It’s final. Your staff is going to get the Windows 2000 MCSE. You’ve got a training company picked out and you know who is going to attend and when.
But one of your employees asks you about what order in which he or she should take the Windows 2000 exams.
“Hmm,” you mutter as you begin to mull this over, “good question.”
Actually, that question is one facing many IT managers today, not to mention nearly every person who is currently aspiring to become an MCSE. As a technical trainer, my students ask me nearly every week for advice about the exam order question. Should they wait until they have completed the four core classes before taking the four core exams? Should they sit through all the classes, electives included, and then begin the exams?
In this article, I will briefly discuss the exam requirements and recommended course work. Then, I’ll share my suggested strategy for approaching the exams, including money-saving options to consider, depending upon your staff’s current knowledge set.
Requirements for Windows 2000 MCSE
To make sure we are on the same page, here is a quick—and I do mean quick—synopsis of what exams are required for the Windows 2000 MCSE. (Please see "How I passed the Win2K MCSE certification" for a more detailed look at the certification track.)
To complete the core requirements, you must pass four exams. If you have your NT 4.0 MCSE, you have the option of taking just one exam (70-240) that covers all of these topics:
- Exam70-210: Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
- Exam70-215: Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
- Exam70-216: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
- Exam70-217: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
You must select one exam from four possibilities in order to fulfill the core-plus requirement. Select one exam from the following:
- Exam70-219: Designing a Microsoft� Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
- Exam70-220: Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network
- Exam70-221: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
- Exam70-226: Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Technologies (not currently available)
You must select two elective exams from the list of current electives. (Visit Microsoft's Training & Certification home page for the updated list).
Now that you are aware of the requirements, let’s take a look at the official classes (known as Microsoft Official Curriculum, or MOC) that quasi-map to the exams.
I assume that you have chosen to attend a class using Microsoft Official Curriculum for your training. While there are many other available courseware, I cannot cover every option, so I’ll stick to the Microsoft-approved courses.
Microsoft states quite clearly in its courseware that no one-to-one ratio exists between a class and an exam. However, there are many classes that can be closely paralleled. If you were to take the entire MCSE certification track, Microsoft would recommend that you take each of the following classes.
- Course 2151: Windows 2000 Network and Operating System Essentials
- Course 2152: Implementing Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional and Server
- Course 2153: Implementing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
- Course 2154: Implementing and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services
- Course 1561: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
- Course 1562: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Services Infrastructure
- Course 2150: Designing a Secure Windows 2000 Network
This depends solely on which electives you wish to take. In this article, I will not cover each of the classes as they map to an exam—there are too many. Again, for a more detailed look at electives, please review Microsoft's Training & Certification home page for more details.
The classes listed above are the approved MOC class numbers, typically offered by a Certified Technical Education Center or Authorized Academic Training Partner. Those of you that choose not to take official courseware may have different numbers for the classes.
What order do you take the classes/exams?
With the details out of the way, now is the time to decide the order in which you take the exams. Obviously, this is a subjective question, with a lot of potentially extenuating circumstances, factors that make it difficult to answer.
As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft is very clear that there is no one-to-one ratio between a class and an exam. However, there are some obvious parallels that can be drawn between classes and exams.
With that in mind, here are my recommendations:
- Attend each of the four core classes—These include 2151, 2152, 2153, and 2154. After attending these classes in their entirety, begin your studying for the exams that are most closely related to these classes, which are 70-210, 70-215, 70-216, and 70-217.
- Once you have passed the four core exams, attend the class that you have chosen for your core-plus elective. Immediately after this class, begin studying for the exam and take it before you begin work on any electives.
- After completing all core requirements, attend the elective classes you have chosen and begin to take the exams associated with the class as soon as possible.
Here’s why this order makes sense
Why do it this way? Well, there are a number of good reasons.
First, any of the information from any of the four core classes can be expected on all four core exams. Let me give you an example. On the 70-215 exam, which covers Windows 2000 Server, you are required to know Remote Installation Services (RIS). However, the 2152 class, which most closely maps to 70-215, does not cover much about RIS. Instead, it is the 2153 class that delves deeply into RIS.
This is not the only instance in the exams where this testing across courses is noticeable. By waiting to take the exams after you have completed all core classes, you’ll save yourself time and money. Not only will you have a better understanding of the “big picture” but your understanding of many of the topics tested will be solidified through repeated coverage during the core classes.
Why not wait until you have completed all of the classes to begin testing? In my opinion, waiting until the end, which could be as long as six months, leaves too much time between when you learned the material and when you’re tested on it. You may find some of the information learned in earlier classes has seeped out the recesses of your brain. Testing while the information is still fresh is always a good idea.
One other consideration: You should take into account the current knowledge level of the person taking the courses or exams, whether it’s yourself or your employees. If a person already has a good deal of experience working with computers, specifically NT 4.0, then that employee may have an easier time learning the product and passing the exams. If you or your staff are a little behind the power-user curve, it may be necessary to devote a little more time to studying before attempting to take the exams.
Other money-saving options
Here are some things to think about which might save you some money:
- 70-240 Upgrade: If you or your employees are currently NT 4.0 MCSEs, it is definitely worth your while to look at the 70-240 Upgrade exam. This exam is intended to be the “short route” for already seasoned NT 4.0 administrators. It is only available to those who have completed an NT 4.0 MCSE, and you only get one chance at it. Although it is known to be a “pretty tough” exam, it is free and probably worth a shot. Fail it—no problem. All you have to do is take all of the four core exams listed earlier. The class that maps the closest to this exam is the 1560, Upgrading Support Skills for Windows 2000. Be careful with this class though because it is designed specifically for NT veterans. Don’t think that you are going to be able to send your rookies to this class and avoid the four core classes. A novice sent to this class will quickly become overwhelmed.
- Skip the 2151 class: The first class in the series is the 2151. It is a three-day introductory class designed to introduce folks to Windows 2000, IP Addressing, and Networking Technologies. As far as exams go, I would say that fewer than 20 percent of the exam questions come from this class, and if you have staff that already have the Network+ certification provided by Comptia, they can skip this class completely. But a word of caution here, too. If you have novice students, then skipping this class on the basis of saving money may come back to haunt you. Students who do not already have the knowledge presented in this class will be behind the power curve in later classes and may struggle to complete the requisite tests.
- Testing software: Purchasing testing software to facilitate their exam-taking can be a hidden benefit. While it appears to be an added cost, the software can be used by many employees. Also, companies such as Transcender and TestOut offer practice exams that are similar to the real thing.
- Provide your employees the support to complete the certs: The MCSE can be a tough certification to tackle. Your employees may begin to feel burdened or pressured to succeed. While success is the ultimate goal, any additional support you can provide will go a long way in ensuring they pass the exams and become more productive for your company. Don’t be afraid to give them a little time off to study or to use resources at work, and reward them for success. Your positive outlook on their successes will ensure that they continue to strive harder, which will save you money in the long run.
With the tips mentioned above, you can help your staff succeed in their endeavor to complete their Windows 2000 MCSE. Do you have to do it this way? No, of course not. There are a number of different paths your employees could take, all of which would most likely end in certification. However, the tips I have mentioned will increase their chance of passing the exams on the first attempt, and more importantly, ensure that they retain the knowledge they have learned, making them more valuable to the company.
Share your testing strategy
Do you have a testing strategy that you use to prepare yourself or your staff for certification exams? If so, please share them with other members by posting below!
Jeremy Smith is a technical instructor for Vortex Data Systems, Inc. (a Certified Technical Education Center) where he teaches numerous Windows 2000/Windows NT 4.0 classes. He previously worked as a network administrator and supervised technicians in support of a 6,500 user LAN/WAN. He holds a variety of certifications including A+, Network+, MCP+I, MCSE NT, MCSE Windows 2000, CNE, and MCT.