I try to keep my certifications fresh. I am MCSA on Windows Server 2000. I failed to upgrade to Windows Server 2003. (There was a test for that, but it is no longer given.) So I have to start all over.
The replacements for MCSA/MCSE are the “Microsoft Certified IT Professional” AKA MCITP. The replacement for MCSA is MCITP: Server Administrator and the replacement for MCSE is MCITP: Enterprise Administrator.
The best thing one can do in my humble opinion is to actually use the product you’re taking the test on, and actually go to classroom training. Unlike some vendors, Microsoft only offers training through third party vendors. Most places have suitable training nearby.
Unfortunately, the classroom training is very expensive. Most of these classes are 5 days (one week.) The prices vary, but they run something like $500 per day, something like $2500 a week. Plus travel, lodging, meals, etc.
I can’t afford that.
So I did the next best thing.
I got the Microsoft Press books for MCITP:EA. They have a bundle that has books for the 4 core tests. In addition, you’ll need a book on the client you choose (could be Vista or Windows 7). I chose a book on Windows 7. I bought the official Microsoft Press books, because I wanted to try it the “Microsoft suggested way”.
After I got the practice tests, I needed to decide which test to try first. I decided to do this by taking all the practice tests cold, without studying. I decided I’d work on the test on which I got the highest score on the practice test. I took all 5 practice tests, and I got the highest score on 070-647 Windows Server 2008, Enterprise Administrator.
(Hmm. In retrospect, I wouldn’t do that again. 070-647 is intended as the final test, and is composed mainly of topics from the other tests. So by studying for the other tests, you are studying for 070-647.)
So I read the whole book. I did most of the labs (the labs are actually pretty useful if you are a bit rusty, like I am.) I took both practice exams over and over again until I got 100% every time, and had all the test questions memorized.
I then scheduled the test at a test vendor. There’s none nearby. The closest one is in Salinas, about 100 miles away.
I took the test. I failed. I scored 653 out of 700. I was close.
The test looked *NOTHING* like the practice exams. The questions weren’t even close. I suppose doing the practice exams was of some general benefit, but these tests are not like the MCSA 2000 exams I took. The practice exams for those tests were *EXACTLY* like the real tests. Not these ones.
Microsoft got a lot of grief over how the previous programs like MCSA/MCSE were too easy. They said they were going to “fix” that. Boy, did they ever.
So without violating NDA, the basic way the questions are structured are like so:
The test outline says you need to know “foo”.
The book has a small section on “foo”, where they talk in a general way about “foo”, and give some simple examples.
The practice test has a couple questions on “foo”, pretty much the stuff the book mentioned.
Then, when you get a “foo” question on the test, it’ll look something like:
“You are configuring “foo” in a Windows 2008 forest with multiple domain controllers. The administrator doing the configuration get the error dialog shown in the exhibit (picture of error). You need to allow him to finish the configuration. You should (pick all that apply):
- Make sure that the orbital dynamics of all the “foo” associated planets are aligned.
- Ensure that your flux capacitor is charged to 88 gigawatts
- Verify that the terminal air speed velocity of a swallow is higher than that of an unladen gnat.
- Take him into the bathroom and wash his mouth out with a handgun.”
Whoa! That’s not a simple question. The book only briefly mentioned “foo” and what you might use it for. The labs, if there were any at all on “foo”, only covered simple “foo” examples. The practice tests looked like the book. Where did all this in-depth “foo” configuration ever get covered?
Oh. That’s how they “fixed” it. They assume you’ve actually *USED* this stuff before and that you’ve worked through problems like this at work. They intentionally ask you questions they didn’t prep you for, to try to determine if you are just a “paper MCSE” or if you really know your stuff.
So yeah, these exams are *HARD*. I’ve taken lots of exams, from lots of vendors. I’d say this exam was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever taken.
I’ll try again. Stay tuned.
Oh, and don’t try getting “brain dumps”. Microsoft has a brain dump tracking team, and intentionally constructs test questions that look like the ones released in brain dumps, with different correct answers. So they can determine statistically by your answers if you’ve memorized the (wrong) brain dump answers. They can take your certifications away if they determine statistically that you probably used brain dumps, you agree to that on the NDA.