Product Reviews

Getting on the MCSA Path

CBT Vision’s Examiner for 70-218 proves a worthy study tool.

If you’re among the many thousands of people who have put off upgrading their MCSE certifications, for whatever reason, you may be looking for a way to get it. Tackling 70-218, a core exam for the MCSA certification, is a good first step; CBT’s Examiner can help.

Examiner installs rapidly, and you can dive right in. When you answer the questions, it presents the correct answers in green and incorrect answers in red. The explanations are clear and carefully researched. Offering some flexibility, the questions can be run in three modes: Learning Mode, for those needing extra help; Testing Mode, which CBT claims is just like the real thing; and Adaptive Mode, which is designed to help highlight weaknesses and strengths.

I tried a test question or two right away—things weren’t looking good for me. This exam is focused on advanced systems engineering topics for large networks so I ran off to my local Barnes & Noble to get the only book available on 70-218, from Microsoft Press: Managing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Environment, Self-Paced Training Kit. [See "Virtual Training" for Bill English's review.—Ed.]

About a chapter into the 800-plus-page book, I decided it was time for Plan B. This was to use the exam package as a learning tool. In this mode, you try to answer the question, and then use the answers, references, your lab and a good textbook to try to understand each topic and the relevant pitfalls.

An example of this is the subject of Dfs (Distributed file system). There are two types of Dfs roots: domain and standalone. Domain Dfs roots are automatically published and synchronized across host servers. Now, when the test question casually mentions you’re still on NT 4.0 for part of your network and you haven’t completely implemented Active Directory, you have to make the connection that domain Dfs requires AD; to replicate under standalone Dfs, you have to take three additional steps. Examiner helps you make the connection.

I noticed a few minor typos. In one case using remote access, CBT got ISDN and DSL mixed up in a way that was distracting but not relevant to the answers. Minor errors are OK with me as long as they’re not content-related.

CBT Examiner forced me to think sequentially about a lot of issues. This is the whole point of a simulation-test question—what job you, as a systems admin, need to perform and in which order do you perform the steps. There were a few questions about putting steps in the right order. It wasn’t intuitive how to re-order steps you selected and moved over to the answer area in the product. The support e-mail folks came right back with the answer—drag over a replacement item.

CBT Vision 70-218 Examiner
CBT Vision's 70-218 Examiner can be run in three modes: Learning Mode, Testing Mode and Adaptive Mode.

The price on the product is good, as is the fact that it’s available for download (8MB). Seventy-five dollars is well within my impulse-purchase range. If you get a quality textbook, this software and build a server lab, you should be well on your way to passing 70-218.

About the Author

Erik Westgard, CCSP, MCSE, is a Convergence Consultant at a major ISP. At work he spends a lot of time on next-generation VPN architectures for voice and data, ITIL and solutions for health care. In his spare time, he's active in amateur radio, emergency communications and sailing. Erik may be reached at ewestgard@worldnet.att.net.

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