Drill and Drill Again

The Virtual Test Center is aimed at a single goal: passing the exams

There are many different methods for preparing to take a certification exam. One technique that many people agree on and use in the final stages of exam prep is serious practice. Drilling yourself with a gazillion questions helps to get your brain engaged in "testing mode."

That's were the Virtual Test Center comes in. The VTC is Sybex's way of answering the call for the gazillion questions needed. They have created a test question package that is in the same format as their E-Trainer. The VTC covers all of the "Core-Four" exams on a single CD. It also keeps a profile on you so you can review your testing history as you go along. There's also an interesting configuration quirk: You can set the kind of responses you get from the system. As you go along, you can have the VTC use praising, neutral, or insulting responses, depending on your overall outlook on life. (Personally, I go for neutral, since I'm not into tooting my own horn or self-abasement.)

There are three testing modes you can use. You can go for the Random option, which simulates the 50-60 question long haul version of the exam, Adaptive, which mimics that scheme, and Objective, where you can focus on your weaker areas by getting more questions from those areas. Additionally, you can set the test software up in practice or testing modes. Practice allows you to answer the question and find out right away if you got it right. Testing lets you mimic the real environment to see if you passed or failed and get a score.

I did see some of the questions using the old "required/optional" objective format scheme, which Microsoft seems to be phasing out of their testing in favor of scenario-based questions. However, VTC does introduce the new style, picking and choosing what the solution actually does to the problem. So, you're not left high and dry on that one.

The question complexity, as compared to the certification exam is right at the same level. However, it is entirely possible that you can actually encounter the same question (not just a variant) two or three times during a single VTC test run. The pool is large, but not large enough where you won't start seeing the same question after a dozen test runs.

I had a few questions that I was a little concerned about. In fact, over some cappuccino, a fellow MCSE and I reviewed a bunch of questions from the pool and found a small few of them to actually be in error. So, keep that in mind when you use this product. If you question something that they mention, check any references they give if you can, or research it through TechNet. Make sure you know the right answer in any case!

Sybex Virtual Test Center
I wonder if I got this one right… (Click image to view larger version.)

Here's the bottom line on this or any other test simulation software. Although testing software is great, it's just part of the material you need to review. If you really want to know your stuff and not be a "paper-cert," research the questions through and through. Answering a bunch of questions right during the exam doesn't mean beans when it's time to put your skills against the real test—the real world. Keep that in mind, use this tool as a tool, and you'll do just fine, both in the test center and in the server room.

About the Author

Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.


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