What a Tangled Web They Weave…


Welcome to November already. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting colder and darker and you may be hunkering down to study for more Microsoft certifications.

Since we just finished Halloween in the U.S., I was reminded of the old verse from Sir Walter Scott:

Oh what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive…

 (Or is that Shakespeare? Feel free to discuss.)

That verse particularly applies to brain dumps as they deceive the public. I know I’ve talked about brain dumps before. But another aspect of their insidious nature is that some of them not only provide exam content, but they actively mislead someone into thinking they are getting our exam content when it’s not our content at all. Often the “exam material” they sell isn’t remotely related to the exam. They feed the unsuspecting purchaser a bunch of garbage.

We see many comments from examinees who failed our exams and want to know why, because they purchased “exam prep” material from braindumpX. When we investigate that site or source, we find out that their content is not ours or is completely wrong. A customer of the site wouldn’t know that, of course. (Yet another good reason not to use a brain dump.) They think they just paid for a Microsoft exam and got burned.

While that’s a good lesson for the purchaser in not skirting around legitimate study sources and gaining the skills in the first place, I still don’t like how these sites affect people. Even though they are using brain dumps, which violates our exam agreement, it’s unfortunate because they erroneously think Microsoft’s exam content is available. I often tell people not to assume that brain dump sites have our content; a lot of the time, they don’t. Some of them take your money first and never even provide any exam material, real or not. These are scam enterprises. They base their business on that deception.

And it’s also unfortunate because the perception is that Microsoft’s exam content is “all over the place” when really, it is not. But there’s no way to determine that unless a purchase leaves you empty-handed. Of course, the free marketplace may dictate that the more people who get burned by these sites, the faster they will go out of business. However, that's not a strategy for braindump management I want to rely on.

That’s why we still work hard to take these sites down; why we have updated our exams to thwart piracy by continuing to innovate around the design and delivery of our exam content and questions. Trust us—we’re doing everything we can to stop pirates, but much of it is invisible to candidates.

Got a tip for me? Let me know at mlsecure@microsoft.com.

  • Jason Krause
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    I do not advocate any sort of illegal activity, but MS does not make it easy to find legitimate training materials. If you search for an exam, you find very little in the way of legitimate resources: www.bing.com/search

    I see one legit link, and 10 pages of junk. Without legitimate training materials, brain dumps and sketchy sites start to look more appealing.

  • KevinM
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    @Jason Krause:  I disagree wholeheartedly.  If you're looking for legitimate training material for the 70-415, the very first link on the page that you listed will take you to the Microsoft Learning site.  Just scroll down to the "Preparation Options" section of the page and you'll see:

    1.  A Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) course for the exam, M20415B, as well as a way to search Microsoft Learning Partners who offer the class.

    2.  An exam prep video from Microsoft.

    3.  Links to at least two self-paced training classes available on Microsoft Virtual Academy (both free).

    4.  Links to a Microsoft-sponsored forum and wiki for the exam.

    5.  A link to the official Microsoft exam reference book (and other exams will have links to self-paced training kits).

    On top of that, you can go to Amazon and search for any books or training kits, as well as the traditional major CBT vendors (Trainsignal, CBTNuggets, and TestOut).

    There's quite a bit of material out there, but with the newest exams there is always going to be a bit of lag time between the exam release and training material availability, especially books.  This is the way that it's always been.

  • Jason
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    @Kevin, This was just an example exam, but the link you refer to contains links to non-existent books and no practice exams. This is fairly typical for the MCSE tests currently, and it is a shame that neither MS nor their partners has offered printed materials and practice exams.

  • Kerridv
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    Hi Jason and Kevin,

    Thanks for your comments. @Jason: Which link are you referring to? Do you mean on Bing in general?

  • Wayne Hoggett
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    Why is there still no practice exams for 70-246 and 70-247? Why are there so many gaps in the material available? I always like to use a practice exam before my exams, it really helps narrow focus on the areas I need to invest time in.

  • Jason Krause
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    @Kerri, I guess it is a two part problem, but I was referring to Bing (or search results) in general. Most of the links on Bing are to questionable materials. This could be addressed two different ways:

    1) Remove the links from Bing

    2) Provide legitimate training resources so those links might rise to the top.

    I am not a fan of censoring the search results, but maybe when legitimate resources are created, their ranking could be higher. Currently, MS has nothing to replace the links or the content with.


    @Wayne, out of the six MCSE exam, only the 70-413 has a printed book. Transcender has not bothered to offer any MCSE materials. CBT Nuggets appears to be the only company with training and practice exams. Unfortunately for us, they are not in the book business.

    When I signed up for my three exam pack voucher last December, I was working under the assumption that MS would be able to meet it's projected publishing dates for Exam Refs and Training Guides. Those dates were pushed back and we are left in the dark.

    MS cannot expect industry support of certifications that they will not support.

  • Erika Cravens
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    With respect to practice tests, we don't actually create the practice tests.  I have seen several gaps lately for practice tests on quite a few exams, but eventually I do see something come out, especially when it is a popular exam.  You may be able to help influence getting practice tests for the exams you want by pinging the practice test providers.  The three I know of are:

    Kaplan Selftest: www.selftestsoftware.com/.../microsoft.kap

    MeasureUp: www.measureup.com/All-Microsoft-Practice-Tests-C318.aspx

    Transcender: www.transcender.com/.../microsoft.kap

    Check out the wiki on the exams for more help with prep materials:

    246 - borntolearn.mslearn.net/.../499.246-monitoring-and-operating-a-private-cloud-with-system-center-2012.aspx

    247 - borntolearn.mslearn.net/.../511.247-configuring-and-deploying-a-private-cloud-with-system-center-2012.aspx

    I hope this helps!


  • Erika Cravens
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    @ Wayne

    I can't believe I didn't add this in, but you can also see a lot of material to help on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.  Here is a link: mva.microsoft.com/.../system-center

    Hopefully the link works for you.  Thanks!

  • Wayne Hoggett
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    Thanks Erica. I've already trawled TechNet for all the training material. I've published nearly all the blog posts in my 70-247 series too (www.waynehoggett.com/.../70-247-series-summary.html). I just want to see how ready I am for the exam without having to take a day off work and sit a real test. I'll just do it the hard way I guess.

    I think Microsoft needs to fill the gaps on the less popular exams. Having IT Pros with the required skills in System Centre can only benefit Microsoft, surely!

  • KevinM
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    I will say that at least we have Second Shot available for now, so while it's not the same as a practice exam that's how I usually tend to use them.  If I pass it on the first attempt then I'm happy, if not then I'll know where I need to improve.  Best of all, I'll have a true idea of how I stack up against the exam because I will have taken the actual exam.

    Of course this is no way nearly as convenient as an actual practice exam, but I have learned to make due (until the Second Shot promotion ends).

  • Jason
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    @Kevin, I just did the same thing with the 70-415. I normally prefer to use the second shot as a backup plan, but until we have legitimate materials, we'll just have to use the first shot as a dry run.