How To Get (and Not Get) Your Windows 2000 Certification

With the clock ticking on NT 4.0 certification, now is the time to prepare yourself to take—and pass—the Windows 2000 exams. Here’s what it’ll take.

It’s been a more than a year since Microsoft introduced the Windows 2000 operating system and, in that time, MCPs have been quick to become trained and certified on the new software. In the first eight months that the Win2K exams have been available, MCPs of all types have moved to become certified at a rate nearly four times as fast as they moved to become certified on Windows NT Server 4.0.

Most—nearly two-thirds of our newly minted Win2K MCPs—are upgrading from certifications on NT Server 4.0. That’s to be expected. What’s perhaps less expected—and very significant for the long term—is that just more than a third of our Win2K MCPs have no previous Windows certifications. They’re technology professionals with experience in Novell, Unix and other operating systems—and now they’re moving to Windows.

Their interest in Windows certification verifies the results we’ve seen from independent research organizations, including IDC and Gartner Group. IDC concluded that, for companies with 13 or more servers, the ROI in Windows certification is just four months. Outsourcing in companies with certified personnel can be cut by 20 percent, with the internal staff handling 43 percent more support requests than prior to certification. Server downtime also drops significantly, saving these companies $2,530 per server per year. Similarly, GartnerGroup confirmed that certification is not only a way for corporations to increase the skill sets of their IT personnel, it’s also a way for those companies to motivate and retain IT personnel. According to Gartner, 91 percent of individuals acquiring certification are as likely or more likely to stay with their current employers.

Design skills are critical in a Win2K network. To that end Microsoft has included those skills as a core part of the Win2K MCSE certification. These skills weren’t part of the previous NT 4.0 certification. The new certification includes four core exams and one design exam, plus two electives. The new tests include case studies and scenarios that assess total knowledge and hands-on experience, not just the ability to memorize facts. While some candidates may be reluctant to face these new exams, we know that those who possess the skills with the product will succeed.

Some of you may be concerned about the new exams. But I want to point out that the candidates who have the appropriate qualifications to take them tend to pass the new exams at a rate similar to the NT 4.0-identified target audience for the NT 4.0 core exams. This shows that while the questions are more appropriate tests of the skill sets needed in Win2K environments, they’re not—as a whole—more difficult than questions on older exams. We made these changes in response to MCP requests to ensure the continued value of the MCP credential. But we recognize that change can breed apprehension.

The Track To Follow
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on Windows NT Server 4.0 certifications, which cease to be valid at the end of this calendar year. So what should you do if you’re certified on NT Server 4.0? How should you go about doing it, and how is Microsoft working to make the transition easier for you?

To answer the last question first, we’ve taken some major steps that MCPs tell us take much of the sting out of the time and trouble of getting re-certified for Win2K. Chief among them, we’ve consolidated the four core, required exams for Win2K certification into a single, “accelerated exam” 70-240: Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0.

When you pass this exam, you get credit for having passed four core exams in the MCSE track. And to help mitigate the trouble of taking the exam, we’ve made the exam free of charge through the end of this year for any candidates who have passed the three Windows NT 4.0 exams.

Taking and passing the Accelerated Exam—as well as the elective exams also required for MCSE certification—is only the culmination of your preparation. In addition to your invaluable hands-on experience, we’ve developed a companion, accelerated course, 1560: Upgrading Your Support Skills from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. This course exposes candidates to the objectives covered in the four core Win2K exams. And you have options in how you take this training. Course 1560 is available as an instructor-led Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) course. The class runs five days. It’s also available as an online-facilitated course, in which content and services are facilitated by online contact with a mentor, helpdesk support, instructor or facilitator. The complete Win2K instructor-led training offered through Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs) consists of 55 days of training for a variety of audiences, including developers, architects/designers, support professionals, and network administrators. These courses may be modularized and customized according to need.

For those who prefer self-paced content, the courseware is also available online, and in books and CDs from Microsoft Press. Additional materials from TechNet and MSDN can augment your self-study preparation.

Once a candidate decides to prepare for the exams, he or she should download the preparation guide from the MCP Web site. The preparation guide to the Accelerated Exam is available at www.microsoft.com/
trainingandservices/exams/examasearch.asp?PageID=70-240
. Also online, you’ll find links to a wealth of preparation tools, including information about practice tests. The practice tests, developed by third-party MCP practice test providers, can help you assess your skill level. Your score on a practice test won’t necessarily indicate your score on the certification exam, but it’ll give you the opportunity to assess your knowledge and readiness.

Personal Trainer
Which form of training is best for you? Instructor-led courses provide the most concentrated learning experiences and the most intensive involvement with a Microsoft Certified Trainer. They’re offered by Microsoft CTECs and other Microsoft-authorized training centers, such as Authorized Academic Training Programs (AATPs), around the world. But instructor-led courses also require the greatest direct commitment of time and money. If your schedule, resources or inclination don’t lend themselves to instructor-led courses, consider an online facilitated course or self-paced teaching materials. Self-paced products offer you the greatest flexibility to work training into your existing schedule—and do so in a highly cost-effective way.

There’s another training option that some people choose, but I don’t always recommend it: the accelerated or condensed training. These programs promise to teach you everything you need to know about Win2K in just a few days. They’re like the “all-nighters” that many of us endured in college on the night before a big exam. Whether or not we passed the exam, we forgot most of what we’d memorized within days. And many people who take this training tell us they have the same experience.

Hands-on experience with Win2K technology is a prerequisite for being able to answer the questions on these exams—and no amount of “cramming” can give you that experience. Moreover, because these forms of training aren’t certified, you have no independent confirmation of the quality of the experience they offer. If you already have in-depth Win2K knowledge and experience, and you’re willing to take the risk, accelerated training may be helpful. But why take the risk when you don’t need to?

Just because your NT 4.0 certifications becomes invalid after the end of the year, that doesn’t mean your knowledge becomes invalid or without value. Many enterprise infrastructures continue to host NT 4.0 servers and have reasons to continue to host those servers for the foreseeable future. So they need MCPs who are knowledgeable about NT 4.0—but whose knowledge and expertise are updated for the world of Win2K. Today, the issues aren’t how to plan for and implement NT 4.0, as much as they are how to facilitate co-existence between the two flavors of Windows.

That means that for us at Microsoft, the issue is how to help you demonstrate to your colleagues and clients that you have this expertise. Our solution is a new exam—Exam 70-244: Supporting and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Network—that tests your understanding of NT 4.0 in the year 2001. It’s an elective in the MCSE track for Win2K. MCPs who have current enterprise experience with NT 4.0 should be well prepared for this exam, thus extending the value of and return on their NT 4.0 expertise.

So what’s your first step toward Win2K certification? Check out www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices.asp for more information and and find out which options are best for you.

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