Collective Road Map

If you're looking for a solid guide down the certification path, Osborne McGraw-Hill's MCSE Windows 2000 Study Guide collection is a step in the right direction.

It seems that everyone who's heard of Microsoft is now frantically trying to find a quick path to the Windows 2000 MCSE. The question is, which product will help you reach that goal? One of the best collections is the MCSE Windows 2000 Study Guide offerings from Osborne/McGraw-Hill. In fact, I recommend them to my students as a supplement to the Microsoft Official Curriculum. For those doing self-study, the texts provide myriad educational formats to aid in exam preparation. They're straightforward, complete, easy to use for follow-up research, and superbly organized.

The collection comprises four books that map to the four core exams -- MCSE Windows 2000 Professional Study Guide (Exam 70-210), MCSE Windows 2000 Server Study Guide (Exam 70-215), MCSE Windows 2000 Network Administration Study Guide (Exam 70-216), and MCSE Windows 2000 Directory Services Administration Study Guide (Exam 70-217).

Each volume can stand on its own and contribute to the reader's understanding of the Win2K platform. Even so, the real value comes in the volumes used as a single collection, following the path from Professional to Directory Services Administration. Each text reinforces the concepts and theories of the others. Each book has about 800 pages, which -- while reflective of how thoroughly each exam is explored -- may overwhelm some readers. Once you get past the fact that you have 800 pages to cover for each test, you'll find that the books are a fast read with valuable information on each page.

All of the books have a similar format with many of the same features, with each book organized around the official Microsoft test objectives. The Professional Study Guide has 12 chapters, the Server Study Guide offers 14 chapters, the Network Administration Study Guide covers 11 chapters, and the Directory Services Administration Study Guide comprises 12 chapters. Each chapter corresponds to one of the major test objectives. The chapters are then subdivided into sections based on the relevant live test sub-objectives. For example, in the Directory Services Administration Study Guide, the first major test objective covers Installing the Components of Active Directory. This objective, and all relevant sub-objectives, is covered in Chapter 2 of the Study Guide. The sub-objectives include Creating Sites, Creating Subnets and Creating Site Links. The books are filled with hundreds of clear, well-executed graphics, tables and screenshots. Each graphic or screenshot moves the reader through key aspects of the discussion. In many cases, I was able to refer to a sample graphic without having to refer to a live screen. Pages are clean in their presentation and aren't too busy, which is helpful when reading a long, technical book.

Also, each book has a glossary and detailed index for easy reference and future lookups. Those who've used Microsoft's Official Curriculum in an instructor-led course know the frustration of not being able to do easy lookups after the class is over. The Osborne/McGraw-Hill series on Win2K is ideal for this purpose. After you pass the exam and are back on the job, these books will provide excellent reference guides because of their clear organization and detailed index. This isn't the case with the MOCs.

The chapters present a variety of learning tools, including features called "Exam Watch," " From the Classroom," "Scenario and Solution" and "Hands-on Exercises." The Exam Watch sections serve as warnings that are strategically placed throughout the discussion of an exam topic, to identify subjects that readers should pay close attention to. These topics have been identified as being difficult for those taking the live exam. A good example is found in the Server Guide, under "Planning a Network Upgrade to Windows 2000," where an "Exam Watch" alerts the reader to remember that DNS is installed automatically when an NT domain controller is upgraded to Win2K.

The From the Classroom sections are issue-oriented discussions that come from the classrooms of Global Knowledge. A good example of a "From the Classroom" section is also found in the Server Guide, under "Planning a Network Upgrade to Windows 2000." There's an excellent discussion of the differences between changing a server's role in Windows NT 4.0 and in Win2K.

The Scenario and Solution sections ask questions that are reflective of real-world issues and the thought processes required to resolve those issues. Some of these question/answer, scenario/solution section are deceptively brief, but are valuable when it comes to the nuances of Win2K.

The Hands-on Exercises are a pleasant surprise. Most certification-prep books emphasize facts, but this series recognizes that those pursuing certification need hands-on training to be adequately prepared. The exercises are well thought out and presented and aren't lightweight.

One of the highlights of the collection is the material found at the end of each chapter -- a "Certification Summary," "Two-Minute Drill," "Self-Test" questions and answers, and a relevant "Lab Question." Those wanting to take shortcuts through the vast amount of material in each book may benefit by looking at these sections at the end of each chapter. If, for example, these sections are used as a pre-test, readers could determine whether they need to brush up on the details found in the chapter. While going through the books, I found myself wishing that the publisher had also placed the end-of-chapter material in a separate resource, maybe on the CD.

Each book also has a CD, which contains the whole text in a searchable electronic format.

In addition, there are excellent instructional videos that can be used for supplementary training. I'm not one who takes much stock in the CDs that accompany books, but these CDs also have instructional audios that can be played on a standard automobile or household CD player. One negative is that the CD that accompanied the Network Administration Guide I received was badly damaged. If the CD is an important resource for you, check it as soon as you get the book.

Overall, Osborne/McGraw-Hill's MCSE Windows 2000 Study Guides is one of the best collections that I've found to prepare for the four core exams. They're loaded with value-added information and -- whether you're a career-changer just venturing into the world of Microsoft certifications or are have a pocketful of certifications -- this series will definitely help you prepare.

About the Author

Warren E. Wyrostek, M.Ed., MCNI, MCT, MCSE+Internet, CIW CI, CCNP is devoted to technology education. Warren's main joy comes as a Contract Trainer in Prosoft, Microsoft, and Novell technologies. At heart he is a teacher who loves what education offers.


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