Get Cash Back for Passing Windows MCSE Exams
LearnKey promises a cash rebate if you pass the Win2K exams using its prep materials. Is the MasterExam product that good?
- By James Carrion
It’s no big deal to walk into an automobile dealership, buy a car and
get a rebate. But would you expect a company selling Windows 2000 MCSE
exam-preparation materials to offer a rebate? Well, LearnKey does. The
company, in its advertising, promises to pay you up to $200 if you pass
the Win2K exams using its MasterExam test prep products. So, are the LearnKey
products that good? Let’s put them through their paces and find out.
LearnKey Testing Engine
LearnKey offers separate MasterExam prep materials for the four Win2K
MCSE core exams, along with a MasterExam product for the Win2K Accelerated
test. The latter product incorporates, on one CD, all the content found
on the four individual MasterExam CDs.
After entering your name into the test program, you can take a simulated
exam that parallels an actual Win2K exam in the number of questions and
time allotted. You can also choose to take an untimed “open-” or timed
“closed-book” test, with the former dropping hints as you answer questions
and allowing you to check answers before finishing the exam. Both of these
test types randomly pull questions from a large pool.
2000 MCSE Core Exam Preparation
Windows 2000 Professional Administration
Windows 2000 Server Administration
Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
Windows 2000 Directory Services
$125 per exam
Windows 2000 Accelerated MasterExam,
St. George, Utah
The MasterExam product presents numerous simulation questions that require
you to accomplish certain actions via the Win2K interface. Other questions
present you with a technical scenario and ask you to perform an action,
such as drag-and-drop, using other graphics. In my view, LearnKey needs
to go back to the drawing board concerning these simulations, as the questions
are unwieldy and unchallenging. For example, when you’re presented with
a Win2K interface and asked to perform certain steps, the simulation engine
“pigeonholes” you into the desired menu items and dialog boxes. You don’t
have the ability to fumble around the interface, which can prove an invaluable
At the same time, LearnKey’s simulation questions aren’t forgiving of
stray mouse clicks. If you inadvertently click in a wrong area of the
screen, the current question is flagged as incorrect and you’re moved
to the next question. In addition, even though there may be numerous ways
to perform a given task in Win2K, with LearnKey, if you don’t perform
the task the MasterExam way, your answer is flagged as incorrect. This
is annoying—I found myself having to re-answer a simulation question several
times to “get it right” the MasterExam way.
Another major drawback concerning the simulation engine, when you’re
taking a MasterExam to simulate a real exam, is if you click in the wrong
area, you’re immediately moved to the next question. This instantly tells
you that you didn’t answer the simulation question correctly (if only
the real exam provided such clues!). Compared to similar simulation engine
products on the market, the MasterExam interface is, at best, primitive.
For the most part, LearnKey’s technical content is accurate. But there
are exceptions, as you can see in Figure 1.
|Figure 1. LearnKey sample question. Win2K Professional
This seems like a somewhat easy question to answer, but looks can be
deceiving. If you know something about NT or Windows 2000, you know the
Users group is fairly restricted in what it can do, so you can eliminate
answer A. There’s no such group as Super Users, so answer C is out as
well. So, that leaves Power Users and Administrators. Well, you probably
know that Administrators are all-powerful and that, given the requirement
to “accomplish just these tasks,” the test creators probably didn’t intend
for Administrators to be the answer. At the same time, however, you’re
probably nagged by the feeling that loading and unloading device drivers
seems to be a task that only an administrator should perform—and it turns
out that only administrators can update device drivers. Power Users can
load print drivers, but can’t run Add/Remove Hardware or modify a device
driver through Device Manager. The MasterExam answer is Power Users and,
unfortunately, is wrong. Ironically, in the Windows 2000 Server Administration
MasterExam, a similar question is presented and the answer explanation
correctly states that only Administrators can load device drivers.
Overall, the questions are simple, with most no longer than a line or
paragraph. Though helpful for learning basic concepts, I don’t find these
questions challenging enough to prepare for the advanced and detailed
concepts that appear on the actual Win2K exams. For instance, the MasterExam
products include many True/False questions, allowing you a 50/50 chance
of answering correctly. On an actual exam, you won’t have this luxury.
In addition, there are many questions that ask what Win2K feature allows
you to accomplish a certain task. I see this question format as too easy;
it reminds me of Windows NT 4.0-style questions such as, “What Control
Panel applet allows you to install a modem?” (Answer: Modems). The MasterExam
answer explanations are too short and don’t explain in enough detail why
a particular answer is right or wrong. This is probably the product’s
biggest drawback, because—without adequate answer explanations—you’re
not really learning, but rote-memorizing answers.
The MasterExam answer screens do point you to additional technical references
(not surprisingly, LearnKey courseware) and corresponding exam objectives.
But it would be useful to have other, more generic, references cited as
well—for example, the Windows 2000 Resource Kit and even the Microsoft
The MasterExam product will help you prepare for the Win2K
MCSE exams, but by itself, I doubt it affords sufficient preparation.
Compared to other exam-prep products I’ve reviewed in “Drill Down,” such
as those offered by TestOut! and Transcender, LearnKey’s product is simply
not of the same caliber. The MasterExam questions are too basic and the
answers not detailed enough. This lack of detail can prevent you from
understanding why your answer to a question is correct or incorrect. The
simulation questions, in particular, are a big disappointment. The technical
content is sketchy compared to other exam-prep products.
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.