Beating the Certification Clock
Transcender’s Win2K test-preparation products offer solid,
well-researched content — just in time.
- By James Carrion
The clock is ticking. Dec. 31, 2001 is the deadline for
upgrading your MCSE certification from Windows NT 4.0
to Windows 2000. But rest assured, you’re not alone. Thousands
of MCSEs face the same grim reality: Pass the Win2K exams
or be decertified. This month, let’s look at Transcender’s
Win2K MCSE core practice exams and determine if they can
help smooth your transition to the new certification.
In addition, to achieve your Win2K MCSE you’ll need to
pass at least one Win2K Designing exam. Transcender recently
released its Designing exam simulation.
Transcender Test Engine
Each Transcender practice exam comes on its own CD, and
my product installations went off without a hitch. It’s
recommended you install the security files to your hard
drive so you don’t have to pop a CD in every time you
want to take a test. But be warned — the security files
alone take a whopping 300MB of disk space per product!
You can customize the engine display by choosing from
various fonts and sizes. On the main screen, you select
the exam type you’d like to take. There are three conventional
exams per product (with the same number of questions you’ll
see on an actual exam). You also can choose a random-question
or adaptive-simulation exam that draws questions from
the conventional pool. The random exam selects questions
so you don’t memorize these based on their placement in
the conventional exams, while the adaptive exam simulates
adaptive testing based on weighted questions. Finally,
you can create custom exams by choosing the number of
questions from each objective.
If you want to take a break in the middle of a Transcender
practice exam, you can save your exam to a file and load
it later — exactly where you left off. Writing notes for
each question and saving these notes with the exam file
are other nice features of the practice tests. As you
answer questions, the “Grade Now” button is disabled by
default. It can, however, be enabled through exam options,
allowing you to check the answer to a question before
finishing a practice test.
Windows 2000 MCSE Core Practice Exams
|$149 per practice exam:
I did encounter one annoying problem with Transcender’s
test engine, specifically, with an exam’s interactive
questions. Here, you click on part of a graphic as the
answer to a question. You’re given an initial exhibit
that contains clues on how to answer the question, and
then you click on a separate exhibit as your answer. But
— and here’s what’s problematic — you can’t tile both
exhibits full screen at the same time. Instead, one of
the exhibits is nested in a miniscule window within the
other exhibit, which is full screen. You have to scroll
through a tiny window to view the first exhibit. Still,
even with this difficulty, I found Transcender’s test
engine to be robust and functional overall.
Practice Test Content
I found Transcender’s exam content to be technically accurate,
with excellent answer explanations. In fact, the explanations
are probably the product’s best feature. An exam-preparation
product shouldn’t just help you memorize test questions,
but help you intelligently answer questions based on knowledge.
The explanations also point you to various technical references
for further information.
Be aware that the actual Win2K exams can be quite tricky,
with both questions and answers worded in roundabout ways.
Prepare yourself for this. Fortunately, Transcender has
gone to great lengths to replicate not only the exam questions
you might expect to see on the real exams, but the slippery
wording as well.
I found only one thing not to like about Transcender’s
content — the occasional question testing your knowledge
of Resource Kit utilities. Note that this is something
you won’t be tested on in the actual Win2K exams.
Exam Questions Explored
Now, let’s examine two questions drawn from the Transcender
practice exams. The first is from the ProCert 2000 exam;
the second is from the ServerCert 2000 exam.
To answer the question from the ProCert 2000 exam (Figure
1), you must know what backups can be performed by the
Win2K Backup Utility and exactly what each backup does.
For routine backups, you’ll perform a full backup every
day (in Microsoft terminology this is known as a normal
backup) or combine a normal backup with differential or
|Figure 1. This question from
Transcender’s ProCert 2000 exam tests your knowledge
concerning backups. (Click image to view larger version.)
Let’s summarize these backup types:
Normal — Backs up all files selected, whether
or not the archive attribute is turned on. The archive
attribute of a file is turned on by your computer
when a file is newly created or recently modified.
Incremental — Backs up only the files that
have the archive attribute already turned on. After
the backup, it turns off the attribute.
Differential — Backs up only the files that
have the archive attribute already turned on. After
the backup, it does not turn off the attribute.
Now that you know the mechanics of backup types, you
can easily answer the question. As incremental backups
are done on weekdays, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
backup tapes in the question scenario contain the data
files that were modified or created on those days. The
problem day is Thursday because the backup failed, and
no files were backed up that day. But because Friday’s
backup was successful, it would have picked up all the
files that were created or modified from Thursday in addition
to Friday’s files. So the most recent date you could restore
to is Friday (Answer F). In reality, you’d restore the
normal backup from Sunday, plus all the incrementals that
were successful since the normal backup.
On the Win2K Server exam, you’ll be tested on a number
of troubleshooting utilities. The question from the ServerCert
2000 exam (Figure 2) asks how you go about replacing a
missing system file.
|Figure 2. In this question from
Transcender’s ServerCert 2000 exam, your knowledge
of Win2K troubleshooting utilities is assessed. (Click
image to view larger version.)
You can eliminate most of the answers right off the bat.
For example, Answer B is incorrect because you can’t boot
from an Emergency Repair Disk. Answer C is incorrect because
to restore from tape you must be able to boot back into
Win2K first, which you won’t be able to do because NTDETECT.COM
is a critical system file. Answer D is also incorrect
for the same reason. Safe Mode is just a variation of
a standard Win2K boot, but with basic drivers.
That leaves the correct answer as A: Use the Recovery
Console. Recovery Console is a feature that essentially
gives you command prompt access to Win2K in case you can’t
boot into the operating system. It works even if your
system partition is NTFS. The key is to install Recovery
Console beforehand so it appears as an option on your
Boot.ini menu (so you can readily select it if you can’t
boot). Or, if you’ve forgotten to install Recovery Console
beforehand, you can still get to it by booting a Win2K
CD or setup floppies and invoking Recovery Console from
the Repair Screen.
The Final Word
Transcender offers a solid group of exam prep products
for the Win2K MCSE core exams. The testing engine is functional
(with a few minor quirks), while the practice exam content
is rich and well researched and explained (with the exception
of those pesky Resource Kit questions!). In the past,
Transcender typically led the pack with its NT 4.0 exam
prep products, and it looks like it’s set to do the same
with its Win2K 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.