Practice, Practice — Then Pass?
Osborne states its Test Yourself MCSE practice exam books will help you ace the Windows 2000 exams. Will they?
- By James Carrion
I dissected Sybex’s series of study guides and exam notes for the Windows
2000 MCSE exams. This month, I take a hard look at yet another set of
books meant to prepare you for the Win2K exams: Osborne/McGraw-Hill’s
Test Yourself series.
|Osborne/McGraw-Hill Windows 2000 MCSE Practice Exam Books
Test Yourself MCSE Windows 2000 Professional (Exam 70-210)
Test Yourself MCSE Windows 2000 Server (Exam 70-215)
Test Yourself MCSE Windows 2000 Network Administration (Exam 70-216)
Test Yourself MCSE Windows 2000 Directory Services Administration
Test Yourself MCSE Designing Windows 2000 Directory Services (Exam
Test Yourself MCSE Designing Security for Windows 2000 (Exam 70-220)
Test Yourself MCSE Designing a Windows 2000 Network (Exam 70-221)
$19.99 per book (includes downloadable ExamSim software)
these books as resource materials that will help you test your Win2K knowledge
before taking the actual exams. The publisher’s motto for the series is,
“Don’t let the real test be your first test.” Here, though, let’s turn
this statement into a question — “Will these books adequately prepare
you for the real tests?” — and discover the answer.
Separation is Bad
Osborne has adopted the marketing technique used by other Win2K MCSE
certification publishers, for example, Sybex, of creating two distinct
sets of exam-preparation tools — one a book series that essentially amounts
to a set of paper-based practice exams (Test Yourself series), and the
other a more fleshed-out book set designed to build knowledge (MCSE Study
Guide series). Because of space constraints, I’m concentrating strictly
on the Test Yourself series in this piece. In a future column, I’ll focus
on the Study Guide series.
In my opinion,
the separation between the practice tests and study guides shouldn’t exist,
as simulated exams and knowledge-building books are designed to achieve
the same goal — help you pass the Win2K MCSE exams. Upon close examination
of the Test Yourself books and Study Guide series, I found overlap in
both technical content and scope. The Test Yourself volumes help build
basic knowledge while the study guides feature practice exam questions
and exam tips. Make no mistake — you can’t have one without the other
if you’re serious about passing the Win2K exams.
tie together, by objective, the Test Yourself books and study guides.
So, for instance, if you’re reading a Test Yourself volume and find you
need more detailed reference material on a particular objective, you can
turn to the corresponding guide. Though this is pointed out in each Test
Yourself volume’s preface, it isn’t on the covers, potentially leading
buyers into thinking (erroneously) that the Test Yourself books alone
are comprehensive enough to help you pass the Win2K tests.
Test Yourself Format
All Test Yourself books follow the same format. Each volume is divided
into chapters, with each chapter covering two to nine interrelated exam
objectives. Each objective begins with a short technical summary, usually
no more than two pages long, followed by a series of multiple-choice or
At the end
of each chapter there’s a lab question designed to promote further thought
and discussion. Osborne also provides a license and key code with each
Test Yourself book that lets you download a corresponding software-based
practice exam, called ExamSim, from www.certification press.com. At the
end of the books that focus on the Win2K MCSE core exams (exams 70-210,
70-215, 70-216, 70-217), there’s a 40- to 50-question multiple-choice
practice test. In each of the books covering the Win2K Designing exams,
there are two case studies, which Osborne calls “Testlets.” Lastly, a
comprehensive terms glossary is presented at the end of each Test Yourself
I found the
Test Yourself questions conducive to learning without being overly complex
(see the sample question from the Win2K Network
Administration book). The answer explanations, however, are much too brief
— rarely exceeding more than a couple of paragraphs. More detail would’ve
been a good thing. I also was disappointed that Osborne chose to use the
old Windows NT 4.0 scenario-style questions (Required Result, Optional
Desired Results, Proposed Solution) instead of the new Win2K scenario-style
questions (You want to accomplish A, B, C. You perform actions D, E, F.
What exactly did you accomplish?). Obviously, prospective exam takers
must become comfortable with the latter question style, as this is what
they’ll find on the Win2K tests.
Technical Content: Core Exam Books
I found technical content for the Test Yourself Win2K core exam books
to be fairly accurate, and the technical editing is adequate. Sometimes,
though, the objective questions didn’t match up to the technical summary
for that objective. For example, the Win2K Professional volume asks a
question about PXE-compliant network adapters and downloading a RIS image.
But nowhere is PXE compliance explained in the technical summary for that
objective. Oddly enough, it’s explained in a much later objective.
There’s another instance of this in the Win2K Directory Services Administration
book. The objective for Transferring Operations Master Roles states that,
“ ... the first thing to remember for the exam is that you must know what
operations masters are and the purpose they serve.” Unfortunately, when
you turn to the technical summary for more information on this topic,
nothing’s there. Furthermore, Operations Master Roles aren’t explained
at all in the Directory Services Administration volume but are covered
in an entirely different Test Yourself book: Designing Windows 2000 Directory
Services (Exam 70-219). This gross mismatch of question content and technical
content serves only to confuse readers.
Technical Content: Designing Exam Books
I applaud Osborne for producing Test Yourself books for the three
Win2K MCSE Designing exams (Directory Services, Security, Network). Considering
the esoteric subject matter, this was no easy task.
Keep in mind
that when taking the Designing exams, a strong grasp of the relevant technical
knowledge is paramount. But you also must possess good analytical skills
and be able to assimilate a large amount of information in a short time.
That’s why the two Testlet case studies at the end of each Designing exam
Test Yourself volume are so valuable. Though these case studies are simplistic
compared to the real thing, they do give you a taste of the Designing
exam format and allow you to hone your analytical and reading comprehension
Can Test Yourself books stand alone?
The answer is no. Osborne should incorporate the Test Yourself series
into its MCSE Study Guide series or at least bundle them together. On
their own, the Test Yourself books aren’t sufficient to prepare you for
the actual Win2K MCSE exams. My advice is to pair these books with a good
technical study guide series — then you’ll be taking a step in the right
direction toward acquiring your MCSE. Plus, obtain all the hands-on Win2K
experience you can. It’s vital to passing the Win2K exams and no book
can offer it to you. As you learn about this operating system, don’t be
afraid to get “down and dirty” with it. You’ll be glad you did.
Question: Test Yourself MCSE Windows 2000 Network Administration
have just been hired as a network administrator by a company that
has a medium- sized network. The first day, your manager tells you
the company uses an IP address that has a "/21" suffix to it. Which
of the following would be the subnet mask used in all of the network
question highlights the importance of understanding IP addressing,
especially how to express subnet masks in either dotted decimal
or slash notation. As a subnet mask converted into binary from its
dotted decimal form is nothing more than a set of contiguous binary
1's, followed by contiguous binary 0's, you do the conversion and
count the number of 1's. This tells you what the slash notation
should be. Here, the correct answer is C, because 255.255.248.0
converted to binary is 11111111.11111111.11111000.00000000, or 21
James Carrion, MCM R2 Directory, MCITP, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CISSP has worked as a computer consultant and technical instructor for the past 16 years. He’s the owner of and principal instructor for MountainView Systems, LLC, which specializes in accelerated Microsoft Certification training.