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Microsoft Certification Exams
Terms you'll need to understand:
Multiple-choice question format
Process of elimination
Techniques you'll need to master:
Preparing to take a certification exam
Practicing (to make perfect)
Making the best use of the testing software
Budgeting your time
Saving the hardest questions until last
Guessing (as a last resort)
Exam taking is not something that most people anticipate eagerly, no matter how well prepared they may be. In most cases, familiarity helps ameliorate test anxiety. In plain English, this means you probably won't be as nervous when you take your fourth or fifth Microsoft certification exam as you'll be when you take your first one.
Whether it's your first exam or your tenth, understanding the details of exam taking (how much time to spend on questions, the setting you'll be in, and so on) and the exam software will help you concentrate on the material rather than on the environment. Likewise, mastering a few basic exam-taking skills should help you recognizeand perhaps even outfoxsome of the tricks and gotchas you're bound to find in some of the exam questions.
This chapter explains the exam environment and software as well as describes some proven exam-taking strategies that you should be able to use to your advantage.
The Exam Situation
When you arrive at the testing center where you scheduled your exam, you'll need to sign in with an exam coordinator. He or she will ask you to produce two forms of identification, one of which must be a photo ID. Once you've signed in and your time slot arrives, you'll be asked to deposit any books, bags, or other items you brought with you, and you'll be escorted into a closed room. Typically, that room will be furnished with anywhere from one to half a dozen computers, and each workstation will be separated from the others by dividers designed to keep you from seeing what's happening on someone else's computer.
You'll be furnished with a pen or pencil and a blank sheet of paper, or, in some cases, an erasable plastic sheet and an erasable felt-tip pen. You're allowed to write down any information you want on both sides of this sheet. You should memorize as much of the material that appears on The Cram Sheet (inside the front cover of this book) as you can and then write that information down on the blank sheet as soon as you're seated in front of the computer. You can refer to your rendition of The Cram Sheet anytime you like during the test, but you'll have to surrender the sheet when you leave the room.
Most test rooms feature a wall with a large picture window. This permits the exam coordinator to monitor the room, to prevent exam takers from talking to one another, and to observe anything out of the ordinary that might go on. The exam coordinator will have preloaded the Microsoft certification exam you've signed up forfor this book, that's Exam 70-081and you'll be permitted to start as soon as you're seated in front of the computer.
All Microsoft certification exams allow a certain maximum amount of time in which to complete your work (this time is indicated on the exam by an on-screen counter/clock, so you can check time remaining whenever you like). Exam 70-081 consists of 51 randomly selected questions. You may take up to 90 minutes to complete the exam.
All Microsoft certification exams are computer generated and use a multiple-choice format. Although this may sound quite simple, the questions are constructed not only to check your mastery of basic facts and figures about Exchange Server, but they also require you to evaluate one or more sets of circumstances or requirements. Often, you'll be asked to give more than one answer to a question; likewise, you may be asked to select the best or most effective solution to a problem from a range of choices, all of which are correct from a purely technical standpoint. Taking the exam is quite an adventure, and it involves real thinking. This book shows you what to expect and how to deal with the problems, puzzles, and predicaments you're likely to find on the exam. We steer clear of repeating Microsoft test questions or the details they contain, because the company's nondisclosure agreement forbids us to share such details with you.
Exam Layout And Design
The following is a typical exam question. This multiple-choice question requires you to select a single correct answer. Following the question is a brief summary of each potential answer and why it was right or wrong.
Your company upgrades one of your Microsoft Exchange servers from version 4 to version 5.5. You enable POP3 support on the newly upgraded server. Your users complain that they cannot access their mailbox information using the POP3 protocol. What is the most probable cause of this problem?
m a. The Exchange Service account is set up incorrectly.
m b. POP3 is disabled for the server.
m c. The clients are using the wrong POP3 client.
m d. Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication is disabled.
The correct answer to this question is a. The service account must be able to "act as the operating system"; this is not required in Exchange 4. If POP3 is disabled on the server, none of your users would be able to access the server. Therefore, answer b is incorrect. Basically, a POP3 client is a POP3 client is a POP3 client. POP3 clients may have extra bells and whistles, but they still use the same POP3 protocol to receive messages. Therefore, answer c must be incorrect. Windows NT Challenge/Response is not used with POP3. Therefore, answer d is incorrect.
This sample question corresponds to the types of questions you'll see on the Microsoft certification exams. The only difference on the exam is that questions are not followed by an answer key. To select the correct answer, position the cursor over the radio button next to answer a and click the mouse button to select that answer.
Let's examine a question that requires choosing multiple answers. This type of question provides checkboxes rather than radio buttons to mark all appropriate selections.
If message transfers fail between Exchange servers, what tools can be used to help resolve this problem? [Check all correct answers]
q a. Link monitors
q b. Server monitors
q c. Disk Administrator
q d. Remote Access Admin
q e. None of the above
The correct answers to this question are a and b. Link monitors are used to verify the efficient routing of test messages between Exchange servers. Server monitors are used to check the condition of one or more servers in a site. Disk Administrator is used to view (and optionally configure) storage devices, not message transfers. Remote Access Admin is used to administer Remote Access Service (RAS), not message transfers. Because a and b are correct, e must be incorrect. Therefore, answers c, d, and e are all incorrect.
For this type of question, one or more answers are required. As far as the authors can tell (and Microsoft won't comment), such questions are scored as wrong unless all required selections are chosen. In other words, a partially correct answer does not result in partial credit when the test is scored. For Question 2, you have to check the boxes next to items a and b to obtain credit for the answer. Notice also that picking the right answer means knowing why the other answers are wrong!
Although these two basic types of questions can appear in many forms, they constitute the foundation on which all Microsoft certification exam questions rest. More complex questions may include so-called exhibits, which are usually screen shots of the Exchange Server utilities. For some of these questions, you'll be asked to make a selection by clicking a checkbox or radio button on the screen shot itself; for others, you'll be expected to use the information displayed therein to determine the correct answer to a question. Familiarity with the underlying utility is your key to choosing the correct answer(s).
Other questions involving exhibits may use charts or network diagrams to help document a workplace scenario that you'll be asked to troubleshoot or configure. Paying careful attention to such exhibits is the key to success. Be prepared to toggle frequently between the picture and the question as you work.
Using Microsoft's Exam
A well-known principle when taking exams is to read over the entire exam from start to finish first, while answering only those questions whose answers you know absolutely. On subsequent passes, you can dive into more complex questions more deeply, knowing how many such questions and how much time you have left.
Fortunately, Microsoft exam software makes this approach easy to implement. At the top-left corner of each question you'll find a checkbox that permits you to mark that question for a later visit. (Note that marking questions makes review easier, but you can return to any question if you are willing to click the Forward or Back button repeatedly.) As you read each question, if you answer only those you're sure of and mark for review those that you're not sure of, you can keep working through a decreasing list of questions as you answer the trickier ones in order.
There's at least one potential benefit to reading the exam over completely before answering the trickier questions: Sometimes, you will find information in later questions that sheds light on earlier ones. Other times, information you read in later questions may jog your memory about Exchange Server facts, figures, or behavior that also will help with earlier questions. Either way, you'll come out ahead if you defer those questions about which you're not absolutely sure.
Keep working on the questions until you're absolutely sure of all your answers or until you know you'll run out of time. If questions remain unanswered, you'll want to zip through them and guess. Not answering a question guarantees you won't receive credit for it, and a guess has at least a chance of being correct.
At the very end of your exam period, you're better off guessing than leaving questions unanswered.
The most important advice about taking any exam is this: Read each question carefully. Some questions are deliberately ambiguous, some use double negatives, and others use terminology in incredibly precise ways. The authors have taken numerous examsboth practice and liveand in nearly every exam, they have missed at least one question because they didn't read it closely or carefully enough.
Here are some suggestions on how to deal with the tendency to jump to an answer too quickly:
Make sure you read every word in the question. If you find yourself jumping ahead impatiently, go back and start over.
As you read, try to restate the question in your own terms. If you can do this, you should be able to pick the correct answer(s) much more easily.
When returning to a question after your initial read-through, read every word againotherwise, your mind can fall quickly into a rut. Sometimes revisiting a question after turning your attention elsewhere lets you see something you missed, but the strong tendency is to see what you've seen before. Try to avoid that tendency at all costs.
If you return to a question more than twice, try to articulate to yourself what you don't understand about the question, why the answers don't appear to make sense, or what appears to be missing. If you chew on the subject for a while, your subconscious may provide the details that are lacking or you may notice a "trick" that will point to the right answer.
Above all, try to deal with each question by thinking through what you know about the Exchange Server utilities, characteristics, behaviors, facts, and figures involved. By reviewing what you know (and what you've recorded on your information sheet), you'll often recall or understand things sufficiently to determine the answer to the question.
Based on exams the authors have taken, some interesting trends have become apparent. For those questions that take only a single answer, usually two or three of the answers will be obviously incorrect, and two of the answers will be plausibleof course, only one can be correct. Unless the answer leaps out at you (if it does, reread the question to look for a trick; sometimes those are the ones you're most likely to get wrong), begin the process of answering by eliminating those answers that are most obviously wrong.
Things to look for in obviously wrong answers include spurious menu choices or utility names, nonexistent software options, and terminology you've never seen. If you've done your homework for an exam, no valid information should be completely new to you. In that case, unfamiliar or bizarre terminology probably indicates a bogus answer. As long as you're sure what's right, it's easy to eliminate what's wrong.
Numerous questions assume that the default behavior of a particular utility is in effect. If you know the defaults and understand what they mean, this knowledge will help you cut through many Gordian knots.
As you work your way through the exam, another counter that Microsoft provides will come in handythe number of questions completed and questions outstanding. Budget your time by making sure you've completed one-quarter of the questions one-quarter of the way through the exam period (or the first 12 or 13 questions in the first 22 or 23 minutes) and three-quarters of them three-quarters of the way through (or 38 or 39 questions in the first 66 to 69 minutes).
If you're not finished when 85 minutes have elapsed, use the last 5 minutes to guess your way through the remaining questions. Remember, guessing is potentially more valuable than not answering, because blank answers are always wrong, but a guess may turn out to be right. If you don't have a clue about any of the remaining questions, pick answers at random or choose all a's, b's, and so on. The important thing is to submit an exam for scoring that has an answer for every question.
Mastering The Inner Game
In the final analysis, knowledge breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success. If you study the materials in this book carefully and review all the exam prep questions at the end of each chapter, you should become aware of those areas where additional learning and study are required.
Next, follow up by reading some or all of the materials recommended in the "Need To Know More?" section at the end of each chapter. The idea is to become familiar enough with the concepts and situations you find in the sample questions that you can reason your way through similar situations on a real exam. If you know the material, you have every right to be confident that you can pass the exam.
Once you've worked your way through the book, take the practice exam in Chapter 15. This will provide a reality check and help you identify areas you need to study further. Make sure you follow up and review materials related to the questions you miss before scheduling a real exam. Only when you've covered all the ground and feel comfortable with the whole scope of the practice exam should you take a real one.
If you take the practice exam and don't score at least 75 percent correct, you'll want to practice further. Though one is not available for Exchange Server 5.5 yet, Microsoft usually provides free Personal Exam Prep (PEP) exams and self-assessment exams on the Microsoft Certified Professional Web site's download page (its location appears in the next section). If you're more ambitious, or better funded, you might want to purchase a practice exam from one of the third-party vendors that offers them.
Armed with the information in this book and the determination to augment your knowledge, you should be able to pass the certification exam. You need to work at it, however, or you'll spend the exam fee more than once before you finally pass. If you prepare seriously, the execution should go flawlessly. Good luck!
A good source of information about Microsoft certification exams comes from Microsoft itself. Because its products and technologiesand the exams that go with themchange frequently, the best place to go for exam-related information is online.
If you haven't already visited the Microsoft Certified Professional site, do so right now. The MCP home page resides at www.microsoft.com/mcp/ (see Figure 1.1).
Note: This page may not be there by the time you read this, or it may have been replaced by something new and different, because things change regularly on the Microsoft site. Should this happen, please read the sidebar titled "Coping With Change On The Web."
The menu options in the left column of the home page point to the most important sources of information in the MCP pages. Here's what to check out:
Certification Choices Use this menu entry to read about the various certification programs that Microsoft offers.
Search/Find An Exam Pulls up a search tool that lets you list all Microsoft exams, to locate those exams relevant to any Microsoft certification (MCP, MCSE, MCT, and so on), or that cover a particular product. This tool is quite useful not only to examine the options but also to obtain specific exam preparation information, because each exam has its own associated preparation guide. This exam is Exam 70-081.
Downloads Here, you'll find a list of the files and practice exams that Microsoft makes available to the public. These include several items worth downloading, especially the Certification Update, the Personal Exam Prep (PEP) exams, various assessment exams, and a general exam study guide. Try to make time to peruse these materials before taking your first exam.
These are just the high points of what's available in the Microsoft Certified Professional pages. As you browse through themand we strongly recommend that you doyou'll probably find other things mentioned that are every bit as interesting and compelling.
Coping With Change On The Web
Sooner or later, all the information we've shared with you about the Microsoft Certified Professional pages and all the other Web-based resources mentioned throughout the rest of this book will go stale or be replaced by newer information. In some cases, the URLs you find here may lead you to their replacements; in other cases, the URLs will go nowhere, leaving you with the dreaded "404 File not found" error message.
When that happens, don't give up. There's always a way to find what you want on the Web if you're willing to invest some time and energy. Most large or complex Web sitesand Microsoft's qualifies on both countsoffer a search engine. Looking back at Figure 1.1, you'll see that a Search button appears along the top edge of the page. As long as you can get to Microsoft's site (it should stay at www.microsoft.com for a long while yet), you can use this tool to help you find what you need.
The more focused you can make a search request, the more likely the results will include information you can use. For example, you can search for the string "training and certification" to produce a lot of data about the subject in general, but if you're looking for the preparation guide for Exam 70-081, "Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5," you'll be more likely to get there quickly if you use a search string similar to the following:
"Exam 70-081" AND "preparation guide"
Likewise, if you want to find the Training and Certification downloads, try a search string such as this:
"training and certification" AND "download page"
Finally, don't be afraid to use general search tools such as www.
search.com, www.altavista.com, or www.excite.com to search for related information. Although Microsoft offers the best information about its certification exams online, there are plenty of third-party sources for information, training, and assistance in this area that don't need to follow the party line as Microsoft must. The bottom line is this: If you can't find something where the book says it lives, start looking around. If worst comes to worst, you can always email us. We just might have a clue.
Need More Practice
LANWrights, Inc., the company behind this book, also offers practice tests for sale. You can order practice exam diskettes via snail mail, email, or through our Web site, www.lanw.com/books/examcram/order.htm. Because we wrote these tests ourselves, we don't feel comfortable telling you how great they arebut they surely are a good deal! See the end of the book for detailed information on these tests.