Will Steven Pittsley pass his CNE exam? Yesterday he began explaining the study regimen he’s using to prepare for the Novell NetWare and Windows NT Integration exam.

Using Exam Essentials, self-study, and his own test lab, Steven shares his personal CNE diary. Let his trials and tribulations be your guide to how you can ace your next big test. If you missed part one, don’t despair. You can read it here.

Day five (three days later)
After not studying Friday, I hit the books Saturday and Sunday. I read chapters one and two and then upgraded my Exam Essentials software to version 5.01. I haven’t unlocked the test for this exam yet, but I will do so in just a few days.

I visited Novell’s Web site today, and unfortunately it looks as though the exam will be sixty-six questions long. I was hoping for an adaptive exam. However, I am not too worried, as I recently passed a similar traditional exam a few months ago.

Day six
I unlocked the Exam Essentials practice test today, and I scored a 75 on the first module. Not too bad, but I will need some work on NT security. Right now it’s very confusing. Either NetWare security is much simpler or I’m just used to it.

Day seven
Today saw me setting up the practice lab at home. I have a NetWare 5 server, an NT server, and an NT Workstation. I’m still not sure how much I’m going to use the lab, but setting it up was a needed break in the study routine. I’m through with chapter three, and I’m almost finished studying chapter four.

Day eight
Today and tomorrow I am working at my part-time job as a computer operator. Normally we monitor systems, run backups, and answer the telephones. If everything is running smoothly, which happens quite often, I have a lot of study time. This was the case today, and I have read through chapter five. Tomorrow I plan on reviewing chapters one through five, and hopefully I’ll be ready in a few days to work on test modules one and two.

Day nine
Today was another quiet day at work, and I got very familiar with NT. Policies and groups are giving me a headache, but everything else is starting to come together. My first attempt at test module two was okay, but I only got a 70. Policies and groups are not making sense right now. Module one was better; I posted an 84.

Day ten
Well, good news and bad news today. My studying is going well, but it looks like I’ll be taking the exam a few days later than I set as my goal. Yesterday was busy at home and I didn’t study at all. Today was busy too, but I was able to test on modules one, two, and three. I’m scoring in the upper 80s and low 90s on modules one and two, and I had an 82 on module three.

Although my goal was to pass the exam by the end of the month, taking it three days later isn’t really missing by much. I’d much rather pass a day late than fail two days early.

Day eleven
I’ve read and reviewed the entire book now, and tonight I took one big practice test of all 278 questions. I got an 84, which I’m very happy with. The ZENworks chapter is giving me a few problems, but at least policies and groups are making more sense. I wish I was taking my exam tomorrow so it would be over with, but I’m glad I am using the weekend for extra studying because I don’t think my practice scores are high enough. They should be in the 90s.

Day twelve (target exam date +1)
I had a bowling tournament today. I bowled badly, but the two-hour drive there and back allowed me to do some thinking. The ZENworks stuff finally clicked during the drive up. Driving normally relaxes me and allows me to think clearly, as was the case today. Although I missed some study time, the drive was nice and I feel refreshed.

I took another 278-question quiz tonight, and I posted a 92. I feel very confident about taking the exam in two days.

Day thirteen (target exam date +2)
My pre-test panic attack occurred tonight, and I didn’t think I knew enough to pass. For about two hours I frantically reviewed the course book and my notes. Then, as is my normal pre-test routine, I took an exam consisting of the same number of questions as the actual exam. Of the 66 questions that were presented to me, I got 64 correct. I’m starting to think that I’m memorizing the questions though. It only took me 24 minutes to answer them. We’ll find out tomorrow just how much I really know.

Day fourteen, 12:15 p.m. (target exam date +3)
Test day is finally here. I feel somewhat confident that I’ll pass. This morning I’ve gotten in a little more last minute cramming, and I’m about to review one final time before leaving to take the exam at 2:00 p.m.

Still day fourteen, 4:15 p.m.
Whew! That was fun. Exam Essentials comes through again. The majority of the exam appeared to be nearly word-for-word from the practice tests that I’ve been taking. There were no real surprises, although a couple of questions made me think a bit.

My score was 763 out of 800. This is the best I’ve ever done on a certification exam. I might start taking the exams on Monday, rather than Friday. The extra weekend seems to help.

So, what is my advice to you? Know chapters one through five very, very well. This test could easily pass for a Microsoft exam. I venture to guess that at least seventy-five percent of the exam was related to NT. I recommend you prepare for a couple of ZENworks questions, hands-on questions that ask you to push the Create As button when migrating NT users, a few questions relating to the Novell NT Client, and another few relating to using NDS for NT. Much of your remaining exam is likely to be pure NT. Be prepared to be heavily tested on NT groups, domain models, policies, permissions, and trusts.

Be ready, too, for a twist. Many questions might contain multiple answers. If you are at all familiar with the material, the incorrect answers will definitely stand out. Exam Essentials will prepare you for these types of questions, as well.

Did my practice lab help? Yes, but not nearly as much as I thought it would. Setting up all of the workstations was definitely fun, and I learned quite a bit while doing it. However, I never installed NDS for NT. The lab was used mainly for becoming familiar with the NT utilities, especially the NT Server utilities. Is it necessary for you to have a practice lab to pass the exam? Probably not. However, any amount of hands-on experience will become valuable later on when you are asked to apply the knowledge that your certification declares that you know.

I hope that this diary has provided you with an inside view of what it can be like to prepare for a certification exam. For those of you that have been down this road before, it hopefully brought back some fond memories. If you have not yet taken an exam, I hope you realize that with a little hard work and consistent studying, you too will be passing exams in the near future. Good luck.

Steve Pittsley is a CNE and desktop analyst for a Milwaukee, WI, hospital. When not passing IT certification exams he enjoys playing drums, bowling, and most sports.

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