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Microsoft Certification Tests
As experiences go, test-taking is not something that most people anticipate eagerly, no matter how well they're prepared. 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 will be when you take your first one.
But no matter whether it's your first test or your tenth, understanding the exam-taking particulars (how much time to spend on questions, the setting you'll be in, and so on) and the testing software will help you concentrate on the material rather than on the environment. Likewise, mastering a few basic test-taking skills should help you recognizeand perhaps even outfoxsome of the tricks and gotchas you're bound to find in some of the Microsoft test questions.
In this chapter, we explain the testing environment and software, as well as describe some proven test-taking strategies you should be able to use to your advantage. We've compiled this information based on the 40-plus Microsoft certification exams we have taken ourselves, and we've also drawn on the advice of our friends and colleagues, some of whom have also taken more than 30 tests each!
The Testing Situation
When you arrive at the Sylvan Prometric Testing Center where you scheduled your test, you'll need to sign in with a test 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 is 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 this sheet, and you can write stuff on both sides of the page. We suggest that you memorize as much as possible of the material that appears on The Cram Sheet (inside the front of this book), and then write that information down on the blank sheet as soon as you sit down in front of the test machine. You can refer to it any time 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 is to permit the test coordinator to monitor the room, to prevent test-takers from talking to one another, and to observe anything out of the ordinary that might go on. The test coordinator will have preloaded the Microsoft certification test you've signed up forfor this book, that's Exam 70-073and you'll be permitted to start as soon as you're seated in front of the machine.
All Microsoft certification exams permit you to take up to a certain maximum amount of time to complete the test (the test itself will tell you, and it maintains an on-screen counter/clock so that you can check the time remaining any time you like). Exam 70-073 consists of between 50 and 65 questions, randomly selected from a pool of questions. You're permitted to take up to 90 minutes to complete the exam.
All Microsoft certification exams are computer generated and use a multiple-choice format. Although this might sound easy, the questions are constructed not just to check your mastery of basic facts and figures about Windows NT Workstation, but 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 technically are correct. It's quite an adventure, and it involves real thinking. This book will show you what to expect and how to deal with the problems, puzzles, and predicaments you're likely to find on the test.
Test Layout And Design
A typical test question is depicted in Question 1. It's a multiple-choice question that requires you to select a single correct answer. Following the question is a brief summary of each potential answer and why it was either right or wrong.
Read is both a directory and a file permission. Therefore, answer a is incorrect. List is a directory permission. Therefore, answer b is incorrect. Create Directory is not a permission. Therefore, answer c is correct. Change is both a directory and file permission. Therefore, answer d is incorrect. Add is a directory permission. Therefore, answer e is incorrect.
This sample question corresponds closely to those you'll see on Microsoft certification tests. To select the correct answer during the test, you would position the cursor over the radio button next to answer c and click the mouse to select that particular choice. The only difference between the certification test and this question is that the real questions are not immediately followed by the answer key.
Next, we'll examine a question that requires choosing multiple answers. This type of question provides checkboxes, rather than the radio buttons, for marking all appropriate selections.
The items that are reset or left blank when a user account is copied are User Must Change Password At Next Logon, User Name, Account Disabled, and Password. Therefore, answers a, b, c, and f are correct. Password Never Expires, profile settings, and group membership options remain as they were set in the original account. Therefore, answers d, e, and g are incorrect.
For this type of question, one or more answers must be selected to answer the question correctly. As far as we can tell (and Microsoft won't comment), such questions are scored as wrong unless all the 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 would have to position the cursor over the checkboxes next to items a, b, c, and f to obtain credit for a correct answer.
Although there are many forms in which these two basic types of questions can appear, they constitute the foundation upon which all the Microsoft certification exam questions rest. More complex questions may include so-called "exhibits," which are usually screen shots of some Windows NT utility or another. 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 guide your answer to the question. Familiarity with the underlying utility is the key to the correct answer.
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 successbe prepared to toggle between the picture and the question as you work. Often, both are complex enough that you might not be able to remember all of either one!
Using Microsoft's Test
A well-known test-taking principle is to read over the entire test from start to finish first, but to answer only those questions that you feel absolutely sure of on the first pass. On subsequent passes, you can dive into more complex questions, knowing how many such questions you have to deal with.
Fortunately, Microsoft test software makes this approach easy to implement. At the bottom of each question, you'll find a checkbox that permits you to mark that question for a later visit.
Note: Marking questions makes review easier, but you can return to any question by clicking the Forward and Back buttons repeatedly until you get to the question.
As you read each question, if you answer only those you're sure of and mark for review those that you're not, you can keep going through a decreasing list of open questions as you knock the trickier ones off in order.
There's at least one potential benefit to reading the test over completely before answering the trickier questions: Sometimes, you find information in later questions that sheds more light on earlier ones. Other times, information you read in later questions might jog your memory about Windows NT 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 of the answer(s).
Keep working on the questions until you are absolutely sure of all your answers or until you know you'll run out of time. If there are still unanswered questions, you'll want to zip through them and guess. No answer guarantees no credit for a question, and a guess has at least a chance of being correct. This strategy only works because blank answers and incorrect answers are equally wrong.
At the very end of your test period, you're better off guessing than leaving questions blank or unanswered.
Taking Testing Seriously
The most important advice we can give you about taking any Microsoft test is this: Read each question carefully! Some questions are deliberately ambiguous; some use double negatives; others use terminology in incredibly precise ways. We've taken numerous practice tests and real tests ourselves, and in nearly every test, we've missed at least one question because we 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, reread every word againotherwise, the mind falls quickly into a rut. Sometimes, seeing a question afresh after turning your attention elsewhere lets you see something you missed before, 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 might 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 NT utilities, characteristics, behaviors, facts, and figures involved. By reviewing what you know (and what you've written down on your information sheet), you'll often recall or understand things sufficiently to determine the answer to the question.
Based on the tests we've taken, a couple of interesting trends in the answers 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 plausible. But, of course, only one can be correct. Unless the answer leaps out at you (and 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 obviously wrong.
Things to look for in the "obviously wrong" category include spurious menu choices or utility names, nonexistent software options, and terminology you've never seen before. If you've done your homework for a test, no valid information should be completely new to you. In that case, unfamiliar or bizarre terminology probably indicates a totally 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. It's essential, therefore, to understand that the default behavior for Windows NT security is to grant Full Control rights to the local group named Everyone when dealing with matters of access and rights. The same is true for many other aspects of the system. If you know the defaults and understand what they mean, this knowledge will help you cut through many Gordian knots.
Likewise, when dealing with questions that require multiple answerssuch as one that asks what must be installed on Windows NT Workstation for Client Service for NetWare (CSNW) to workit's vital to remember all aspects involved. In this example, you should remember that CSNW automatically installs NWLink as part of its own installation if that protocol isn't already present on the Windows NT Workstation in question. In English, this means that it's not necessary to install the protocol separately, because CSNW does it for you if NWLink is not already available. Certainly, NWLink is required for CSNW to work, but it's not necessary that it be installed before installing CSNW. This, too, qualifies as an example of why "careful reading" is so important.
As you work your way through the test, another counter that Microsoft thankfully provides will come in handythe number of questions completed and questions outstanding. Budget your time by making sure that you've completed one-fourth of the questions one-quarter of the way through the test period (or between 13 and 17 questions in the first 22 or 23 minutes). Check again three-quarters of the way through (between 39 and 51 questions in the first 66 to 69 minutes).
If you're not through after 85 minutes, use the last 5 minutes to guess your way through the remaining questions. Remember, guesses are potentially more valuable than blank answers, because blanks are always wrong, but a guess might turn out to be right. If you haven't a clue with 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 a test for scoring that has some 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 of the Exam Prep questions at the end of each chapter, you should be aware of those areas where additional studying is 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 that you find in the sample questions to be able to reason your way through similar situations on a real test. If you know the material, you have every right to be confident that you can pass the test.
Once you've worked your way through the book, take the practice test in Chapter 19. This will provide a reality check and will 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 test. Only when you've covered all the ground and feel comfortable with the whole scope of the practice test, should you take a real test.
If you take our practice test and don't score at least 75 percent correct, you'll want to practice further. At a minimum, download the Personal Exam Prep (PEP) tests and the self-assessment tests from the Microsoft Training And Certification 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 test from one of the third-party vendors that offers them. We've had good luck with tests from Transcender Corporation and from Self Test Software (the vendors who supply the PEP tests). See the next section in this chapter for contact information.
Armed with the information in this book, and with the determination to augment your knowledge, you should be able to pass the certification exam. But if you don't work at it, you'll spend the test fee more than once before you finally do pass. If you prepare seriously, the execution should go flawlessly. Good luck!
By far, the best source of information about Microsoft certification tests comes from Microsoft itself. Because its products and technologiesand the tests that go with themchange frequently, the best place to go for exam-related information is online.
If you haven't already visited the Microsoft Training And Certification pages, do so right now. As we're writing this chapter, the Training And Certification home page resides at www.microsoft.com/Train_Cert/ (see Figure 1.1).
Note: The Training And Certification home page might 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 section titled "Coping With Change On The Web," later in this chapter.
The menu options in the left column of the home page point to the most important sources of information in the Training And Certification pages. Here's what to check out:
Train_Cert Summaries/By Product and Technology Use this to jump to product-based summaries of all classroom education, training materials, study guides, and other information for specific products. Under the heading of Microsoft Windows/Windows NT, you'll find an entire page of information about Windows NT training and certification. This tells you a lot about your training and preparation options, and it mentions all the tests that relate to Windows NT.
Technical Certification/Find an Exam This pulls up a search tool that lets you list all Microsoft exams, as well as locate all exams pertinent to any Microsoft certification (MCPS, MCSE, MCT, and so on), or those exams that cover a particular product. This tool is quite useful not only to examine the options, but also to obtain specific test preparation information, because each exam has its own associated preparation guide. For this test, be sure to grab the one for 70-073.
Site Tools/Downloads Here, you'll find a list of the files and practice tests that Microsoft makes available to the public. These include several items worth downloading, especially the Certification Update, the Personal Exam Prep (PEP) tests, various assessment exams, and a general Exam Study Guide. Try to make time to peruse these materials before taking your first test.
Of course, these are just the high points of what's available in the Microsoft Training And Certification pages. As you browse through themand we strongly recommend that you doyou'll probably find other things we didn't mention here that are every bit as interesting and compelling.
Coping With Change On The Web
Sooner or later, all the specifics we've shared with you about the Microsoft Training And Certification pages, and all the other Web-based resources we mention throughout the rest of this book, will go stale or be replaced by newer information. In some cases, the URLs you find here might lead you to their replacements; in other cases, the URLs will go nowhere, leaving you with the dread "404 File not found" error message.
When that happens, please don't give up! There's always a way to find what you want on the Webif you're willing to invest some time and energy. To begin with, 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 the site itself (and we're pretty sure that it will stay at www.microsoft.com for a long while yet), you can use this tool to help you find what you need.
The more particular or focused you can make a search request, the more likely it is that the results will include information you can use. For instance, you can search 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 70-073, "Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4," you'll be more likely to get there quickly if you use a search string such as this:
"Exam 70-073" AND "preparation guide"
Likewise, if you want to find the Training and Certification downloads, try a search string such as this one:
"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. Even though Microsoft offers the best information about its certification exams online, there are plenty of third-party sources of information, training, and assistance in this area that do not have to follow a party line like Microsoft does. 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.
Third-Party Test Providers
Transcender Corporation is located at 242 Louise Avenue, Nashville, TN, 37203-1812. You can reach the company by phone at (615) 726-8779, or by fax at (615) 320-6594. Trancender's URL is www.transcender.com; you can download an order form for the materials online, but it must be mailed or faxed to Transcender for purchase. We've found these practice tests, which cost between $89 and $179 if purchased individually (with discounts available for packages containing multiple tests), to be pricey but useful.
Self Test Software is located at 4651 Woodstock Road, Suite 203-384, Roswell, GA, 30075. The company can be reached by phone at (770) 641-9719 or (800) 200-6446, and by fax at (770) 641-1489. Visit the Web site at www.stsware.com; you can even order the wares online. STS's tests are cheaper than Transcender's$69 when purchased individually; $59 each when two or more are purchased simultaneouslybut they are otherwise quite comparable, which makes them a good value.