Scaling the Certification Mountain
As you negotiate the tricky trail leading to the summit—your Windows 2000 MCSE certification—will New Riders’ ExamGear product provide a lifeline?
- By James Carrion
This month, as I continue assessing Windows 2000
MCSE exam-prep materials, I hit the trail with
New Riders’ ExamGear 2000. ExamGear consists of
seven question sets, one for each of the four
Win2K MCSE core tests, plus three design exams.
Let’s put ExamGear through its paces and see if
it’ll help you scale the Win2K certification mountain.
The ExamGear 2000
Testing Engine ExamGear 2000, which New Riders
developed in conjunction with MeasureUp, differs
from most other Win2K exam-prep products—instead
of being made available as books or CD-ROMs, ExamGear
question sets must be purchased and downloaded
at New Riders’ Web site. When you initiate a question
set, you’re presented with three options: Study
Mode, Practice Exam Mode and Adaptive Mode.
Study Mode is where you’ll probably spend most
of your time with ExamGear, perusing the question
database and increasing your Win2K knowledge level
while simultaneously focusing on problem areas.
In this mode, you select the number of questions
to be presented, plus determine a time limit for
a practice exam (or set no time limit). You can
choose questions from all exam objective groups
or just from groups where you need reinforcement.
In addition, you can 1) select from all available
questions, 2) exclude questions you’ve already
answered correctly a certain number of times,
or 3) select only questions you’ve missed a certain
number of times.
Study Mode allows you to display the correct
answer to a question you’re currently tackling
via the “Show Answer” option. The answer is highlighted
and a brief explanation of why that answer is
correct, and the other answers aren’t, is displayed.
I like the way the New Riders exam engine presents
these explanations, embedding them in the questions
themselves rather than in separate dialog boxes.
But this feature can be quirky, as the explanatory
text sometimes is truncated and difficult to read.
In addition, many of the explanations could have
been fleshed out a bit more, although they’re
Practice Exam Mode simulates the Win2K MCSE exams,
presenting you with the same time limits and approximately
the same number of questions as the actual tests.
Questions are randomly selected from all test
objective groups; just as with the real exams,
you can’t display answers on the fly. You can
review questions, but only at the end of a practice
Though Microsoft has backed away from adaptive
certification exams, many practice exam vendors
still include an adaptive exam option. I recommend
you skip the Adaptive Mode option and instead
focus on the study and practice exam modes.
ExamGear’s question types include the traditional
multiple-choice, plus drop-and-connect items that
require you to form connection relationships between
objects (roughly analogous to connect-the-dot
drawings). Other question types include select-and-place,
where you label a list of objects, and build-and-order,
where you’re asked to place appropriate items
(steps or tasks) in a list and order them a certain
When you finish an ExamGear practice exam, you
can exit or ask to be presented with a review
screen. This screen shows your passing percentage
score in the form of a large bar chart; in the
same format, you then can view a breakdown by
objective of how well you did.
ExamGear’s technical content appears to cover
most of the Win2K exam objectives. The majority
of questions are straightforward, though some
are vaguely worded and open to interpretation,
making them difficult to answer. I found myself
disagreeing with some ExamGear answers because
of unclear wording, as more than one answer seemed
plausible (Figure 1).
|Figure 1. A question
from New Riders’ ExamGear 2000.
This question contains information that appears
contradictory. The question says you have a dual-boot
configuration: Win2K and Windows 98. It also says
the system partition is NTFS. But here’s a puzzler:
The system partition is the one that operating
systems boot from, yet how is Win98 starting up
on a file system that it doesn’t support? This
question is ambiguous. Is it saying that the boot
partition, and not the system partition, is NTFS?
Or, does the computer in question presently not
support a dual-boot configuration? The answer
explanation supports the latter, but the question
could be answered in various ways depending on
your interpretation of it.
Another shortcoming is that ExamGear features
the occasional question concerning Win2K Resource
Kit utilities, which you aren’t tested on in the
For the most part, ExamGear’s questions are
technically accurate—with some exceptions. One
question, for instance, asks how you go about
optimizing the paging process on a Win2K computer
with two hard drives. The ExamGear answer is to
move the pagefile from the boot partition and
place it on the system partition, which is correct,
but then the second part of the answer says to
create a second pagefile and place it back on
the boot partition. This is counterproductive,
as the reason for moving the pagefile from the
boot partition is to avoid competing with system
I also found some of ExamGear’s order-and-list
questions to be overly complex; there were just
too many steps to order.
In ExamGear 2000, New Riders has a good
product that’ll help you along the road to your
Win2K MCSE certification. The testing engine is
sound, and the question pool covers the exam objectives
well. Technical content is good, although—as we’ve
seen—some questions are ambiguous and should be
reworded and sharpened. At the same time, many
of ExamGear’s answer explanations aren’t detailed
enough and need to be expanded upon. New Riders
should consider refining ExamGear and putting
it through some more field-testing. If the company
does that, then I think ExamGear will prove a
high-quality, reasonably priced Win2K MCSE exam-prep
About the Author
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.