All of the MCSE exams are similar in format, and a certain amount of preparation will help you pass any of them. The following sections look at ways to prepare for the exams and the actual process of taking the exams.
Because the Windows 2000 MCSE program is new, a few notes about the previous Windows NT 4.0 exams are in order. The previous program required a total of six exams, consisting of four core exams and two electives. Although the first two exams, Windows NT Workstation and Windows NT Server, are roughly equivalent to the Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server exams, the rest of the exams have changed significantly.
Microsoft has retired all of the NT 4.0 exams effective December 31, 2000. If you are already certified as an MCSE under the NT 4.0 track, you have until December 31, 2001, to upgrade to the Windows 2000 track or lose your certification.
To make upgrading your certification easier, Microsoft has released Exam 70-240, Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0. This single exam is equivalent to the four required Windows 2000 core exams.
This accelerated exam is only available to candidates who’ve passed the three core Windows NT exams (Windows NT Workstation, Windows NT Server, and Windows NT Server in the Enterprise). It’s available only through December 31, 2001.
The exams currently cost $100 apiece to take, and the cost applies whether you pass or fail. Thus, it’s a good idea to prepare as thoroughly as possible before attempting to take an exam. It’s best to concentrate on a single exam at a time.
This book will obviously be helpful in preparing for the MCSE exams. Depending on your understanding of the subject matter, it may be useful to study other materials. Microsoft’s documentation, such as the Windows NT Resource Kits, the online books, and the help files included with various utilities, may be helpful.
It is also very important to have real-world experience with the items covered in each exam. It’s nearly impossible to pass a Microsoft exam just by studying. You should have access to a network with a minimum of two Windows NT computers to experiment with, and access to a larger network would be even more useful.
A number of free practice exams are available, including the PEP tests free for download from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/. These are not comprehensive and may not cover all of the exam topics, but can be a good meter on which to test your preparedness. Commercial tests are available from several third-party companies. A practice test is also included in each of the parts of this book.
Microsoft’s exams are administered by Sylvan Prometric and Virtual University Enterprises (VUE). Call (800) 755-3926 to schedule an exam with Sylvan Prometric. Online registration is also available at the Prometric web site (http://www.prometric.com). For information about registering with VUE and online registration, see their web site http://www.vue.com/ms/. You can register entirely over the phone with a credit card. If you pay by check, you must first mail the check to the testing provider, then call to schedule the exam. Call for the address to which you should send payments.
Your registration ID is your social security number or, if you are outside the U.S., a number assigned by the testing provider. Use this number in all communications with the testing provider and write it on any checks you send.
You usually need to schedule an exam at least 24 hours in advance. After you’ve scheduled an exam, you must call 24 hours before the scheduled time if you wish to cancel or reschedule.
You take the exams at a local testing center. The tests are administered by computer. Most of the answers are multiple-choice, but many are complex and include detailed scenarios and diagrams. Some of the newer exams include simulation questions, requiring you to perform a task with a simulated utility.
Microsoft now offers some of the MCSE tests as adaptive tests. Adaptive testing uses a computer program to analyze your responses and to choose the remaining questions. An adaptive test may ask progressively more difficult questions in an area to determine your level of expertise, or progressively easier questions to determine where your knowledge level lies.
With a standard test, you are given a set time limit for the test (usually 1.5 hours) and must answer a number of questions (between 40 and 100). You can mark questions to return to later if you’re not sure of the answers. Adaptive tests have a smaller number of questions (typically 15-30), with the exact amount depending on your responses. Adaptive tests do not allow reviewing of past answers, and they have a shorter time limit.
Many of the core and elective NT 4.0 MCSE exams are now available in adaptive versions. However, Microsoft does not officially announce which tests are adaptive, and you should be prepared for either a standard or adaptive version of any test you take.
The questions generally fall into several categories. Their descriptions follow:
How many nodes can be used on a single segment in an Ethernet 10Base2 network?
These questions often address facts and figures included in the exam objectives. Although these are relatively easy questions, many of them are worded to be confusing or to encourage jumping to conclusions. Be sure to read the questions carefully and double-check your answers.
These are multiple-choice questions where one or more of the answers is correct, and you must choose all that apply. The following is an example:
Which network connectivity devices operate at the physical layer of the OSI model? (Select all that apply.)
Answer: a, c, d
These questions can be tricky. Although they often address the same type of definitions and facts as the simpler questions, the multiple answers increase the possibility of mistakes. In addition, these questions often describe a network and ask you to answer questions based on its configuration.
Rather than look for one or more obvious answers to these questions, you may find it useful to consider them as a series of true/false questions, evaluating each of the possible choices separately. Otherwise, it’s easy to overlook a correct answer.
Be sure to read these questions carefully. Many of them explicitly state the number of correct answers, such as “Select two answers.” If you mark the incorrect number of items, the answer is considered incorrect.
These questions present a scenario about a need or problem and the steps taken to resolve it. You have to determine whether the solution meets the required result or the optional results. Here is a sample of this type of question.
You are installing a network in a training room, to be used temporarily for a period of 30 days. You must connect 10 workstations running Windows NT Workstation and 2 servers running Windows NT Server.
Required Result:The network must have a transmission speed of 10 Mbps or higher.
Optional Result: The network should be inexpensive.
Optional Result: The network should be easy to install.
Solution:Install 10Base2 Ethernet in a bus topology.
The solution meets the required result and both of the optional results.
The solution meets the required result and only one of the optional results.
The solution meets the required result only.
The solution does not meet the required result.
These are the most complex questions and can be difficult. They present a complex scenario that you will need to analyze and understand before you answer the question.
As with the multiple answer questions, these are best regarded as a series of true/false questions. Analyze the scenario and the proposed solution, then compare the required result and the optional results to see which ones are satisfied.
Be sure to double-check your answers to these questions -- not only to check your work, but also to ensure you’ve selected the choice that matches the appropriate set of results.
It is also helpful to look for key phrases in these questions. For example, the question above mentions that the network is temporary, and one of Ethernet 10Base2’s strong points is that it can be quickly set up and taken down. The 10-Mbps transmission speed mentioned in the required result is also an indication that Ethernet is the correct choice.
Most of these questions come in sets of two or more questions using the same scenario and different proposed solutions. You may find it helpful to examine all of the questions for a scenario before answering them.
Some of the newest exams include simulation questions. These provide a simulated version of a utility and require you to perform a task (for example: create a user or copy a file). Simpler simulations show a dialog from a utility and ask you to click the appropriate button for a particular function.
These questions should be easy if you are experienced with the exam’s subjects. You cannot mark these questions to return to them later, so be careful to perform the task correctly the first time.
These new exam types are exclusive to the Windows 2000 exams. They require you to drag and drop items into a list in the correct order or configuration. Like simulation questions, they cannot be returned to later, so answer them carefully.
Many of these questions, as well as multiple-choice questions, are based on case studies, extended examples and details about network configurations. Often a number of questions are based on the same case study.
It’s best to study and prepare for one test at a time. Schedule the test on a day when you won’t be under stress because of your job or other factors, and give yourself plenty of time to study for the test. Rest well the night before and review your test-preparation materials (such as this book) one last time before taking the test.
Use test-preparation software, or have someone ask you questions, to be sure you’re prepared for the test. Don’t be satisfied if you merely know 95% of the topics the exam covers. As few as 5-10 incorrect answers can lead to a failing score, and you will make mistakes.
Because the MCSE exams are timed, pacing is important for success. Non-adaptive tests include Forward and Back buttons to review the questions and change your answers if necessary; in addition, you can check a box to highlight a question for later review.
Using these tools, you will find that a good strategy is to first review all of the questions, answering those you are sure of. Then take a second pass through the questions, answering all you can. Mark the questions that you may be able to answer with more time.
The exam scoring process does not deduct points for wrong answers, so it’s beneficial to guess rather than leaving an answer blank. You can usually eliminate some of the choices to make your guess more educated. Be aware of the time limit and set aside the last 5-10 minutes to double-check your answers and guess if necessary.
Adaptive tests are more difficult, and to pass these tests it is important that you know all of the exam’s topics. If you know someone who has passed the test, don’t expect the same questions on your test -- even standard tests vary, and adaptive tests will be unique for each individual who takes them.
Don’t let the scenario questions take too much of your time -- remember, they count for the same score as the other types of questions. On standard tests, you may wish to mark these and come back to them later.
You may not bring any material (papers, calculators, books, etc.) into the exam room with you. However, you are provided with a writing surface. If you have memorized critical items for the test, it may be helpful to write these down when you enter the testing room for reference during the exam.
If you should fail a test, ask the test administrator for a detailed report. This lists the topics of the questions you missed and will be useful for further study. In addition, write down the questions you remember having trouble with so you can study those areas more carefully. You are allowed to repeat an exam as many times as necessary, although you will need to pay each time.