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18 March 2010 @ 10:32 am
Going to be getting my MCI/TP, what's the exam environment like?  
So, due to some silliness at work I couldn't explain without some serious sarcasm, apparently to be a Microsoft Certified shop, one has to have Microsoft certified employees on site. I know, right? Having one certified employee who has an expired MCSE (2000) cert seems to be a problem my company has not addressed since the last Windows admin quit a few years ago. I'd rather not explain the politics, but the current end result: I got to get Microsoft certified, and fast. The company is paying for my exams (well, reimbursing me for any that pass) and any textbooks (via a company Safari account), but not any actual real training. Yes, they should pay for real training, I am aware of that, I have barked up that tree with no results, so before I get into this pointless rant, let's move on without getting mired in The Land of Shoulda.

I am a Linux admin, but I am not a fanboy about it. I don't mind getting an MCI/TP at all, heck, it seems like fun, and I have never gotten a cert in something that I later regretted. Currently, I am on the fast track to get the MCI/TP "Server Administrator" Cert which involves 3 exams, which I plan to take in the following order:

Exam 70-646: Windows Server 2008 Server Administrator
Exam 70-640: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
Exam 70-642: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring

Now, I am certified in a various sundry of Linux and networking pedigrees. I have taken CompTIA, LPI, Novell, Cisco, and Red Hat exams. I am familiar with multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and simulation tests. I am also rather familiar with Windows itself, from install to maintenance, as part of my daily job. I have worked extensively with Windows 2000 and 2003 with a history of training in MCP for Windows NT 4.0. I have worked a lot with with DNS, Active Directory, IIS, and a little Exchange and MS SQL up to 2005. I am pretty confident around Windows, but have no real training since NT 4.0 was out. So I won't be starting from nothing, just filling in a lot of gaps where my experience hasn't taught me something.

So far the documentation on what the exams are like are lacking, but I think a lot of it is that my Google-fu is clouded with a bazillion websites trying to sell me certs, cert prep courses, brain dumps, practices tests, and a lot of outdated MCSE information. Oddly enough, the textbooks I have for these exams (the Microsoft Press ones) are very lacking when it comes to "what the exam environment is like." So here are my questions:

1. Are those exams (and thus, my self-studying) in roughly the right order? I am trying to learn the base installs from the ground up to fill in missing gaps.
2. Are the newer exams multiple choice, fill in the blank, lab simulations, what?
3. What are the Prometric testing centers like? How long is the exam?
4. Any tips on exam taking?
5. Any links and other good resources that are free or nearly free?

I could use the help, I am being thrown to the wolves, here.
Uncle Grayhawk: Tech mattersgrayhawkfh on March 18th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Haven't taken any tests in more than a few years, so I can't answer 2 or 3.

The exams have always struck me as being set up so that it's usually a good idea to take in numerical order. In this case, I don't think that there's a difference whether you take 640 or 642 first, but you may want to do both before 646.

Now, on to the big thing with MS testing. Y'know the old saying about there being 3 ways to do things: The wrong way, the right way, and the Army way? This applies very strongly to MS exams, save that you substitute "Microsoft" for "Army". It's an issue raised by many people I know that have taken tests after working in the "real world"; the answer they're looking for doesn't always match what is done in the real world.

No clue on 5. I'll be watching this space for that info. ;-)
lohquesselohquesse on March 18th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
I will call my dad tonight and get his feedback. He is a guru when it comes to Microsoft products and if I cannot answer your questions here, I'll see if he is willing to call you :) Or have you call him.
lohquesselohquesse on March 19th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
dad agrees w/grayhawke about the right way/wrong way/ms way.

he knows nothing about 2008, but he suggests looking at the mircosoft site in the technical area - MS should have some virtual servers you can play with.

about #3 you can go on the mcp site and you can find out how long the tests are and what you might need in detail - with links that will help you.

the tests DO involve simulations which are nasty.

active directory has evolved in the last few years...

you should be able to type in certifications on the ms site and it should lead you to the tests and the info you need...
Aurienne: CalvinHobbes Loopholesaurienne on March 19th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)
back when I was a trainer )and thus took many tests quickly) -- late 90s), Transcender was the best prep software...it told you not just why MS thought answer C was right, but why though A or B would work in the real world, why the test would say they were wrong.

Also, I remember sometimes being a bit hosed because I tended to learn how to do things via right-click...the shorter menu gives you viable options only, but the test enviro simulator had you use the full menus at the top. very annoying.

But this may be obsolete info, so who knows.
greyseattle on March 19th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
I haven't taken these tests myself, but Microsoft has a forum for asking questions like this at http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/forums/f/default.aspx

And they have some free resources for the win server 2008 at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/training/format-learning-snacks.aspx#WS08R2