Mike Meyers' Certification Passport Series
Will this passport take you to the end of your certification journey?
- By James Carrion
Here I go again: This month I evaluate yet another series of Windows
2000 exam preparation guides, the Mike Meyers' Certification Passports.
My home office bookshelf is starting to look a lot like the certification
section at Barnes and Nobles.
The title of these books is a little confusing, as none of the ones I
reviewed were written by Mike himself. Rather, they are written by a variety
of authors with Mike's blessing. All the books have the same theme: "take
these books with you on your certification trip and they will help get
you to your ultimate destinationWIN2K Certified." Will these books
really get you there or will you end up a lost tourist? Pack your bags
and let's see.
Each Passport is under four hundred pages and is comprised of between
eight and ten chapters. Faithful to the travel theme, each chapter covers
two to six "itineraries" (Microsoft official exam objectives). There are
"travel advisories" scattered throughout which are technical tidbits that
give you expert opinion on some common technical pitfalls and misconceptions.
In addition there are exam tips that identify crucial areas you need to
beef up on before taking the real exam. "Local lingo" blurbs help translate
or define technical terms into plain English. At the end of each chapter
is a "checkpoint," a set of review questions that help reinforce the objectives
just learned and each Passport also comes with a CD that has a sample
I found these books to be quite readable with good laid-back technical
explanations. The technical accuracy is fair with some corrections needed.
For example, in the Win2K Professional book, the author states that when
installing new Win2K Services on a machine that already has a Service
Pack installed, the Service Pack would have to be reapplied. This is not
correct, as Microsoft learned its lesson with NT Service Packs reapplications,
programming Win2K to store Service Pack files in a local directory or
to add registry entries that point to the Service Pack installation point
so that a future Win2K modification would always find the latest drivers.
This technical inaccuracy also highlights another weakness in the series:
Each book has a different technical editor and between the guides there
is inconsistency in the technical content. For example, the Win2K Server
Passport has the correct information about Service Pack functionality.
If the same editor had tackled the entire series, the same concepts should
Mike Meyers' Certification Passport Series:
- MCSE Windows 2000 Professional
- MCSE Windows 2000 Server
- MCSE Windows 2000 Directory Services Administration
The Win2K Directory Services Passport also has some inaccuracies. For
example, the section on DNS states that there are three DNS zone types:
standard primary, standard secondary, and reverse lookup. In fact, the
three DNS zone types are standard primary, standard secondary and active
directory (AD) integrated. Zone types dictate where DNS records are stored,
either in a text file (standard DNS) or in the AD database (AD integrated)
and whether the DNS server has read-only (standard primary or AD integrated)
or read-write (standard secondary) access to that data. Both forward lookup
(computer name to IP address resolution) and reverse lookup (IP to computer
name resolution) zones can be any of these types.
There is also some overlap in technical content between the books in
this series. This is to be expected, as the real exams also overlap in
technical content. Many of the same questions/concepts show up on both
the Win2K Professional exam and the Win2K Server exam. For this reason,
it would probably be to your benefit to study both the Professional and
Server Passports before attempting the Professional or the Server exam.
Poor technical editing aside, the majority of technical content in this
series is sound and is written in a refreshing style. The books cover
most of the exam objectives and there is a good mixture of tables and
graphics that help illustrate technical concepts.
|Figure 1. A sample question and explanation from
the CD-based exam. (Click image to view larger version.)
The end of chapter review questions are a different set than the ones
you'll find on the companion CD. I found both sets of questions to be
relatively simple and unambiguous but at the same time, some of the question
answers did not match up to the explanations given. One question asked
you to identify groups that could not share folders, and then in the explanation
the correct answers were identified as those groups that could share folders.
There was also some inconsistency between the chapter content and the
questions asked. In the Win2K Professional Passport, in order to correctly
answer one of the review questions you need to first understand how group
policy filtering works, but in the chapter, group policy filtering is
not even mentioned. It's highly doubtful that the real Win2K Professional
exam would even ask you a question on group policy filtering, so it makes
no sense for the Passport author to confuse the reader by including it
in a review question to begin with.
Each CD-based exam contains sixty questions that can be presented in
either a "practice exam" mode where you can see the answers and explanation
before ending the exam, or in "simulated exam" mode, where the answers/explanations
are not available until the end. The exam engine is very basic consisting
of single- or multiple-choice questions and some exhibits. Overall, the
questions are adequate and help to reinforce technical concepts presented
in the book. I found the answer explanations to be a little too short,
and one thing that they sorely lack is page references to the appropriate
concept sections in the books.
Many times your dream vacation doesn't live up to the rosy picture
in the poster on the travel agency wall. Studying for your certification
with Mike Meyers' Passport in hand can have some of the same travel pitfalls.
The Certification Passport series could benefit from better technical
editing to correct some of the technical inaccuracies and inconsistencies
both in the book content and with the accompanying practice exam questions.
The CD-based exam explanations could be beefed up with better explanations
and appropriate page pointers to book concepts. Despite these shortcomings,
I do like the Passport series. With comprehensive exam objective coverage
and an easy to read format, they are a good choice for Win2K exam preparation.
Remember to study both the Win2K Professional and Server Passports before
attempting either exam. Finally, as any seasoned traveler knows, a passport
may get you in country but it is common sense and experience that will
get you around.