10 years, some things became obvious: Marketers needed to learn HTML. Product designers needed to learn programming code. Programmers needed to learn design. And so on.

Our career silos are breaking down, and in response we need to keep up. And a 15-year-old college degree isn’t going to help with that. That’s why the self-education industry is booming, and sites that make self-guided education easy (like are prospering.

Here are five types of self-education models that have become extremely popular in recent years, and the best E-learning sites within each category:


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Just a few years ago, Massive Open Online Courses made the biggest splash of any category here, because they were a complete disruption of the university model by universities. They rose to prominence when esteemed professors from Stanford University decided to offer free courses online (via telecommute) to anyone who wanted to attend—whether that be several hundred or more than a million.

Since then, universities have experimented in these courses so commonly that they it’s barely notable when a new one launches, but they have the advantage over other self-education methods of (often) being live presentations, and giving students access to legitimate, university-level content for free, from anywhere.

Here are the best sources for MOOCs:

A morning at the gener8tor mentor swarm

I had an opportunity to participate as a mentor in the Madison, WI gener8tor Mentor Swarm today. If you are not familiar, gener8tor is a Wisconsin startup incubator that has some impressive momentum in the state. Since forming in 2012, gener8tor has graduated 28 start-ups that have raised a total of about $30 million.

The Mentor Swarm
What is it? In summary, the idea is to bombard the founders of the portfolio companies with a week of short meetings with local people that can offer advice. More subtly, I see it was a chance for founders to practice their pitches and get some exposure to the types of questions they will be asked by VCs when they graduate from the program. It also serves as a structured networking event, the mentors included entrepreneurs that have raised a lot of capital and exited, as well a number of partners at various VC firms looking for companies to deploy capital.

gener8tor has 5 companies in this class:

  • GroceryKey, a frictionless last mile solution targeted at independent grocers
  • BrightCellars, a monthly wine club that uses data science to recommend wine for wine enthusiasts
  • Carson Life, line of beauty products that targets the Hispanic market.
  • Passage, ticketing and payments product for speciality events.
  • AltusMedicalGroup, a B2B medical education compliance company

Before the swarm, I thought how can I make myself useful in a short meeting? What can I offer to some early stage startups in an incubator? Instead of trying to fully understand each business model and their associated financial, go to market, team building, and funding plans, I decided to focus on two narrow but critical areas, the core product / value proposition and customer acquisition.  I have had some success in these areas previously, additionally I am always a bit selfishly interested in how smart people solve hard problems.

Product/Value Prop
First, I want to understand the problem the company is solving with their product. Richard Yau at BrightCellars has identified that many early career professionals want to understand the basics of wine selection. They are graduating from cheap beer in a red solo cup to a more “mature” drink. Daniel Guerra at AltusMedical has found that medical centers have a vested interest in getting their health professionals in compliance with their continuing education requirements. Jeremy Neren at GroceryKey has found that the process for enrolling an independent grocery store on existing last mile grocery delivery services is painful and expensive for the grocer.

One thought that struck me is that all of these companies are looking to displace existing products in the market. Most startups do. At this early stage in the product lifecycle, it’s important to remember the Startup to the Power of 10 rule. Namely, that the product has to be 10x better to displace an incumbent solution. If it is just 2 or 3 times better than an existing solution, a customer is likely to go with “the known” verses “the unknown” and stick with what they already have. For example, GroceryKey has to compete against some mighty incumbents – MyWebGrocer, Peapod and ugh.. Amazon. What are the benefits that GroceryKey can bring to the table that could make it 10x better?

  1. Frictionless enrollment
  2. A lovely user experience (both for grocers and shoppers)
  3. Network of happy users
  4. White labeling the front end
  5. Local customers through content marketing

Jeremy has some good ideas related to these subjects. I see #5 as being key. If GroceryKey can bring incremental business into the grocer, the value prop will be hard to resist. This will allow him to build his network and take advantage of the network effect.

Customer Acquisition
All of the companies in the gener8tor class have market proven business models. Everyone had some paying customers and made sure that I knew that. Carson Life has their products distributed through every Walmart in Puerto Rico. BrightCellars has 1000+ sommelier wannabes drinking wine they love each month. GroceryKey has a well known UW campus area grocery store already using the platform. AltusMedical has a Fortune 50 customer on a multi-million dollar contract.

Founders can get their first dollars and customers through sheer will. By doing things that dont scale. Ben Silbermann at Pinterest famously recruited his first users by walking up to random strangers at coffee shops and asking them to use his app. But, where do you go from there? How will these gener8tor startups light a fire that doesnt burn out? Early stage startups need to acquire customers efficiently, there is no option to invest millions right now in sales and marketing. There is an inverse relationship between the differentiated value a product brings to the market and the amount of sales and marketing intensity it requires to sell it. The focus must be to leverage that differentiated value to acquire customers.

Richard Yau at BrightCellars has some interesting solutions to these issues, and they are all centered smartly around building a brand. In terms of building a brand of wine eventually, instead of reselling wine produced by others. He has two problems to solve for, one, how will he acquire new customers and two, how can he retain them, (remember, BrightCellars is a subscription service). The model uses an algorithm to predict what wines a person will like based off of other taste preferences. What are the customer acquisition and retention strategies BrightCellars can utilize?

  1. Content marketing
  2. Exceptional customer service
  3. Turn the recommendation engine into a viral loop

#3 above could allow BrightCellars to take off. How many times can they get users to utilize the recommendation engine? It has a singular and simple design that can be quickly iterated over to optimize for conversions and social sharing. How many situations does a paying user encounter organically that they want to “apply wine” to? Can each iteration through the loop be used to gather more customers to the service? The keys are to design the service around the core viral loop, rather than bolt on a “viral” component, and I feel like BrightCellars is in good hands.

All in all, it was an enjoyable day and I wish the best of success to the gener8tor Madison 2015 class!