Adaptive Training in a Box

Here’s a tool from Sybex that changes—just like the real exams

One of the approaches that Microsoft chose for testing is adaptive testing. Sybex has released a program called e-Trainer that adapts to your needs. It’s designed to take a set of static material and build a functional training structure that changes as the person’s training habits, time or success changes.

The e-trainer prepares the candidate for each of the four core Microsoft exams on the Windows 2000 track: Win2K Pro, Server, Net Infrastructure and Directory Services. Each exam’s material is on a single CD and is a self-contained unit that can plug into the PC install. However, you can only run one exam at a time.

The program starts by building a training profile for you. You enter your name and specify how you want to see the material—that is, you can take the questions in a sort-of straight-through fashion or focus on the areas in which you’re weak. You can also pop in a date when you want to take the test and the e-Trainer will arrange your training schedule to make sure you get a steady stream of questions before you hit the testing center. Then you have the option to take a 50-question preliminary exam, so the program can measure your weaknesses and build a training plan around them. If you end up making a change, rescheduling dates, fall behind or work ahead, the program will keep pace, telling you when certain sections are due and when to do them.

However, the idea is to study the requirements due for that week only. If you have extra time, concentrate on the current areas before working forward.

e-trainer has some simple exercises written as Flash animations. Although this is nice, it won’t replace solid experience with the Microsoft products. But it does at least show you some screenshots so you have an idea where things are.

The product comes with a pool of test questions, a lot of which come out of the Sybex print study guides. These questions target specific points and aren’t really at the level of questions that you might see on an exam.

When I got the tool, I began training with it right away. However, rather than using the e-Trainer to prepare for the four individual exams, I decided to see if I could use the tool to prepare me for the monster exam: 70-240. I went through each disk, reviewing the material until I could get into the 90th percentile in each area. Well, I was one of the many who didn’t pass 70-240, so I began anew by training for the 70-210. After a few days I passed that one without much additional effort.

MCSE: Win2K Core Req. e-trainer
E-trainer Testing. Looks like I need more study! (Click image to view larger version.)

Those of you taking the long way to Win2K cetification, this tool will get you there. If you’re already an MCP, you may get a little bored relearning about NTFS permissions and how TCP/IP works, but a review of the basics never hurt anyone, right?

Generally, I never recommend using any one tool for training; you should use several, from different sources. But use e-trainer as part of your training collection and you’ll be well on your way to getting the material you need to pass the exam. It’s less expensive than buying each of the core four books. It also works out well when you’re training and traveling and get limited to one carry-on, just as long as your laptop has enough battery life.

About the Author

Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.

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