Exam Reviews

Windows Server 2008 Exam: Performing Under Pressure

Be prepared for performance-based exams from Microsoft. First up: How will you do under pressure configuring Active Directory in a Windows 2008 environment?

You might think you've seen this exam before, and you have if you've taken Exam 70-640 TS: Windows Server 2008, Configuring Active Directory. Both the 70-640 and Exam 70-113 TS: Windows Server 2008, Configuring Active Directory (Pilot) cover the same ground as far as topics, but 70-113 differs in that it offers something new -- performance-based exam questions. These new question types are like simulation questions, but there's a distinct difference: You're asked to perform a task in a working, networked environment (and we owe that ability to virtualization). Since that task might have different approaches, what counts is that you've achieved a successful result.

Exam 70-113 is currently what's called a "pilot" testing phase for a short period, which means it's sure to be available as a live exam. It also means that Microsoft Learning is looking only for how well the exam questions themselves perform in the field, how easy or difficult it is for testers to tackle the the questions and how smoothly these tests can be delivered to centers worldwide.

Unfortunately, the exam does not count towards certification nor will a score report be given at the end of the test. Still, you'll get a good look at what Microsoft certification testing will become. Knowledge of configuring Windows 2008 Active Directory is helpful, but may not be required if you're just curious and decide to take the exam anyway (you know you can't fail, right?). Naturally, for this exam as well as the live one, you should be prepared for the virtual machine environment as well as the familiar multiple-choice questions.

In this review, I will try and help you decide if you want to experience this newest testing technology for yourself, by describing my experience.

On my exam, I received 57 or more questions and was given 180 minutes to complete the test. I say 57 or more questions because, if I recall correctly, I really only saw two performance-based questions, but each of those had about 10 items or tasks to complete for each. I also went through 37 multiple-choice questions.

The exam was presented in two parts of 60 minutes each. Part 1 had the two performance-based questions; Part 2 was multiple choice.

Windows 2008 AD Config. "Pilot"

Reviewer's rating: This exam is Microsoft’s latest release of a new testing technology that they call "performance-based." It's definitely a different experience, but will it become a standard.

Exam Title: 70-113 TS: Windows Server 2008, Configuring Active Directory (Pilot)

Duration: 180 minutes

Number of questions: Approximately 57

Who should take it? Those wishing to provide feedback to Microsoft Learning and can find a test center offering the exam before September 12.

Exam Objectives: Use the exam objectives guide for 70-640 TS: Windows Server 2008, Configuring Active Directory. To find out how to register for this "pilot" exam, go here.

Each performance-based question included a brief introduction screen to explain the new testing technology and how to navigate the virtual machines. It also explained that if I clicked "Done" at any time I would not be able to return to that performance-based question. And that changing or deleting the Event Viewer logs was a violation of the exam. Perhaps that’s how the system scores your results are through auditing of events.

Note this: The performance-based exam questions have no review option and that may also be the case on the live exam. After clicking "Next," I was presented with a Microsoft Virtual machine running Windows Server 2008. This particular machine was a domain controller. On the right side of my monitor I was given a fly-out menu list of required tasks to complete using the virtual machine.

Remember that this exam focused on configuring Active Directory using Windows 2008, so your skills should be excellent before taking the live exam. This includes configuring DNS, a forest, domain, sites, trusts, replication, global catalogs, operations masters, AD LDS, RMS, FS, RODCs, accounts, GPOs, policies, backup, recovery, maintenance, monitoring, certificate services, templates, enrollments and so on. There was only one virtual machine per question, which was a partially configured domain controller. There were, however, required tasks to complete, which referenced other or future domains. Knowing which MMC, option and location within Windows 2008 Directory Services was the only way to correctly complete the question, so be ready for that. Windows Help was available and appeared to function normally.

This exam was different than any other Microsoft exam I've experienced. I enjoyed the full functionality of the virtual machines. They were running across an Internet link within the test software. The performance was reasonable, but the virtual machines had their expected quirks, the most annoying of which was the local PC speaker beeping when I either clicked the wrong area of the screen or tried to perform an illegal operation.

Then there were the minor lockups when trying to add a group for Delegated control of an OU. However just like with a real Windows 2008 machine I used Task Manager to end the application Active Directory Users and Computers and start over.

The key to working with virtual machines is patience. But, the other test candidates in the test center could have become annoyed with my constant clicking and typing each time I was asked to do something such as navigate to the NTDS settings in the Sites and Services console to change a Site Link replication schedule, reset the DSRM password or change the description name of a user group -- I know I'd be annoyed if I was on the other end of the noise!

Experienced Need Only Apply
There's no doubt that to pass such an exam, you will definitely have to have hands-on experience with the software -- and isn't that supposed to be the point? I suggest you use the exam objectives as required tasks to complete or even make your own list to get you the knowledge you need. And get a copy of Microsoft Virtual PC here. You can also download a 240-day evaluation of Windows 2008 and build your own virtual machine here. Or, you could just rely on Microsoft's servers through one of their Virtual Labs; which are very, very, similar to what you'd experience on the exam, if you get my drift.

There are also many free resources available from Microsoft for building your skills. A good place to start is the Windows Server 2008 Learning Portal.

That wraps it up for this exam review. Good luck in your quest for Windows Server 2008 certification!

About the Author

Andy Barkl, MCT/MCITP/MCSA, A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA has been studying technology for 30 years. Of the last 15 years, he has spent much of his time parting the knowledge and experience he has gained through IT exams, over 300, to help others be prepared and successful. He teaches classes in Phoenix, Ariz. where he has lived most of his life. He can be reached by e-mail at andy.barkl@gmail.com.

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