Self Test’s Win2K practice exams are solid, though improving technical explanations and implementing a 32-bit testing engine wouldn’t hurt.

Test Yourself

Self Test’s Win2K practice exams are solid, though improving technical explanations and implementing a 32-bit testing engine wouldn’t hurt.

Last month, we examined Measure Up’s Windows 2000 practice tests. This month, we’ll take a look at Self Test Software’s Win2K core practice exams. Note that Self Test and MeasureUp are the two authorized Microsoft practice test providers.

Self Test’s Win2K core practice exams correspond to these Microsoft exams:

  • Win2K Professional (70-210)—Tests your ability to install, configure, and administer this flagship operating system. (Self Test practice exam: 230 questions).

  • Win2K Server (70-215)—Assesses your basic Win2K Professional knowledge and ability to support Win2K Server. (Self Test: 192 questions).

  • Win2K Network Administration (70-216)—Determines your ability to piece together a network with various back-end network services such as DNS, DHCP, WINS, RRAS, and RADIUS. (Self Test: 230 questions).

  • Win2K Active Directory Administration (70-217)—Measures your knowledge of all Active Directory building blocks, including Domains, Organizational Units, Trees, Forests, and Sites. (Self Test: 230 questions).
Product Information
Self Test Software Windows 2000 Core Practice Exams
Self Test Software
www.selftestsoftware.com
$99 per practice exam

Besides these four core exams, you’ll need to pass one Win2K design exam and two electives—a total of seven grueling tests—to earn your Win2K MCSE. Don’t kid yourself, this is not an easy process.

Self Test Exam Interface

As I went through the Self Test practice exams, I was appalled to find that the testing engine was a 16-bit program and was even more perturbed when the program kept freezing while I took an exam. With a 32-bit program, the testing engine could be multithreaded, and it wouldn’t crash or be crashed by 16-bit programs running on the same computer.

I installed the Self Test exam on a Pentium machine running Win2K Advanced Server, which allowed me to switch between the test and OS to verify answers—a setup I’m sure many prospective MCPs will want to emulate. Note that you can run only one instance of the testing engine at a time, so you can’t load multiple exams simultaneously.

When you start the test engine, you choose your exam and are then presented with a breakdown of sections by exam objective. You can choose to answer all of the questions or a subset (based on a specific objective). Self Test has an option for configuring an exam for adaptive mode, but it doesn’t appear to emulate the functionality of a real adaptive exam. With this option you can, for example, review previous questions—something that an actual adaptive exam won’t allow.

As you progress through a Self Test practice exam, you have the option of checking the correct answer, by pressing the “Learn Now” button, before moving to the next question. The correct answer or answers are highlighted, and a dialog box explaining the correct and incorrect answers pops up. This, I found, is the testing engine’s most useful feature.

Besides the standard multiple-choice questions, the Self Test exams feature various “Hot Spot Graphics” questions. Here, you click an area of a graphic as the answer to a question. You’ll also find several “Select and Place” questions, similar to ones you’ll see on the actual Win2K exams, where you drag objects to an area of a graphic as you remedy a problem described in the test scenario.

Exam Content Quality

For the most part, I found Self Test’s technical content to be accurate and the questions structured in a way conducive to knowledge building. But I also found some questions ambiguous and some technically inaccurate. Note that there are enough questions in each exam pool to keep you from revisiting the same questions. This prevents you from memorizing specific questions when taking a practice exam multiple times.

The question explanations are adequate; still, they could use some work. For example, while many Windows NT 4.0 MCPs are familiar with the concept of setting scheduling priorities for a process, most aren’t up to speed on the intricacies of new technologies incorporated into Win2K such as Group Policy, IPSec, Certificate Services, and Active Directory. More in-depth explanations of how these specific technologies work would help prospective test takers maximize the Self Test product. At the same time, the explanations do point you to reference materials such as Microsoft Press’ study guides, TechNet, and the Windows resource kits—but not all users will have access to these materials.

I did find one big content detractor in the Self Test materials: You’re tested on Resource Kit utilities, something you won’t be tested on in the real exams. These questions are unnecessary and should be removed from the question pool. They serve only to confuse individuals who are using the Self Test product for exam objective preparation.

Now, let’s take a detailed look at two Self Test practice exam questions.

The question in Figure 1 is ambiguous.

Figure 1. This permissions and inheritance question can be considered ambiguous. (Click image to view larger version.)

You’ve created a no-name Organizational Unit (OU) with a child OU named ENGUSERS. You must assign explicit permissions to the child OU (I assume this means ENGUSERS). The second requirement is that you must allow permissions to inherit from parent to child, but from what parent? It isn’t clear whether the permissions should be allowed to inherit from the no-name parent or from ENGUSERS (as a parent). In addition, the question says nothing about blocking permissions at any level. Active Directory object inheritance allows you to assign explicit permissions to an object and have these permissions inherit to all the child objects below. Assigning explicit permissions to an object doesn’t preclude that object from receiving inherited permissions from its parent and then passing these inherited permissions down to its children. As an analogy, if your kids inherit your green eyes, they can still inherit their grandmother’s red hair, even though you as their father or mother may have blond hair.

According to the practice test, the correct answers are, “Configure permissions inheritance on the OU and all child objects,” and, “On the child object with explicit rights, use the Security tab and clear the checkbox to Allow Inheritable Permissions from Parent to Propagate to This Object.” As you can see, this question is highly ambiguous and open to discussion.

The question in Figure 2 is technically inaccurate.

Figure 2. This question regarding folder access within OUs is technically inaccurate. (Click image to view larger version.)

A user is moved from one OU to another OU in the same domain, and in the process loses access to a vital folder. The question’s answer (marked “A”) states that the user lost access because her old OU, and not her user account, was assigned explicit permissions to the folder. The explanation states that an Organizational Unit can be assigned permissions to a folder and that all users in that OU gain access to that folder by virtue of being a member of the OU. This isn’t correct. The only Active Directory objects that can be assigned permissions to a resource are computers, users, and groups (security groups, not distribution groups). By definition, these are “Security Principals.” An Organizational Unit isn’t a security principal. Rather, it’s a container object used to organize other Active Directory objects for the purpose of delegating administrative tasks or applying group policy.

Final Thoughts

Self Test Software has a good product that I find useful for exam preparation. Still, the product could be improved by implementing a 32-bit testing engine, providing more detailed technical explanations to questions, and fixing some technical inaccuracies. Overall, though, the Self Test Win2K practice exams are solid. Coupled with hands-on Win2K experience, Self Test can help you achieve your certification goals.

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