Developer

Use care when surfing CertPortal

Although CertPortal provides a large collection of helpful certification resources, the site has a number of problems. Erik Eckel examines its strengths and weaknesses.


It's fashionable these days to publicly dismiss brain dumps and other certification cheats, yet such sites still seem to develop their own cult following. And although their traffic certainly comes from a variety of sources, some visitors are probably CertPortal surfers.

CertPortal includes links to a number of credible sites, including ExamNotes and Cert21, but it also includes many duds. A little curiosity is understandable, but I don't recommend investing much time or faith in the uncountable number of Web sites that promise training and tools providing simple paths to certification, career advances, and IT riches (and all for one low price).

That's why you'll need to exercise judgment when relying upon CertPortal for certification resources. The portal doesn't seem to be filtering many of the sites it collects. Of course, casting such a wide net offers benefits, too. You also catch a number of good fish on CertPortal.

An expansive portal
A portal's purpose is to direct you to a number of other Web sites. CertPortal certainly does that. Whether you're seeking Cisco, Citrix, Compaq, CheckPoint, CompTIA, Linux, Microsoft, or Oracle certification, CertPortal has links for you.

Site taxonomy is simple. The same three categories are provided for each major certification:
  • Study guides
  • Practice exams
  • Training

Each of these categories is further broken down into respective subcategories listing each vendor's individual exams. This makes it relatively easy to locate the specific certification information you're seeking, whether it's study lists, practice test questions, or training exercises. Some of the resources are free, while others require payment.

The ability to quickly drill down to the content you need is CertPortal's greatest strength. But once you get to the actual resource you're seeking, you may not be so pleased.

Frankly, the site doesn't do a very good job. Many icons displayed Xs on repeated visits, and line breaks and other simple formatting elements were often missing. The user interface clearly isn't a priority. Neither is ensuring that links are kept live. Thankfully, sites open in new windows so it's fairly easy to cancel out your selections and keep digging.

In some cases, CertPortal directs you to helpful links, such as exam guides at MC MCSE and ExamNotes, or to insightful articles at Windows & .NET Magazine or on a vendor's Web site. However, if you're going to spend any significant amount of time on the site, be prepared for numerous 404 errors.

CertPortal seemingly tries to make up for its deficiencies by providing other amenities. The site's home page displays active topics from ExamNotes and offers several links that allow you to view popular search strings.

Just don't try using the Comparison Shop tab. While the site boasts that its comparison shop engine searches up to six online bookstores, it was worthless the several times I tried using it. I was unable to get any searches to generate any hits, even for searches as basic as "Windows," "Network+," and "Cisco."

Eckel's take
You're going to have more success as an IT professional if you don't study just to pass an exam, but instead focus on mastering the material being tested. A wide number of sites offer valuable and credible information that you can use to prepare for your exams, and CertPortal can help you find many of them. Just be prepared to sift through time-wasting 404s and weed out the duds.

 

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