First of all, a HUGE thank you to everyone who replied to the post: ‘Tried and True Exam Prep – Part 1: Practice, Practice, Practice.’ Psychomagician and Super Sigma could not have cracked the case without your help. Ultimately, your insights about how to prepare for an exam help the community, especially newbies to the world of Microsoft certification.
We’d like to announce Psychomagician’s #1 (psycho) fan! He was a key contributor to the investigation into exam preparation. A very special thank you goes out to Michael Corkery. THANK YOU MICHAEL! An official ACE Chronicles Fan Club t-shirt is coming your way! Want to know more about the ACE Chronicles Fan Club and how to join? Stay tuned! We're working out the details, but it's going to be legend...wait for it... dairy!
Okay, time to get back on track here. SO, WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT EXAM PREPARATION? You’re not getting off that easy! You have to do a little investigating on your own by watching the video to find out!
Liked the suggestions, and would like to offer a couple of my own:
1. Don’t assume that because you in your organization use a particular technology that you know everything about it. Knowing the technology is seldom everything; you need to understand the MS approach to it. For example, not all companies placed users in global groups, which themselves are then placed in local groups, which in turn are assigned permissions. But God help you if you forgot this for the tests!
2. Don’t assume that companies in the test examples do things the way your company does. I realized this with an example test question at a seminar at Tech-Ed. In it, no one could communicate with a newly-deployed server; the correct answer was that the machine had not been given a correct IP address. My instant reaction was that no one in server provisioning (at least in my company) would do something this dumb, since the entire thing is process-scripted, with an IP address assigned before the build even takes place. But I should not assume everyone does things the way we do. Big mistake on my part! Thank God it was on a practice test!
3. The first time you encounter a new technology, like PKI or RMS or claims-based authentication, there can be a sharp early learning curve. The Tech-Ed sessions from years past recorded on Channel 9 at MSDN.com are outstanding resources for getting a foundation knowledge in many subjects. In my case, I found two excellent sessions on IPV6 from the past three years (including one brilliant one by Mark Minasi!). I always hit these up before reading the white papers and books. Of course, other sessions are superb deep-dives for subjects you are familiar with, and intellectually very satisfying as well, though now I cannot think of a single time my perusal of Mark Russinovich’s magisterial presentations made the slightest different for me on a test. Which is not to say they are any less rewarding. They’re just the sort of thing I save for Christmas vacation.
4. More generally, Channel 9 also has other awesome resources, such as the free Upgrading Skills to Windows Server 2012 Jump Start series with Ed Lieberman and Rick Klaus. Definitely spend some time on Channel 9 and get to know it.
5. I am skeptical about the need to study product team blogs, unless this is for beta products. If you cannot find something covered anywhere except in a blog, then it cannot be a very crucial element of deploying, installing, configuring, administering, supporting, and troubleshooting a system. And of it is only tangentially related to those topics, then why is it on a test in the first place? In terms of ROI, I would rather invest time and resources in mastering the mission-critical 85%. Trying to winkle out every single detail can be self-defeating, especially since this is purely a pass/fail test system.
6. I could not agree more with your comments about making hit lists of discrete skills. This is so crucial to establishing study targets in all areas of life.
7. Books can be pricey, but most of us have access to libraries and inter-library loan. Our companies will often front the costs for books, especially if presented as resources for your entire group, and not just you.
8. One last observation. You generally learn more from several short periods of study each day than from marathon sessions. Tony Buzan has written some excellent books about learning strategies and tactics.