How to Use Training Guides for Exam Prep

How to Use Training Guides for Exam Prep

OrinThomas

For those who are familiar with the popular Self-Paced Training Kits from Microsoft Press, you may have heard that they are being replaced by two new series called Training Guides and Exam Refs. I had previously written a number of Training Kits with the aim of doing an all-in-one book. Training Kits were designed to included theory, practice tests, and had some hands-on labs that you could work through in your own home lab.

The new Training Guides and Exam Refs are different. In a way, they split the Training Kits down the middle. The Exam Refs, as the name implies, are more squarely focused on the specific exam and are something that you’d probably use in the latter part of your study as a revision aid. The Training Guides are aimed more at the job role tasks to which a specific certification is meant to map. In this post, I will share with you some of my thought process when writing the newly published Training Guide: Administering Windows Server 2012.

 For an experienced system administrator with working knowledge of Windows Server 2012, the objectives of exam 70-411 theoretically map to your areas of knowledge. Of course, everyone’s job is different, so there will be some exam objectives that may not be relevant to your current role. Training Guides break down the exam objectives as they apply in the job role and contain real world advice along the way, as opposed to strictly interpreting the exam objectives through the lens of a test taker.

When I put together a Training Guide, I am assuming that the reader meets the exam prerequisites. This means that I assume you aren’t coming into the topic fresh. You might not know all the ins and outs of certificate services, for example, but I don’t have to spend a couple of pages explaining what a certificate server is and why you might want to deploy one in your environment.

Another key thing you should understand is that the Training Guide provides an overview of the technologies covered in the exam’s objective domain. Where possible, I provide a link to the source documentation so that you can go deeper on particular topics if you want or need to.

Training Guides (at least the one I’ve written) also have a strong practical component, and this may be one of the biggest things you get out of reading one. Each person learns a little differently, but most systems administrators learn well by doing. Performing a task in your own lab will probably give you a better handle on it than reading about it or answering an exam question.

One thing I tried to do with this Training Guide is to write a practical exercise that touches on all of the little points that make up an objective. From a self-study perspective, this has the following benefits:

  • You don’t have to go and track down the walkthroughs yourself on TechNet (where they exist). The practice exercises that are relevant to a specific objective are in the lesson on that objective.
  • The exercises are designed around a consistent environment that’s fairly easy for you to build in your home lab. If you go through different walkthroughs on TechNet or on a product group blog, you’ll see that they all have different initial configurations.
  • The labs in each chapter are independent of each other. You roll back to the initial snapshot at the end of the lab. This means that you don’t have to finish the lab in chapter 3 before doing the lab in chapter 4, and you could easily jump to the lab in any chapter for review or repeat practice.
  • If you take instructor-led training, you use the lab that is provided by the training center. If you use a Training Guide, you can build your own lab and have as much time to tinker with it as you need to understand the underlying content.

Although Training Guides will assist you in preparing for the exam, it is not a complete exam preparation solution. This is a really important point. If you are preparing for the exam, you should use additional study materials, such as practice tests, Exam Refs, and forums such as the study groups here on Born to Learn.

It’s also important that you have real world experience. That means that you should have actually done the stuff listed on the objectives where possible, not just read about it in a book. You’re much less likely to pass an exam on Administrating Windows Server 2012 if you’ve never managed a server in a production environment.

Finally – though we do our best, errors do creep into the best texts. When thousands of eyes read over a text they find things that the author, editor, tech editor, and proofreader miss. If you buy the books through O’Reilly, they have an excellent errata system that allows us to insert corrections into each reprint.

Good luck on your exam!

Comments
  • SRMcEvoy
    |

    Orin:

    I have used a number of your books including Self-Paced Training Kits. My concern with this split approach is that for a number of technologies so far at least they have only released one or the other. Either the training guide or the exam reference guide but not both. What I loved about the Self-Paced Training Kit was how complete they were.

  • OrinThomas
    |

    Hi SRMcEvoy - I'm a great fan of the old Training Kit format as well.  I'm not sure on the schedule of other books, but I'm finishing up the final chapters on the 412 Training Guide (working right now on CH 8 of 10 which is on Hyper-V Live Migration). Good luck on your exams!

  • BArt IT
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    Hi Orin,

    I agree, old Training Kit format is better in same way, so I preferred it. However, split Training into two make sense for IT Pro or beginners. What I wish to see, is to have better recognition for whom training guide is refer.

    Never then less, I have been using a Training Guide for Windows 8 and I pleased with the edition, content and advices provided within.  

  • OrinThomas
    |

    Hi BArt IT - if you like a book and find it helpful, consider writing a review on sites like amazon - they really help.

  • SRMcEvoy
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    Just got my first set of Exam Ref books, 70-331 and 70-332 biggest disappointment no CD. I have all my MS Press books on my Tablet and Laptop so I always have them wit me for quick reference. Very frustrating.  

  • tplas
    |

    SRMcEvoy- Re not having CD:  I have taken to buying all my exam-prep books in E-book form. And from O'Reilly. That way, I have access to electronic copy for all my devices (iPad, Kindle, PC). And they issue updates for errata, etc.

    I used to prefer paper version. But I gotta say the E-book variety, especially the way O'Reilly does it, really works well.

  • OrinThomas
    |

    It depends where you get them from as to whether the ebook version is included. If you buy them from the O'Reilly shop, you'll be notified whenever we update the text with errata and a new updated e-version will be available for download.

  • Ismail Ahmed Khan
    |

    hi,

    its grade to see this blog, i searching these kind of guide few months a go, now you guys are really good, can any one guide me, how could i buy this?

  • Mahmud Ismail
    |

    Hi All,

    So your newly release of 411 "which has the cover of you book" has better explanations than the old one "Training Guide 411" which was released in March 2013.

    I just wonder, in the Certificates and Exams website of Microsoft of 410, i have studied that book they mentioned in the website

    www.microsoft.com/.../exam-70-410.aspx

    if you check 411 book under Preparation Options, you will find they still posted the old release of this book.

    www.microsoft.com/.../exam-70-411.aspx

    Any ideas.

    BTW: I'm using Safari Online and they don't have the old version book of 411, but they one you have posted here, is published already.

    Thanks

  • OrinThomas
    |

    I believe that the cover shown on the exam page was a preliminary version of the cover - not the final one shown above.

  • Mahmud Ismail
    |

    Hi Orin,

    Thanks for clarification, i believe they should update that link, anyway, i have started already with your book and the Virtual lab is ready, i shall start preparing for this exam starting today.

    Wish everyone all the luck.

    Thanks again.