Five apps to prep for Microsoft certification exams

If you're looking for a good way to get ready for your next Microsoft certification exam, these tools may give you the edge you need.

Anyone who has taken a Microsoft certification exam recently has probably noticed that the exams are becoming more difficult than they used to be. So having good exam prep software may make the difference between passing or failing an exam. Unfortunately, much of the exam prep software that is available on the Internet is less than reputable. That being the case, I wanted to share with you five quality exam prep applications.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Transcender

Transcender is pretty much the granddaddy of practice exam software. In fact, I can recall using a Transcender practice test to prepare for an Exchange Server exam back in the 1990s. Today, Transcender's quality is every bit as good as it was back then.

The software (Figure A) offers two main modes of operation. You can choose an optimized exam experience, which allows you to take the practice exam in the way that you deem to be most helpful. Or you can choose from several preset exam experiences that are designed to mimic the actual certification exam. In addition, Transcender provides hundreds of flash cards that can help you to prepare for the exam.

Figure A


2: TrainSignal

Unlike the other vendors we're looking at here, TrainSignal (Figure B) does not produce practice exam software. Instead, it offers video-based training products that cover roughly the same material as an official Microsoft training class.

Figure B


TrainSignal takes a cookie cutter approach to its training classes, and the ridged adherence to its video template can quickly become annoying. Even so, there is no denying that the videos themselves are well done and full of useful information. I have turned to TrainSignal on many occasions for my own training needs.

3: uCertify

uCertify (Figure C) practice exams seem to have all the bases covered. But what's most impressive about the uCertify practice tests is the sheer number of questions. Whereas a typical Microsoft certification exam usually has about 60 questions, one of the uCertify exams I looked at contained 362 practice questions. The software also includes a chapter-by-chapter study guide and a comprehensive explanation of all the exam answers.

Figure C


4: Pass-Guaranteed

Pass-Guaranteed (Figure D) allows for a high degree of customization. You can configure the practice exam time limit and you can pick which practice questions you want to answer.

Figure D


My favorite feature is the ability to randomize the answer choices for multiple-choice questions. This forces you to actually think about the answer rather than automatically choosing B after you have seen the question a couple of times.

5: SelfTest

The exact offerings in the SelfTest app vary depending on the exam that you are studying for, but the practice test for the 70-642 exam includes 184 test questions — roughly triple the number of questions given on the actual exam. That practice test also includes 281 flash cards.

SelfTest features a learning mode, which provides detailed explanations of the correct answers (Figure E). There is also a certification mode, which simulates the actual certification exam. Certification mode does not provide any answers until the exam is complete.

Figure E


Other good choices?

What prep software do you use to get ready for Microsoft certification exams? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.


Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

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