By Jeremy Smith

So you have just finished your Windows NT 4.0 MCSE. You are out celebrating with your buds and enjoying the thought of that nice high-paying job and the new car you’ve had your eye on.

Your friend leans over to you and says, “So when are you going to upgrade that MCSE?”

“Whoa, upgrade?” you ask. “I just spent six months and $10,000 on the NT 4.0 certification, and now you’re telling me I have to upgrade?”

Your friend nods and responds, “Windows 2000.”

This scenario is probably one that many IT pros experienced recently with the announcement of the upgrade path to Windows 2000. This article will describe the requirements to earn the Windows 2000 MCSE, and it will outline the most-asked questions that I receive as a trainer for a Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC).

The requirements
With a NT 4.0 MCSE, you completed six tests. Seven exams are required for the Windows 2000 MCSE, which is broken down into three sections.

I. Core
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 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

II. Core-plus requirement
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

III: Electives
You must select two elective exams from the list of current electives. (Visit Microsoft’s Training and Certification home page for the updated list).

Some of the exams include Exchange Server 5.5 (Exam 70-081) or SQL Server 7.0 (Exam 70-029 or 70-028). Now if you are lucky, the electives you completed for the NT 4.0 track will carry over to the Win2K track. However, this is typically not the case. Most people who completed an NT 4.0 MCSE selected Exam 70-059, TCP/IP, or Exam 70-87, IIS 4.0. Neither of these transfers to the Win2K track. They are two of the many Microsoft exams that have been retired.
If you hold an NT 4.0 MCSE, you have until Dec. 31, 2001, to upgrade your cert to Win2K. If you don’t upgrade, you will lose your MCSE status, which can be restored by completing the Windows 2000 exams.
A shortcut for NT 4.0 MCSEs
If you already have your NT 4.0 MCSE, you can take a shortcut to earn the Win2K cert. You may complete a single test to fulfill your core requirement instead of taking four core tests. This exam (70-240) covers material from all four core exams.

This exam is free—a voucher for the test is available on the Microsoft Web site. But beware, there are disadvantages to this shortcut. It’s a comprehensive four-hour test, and you can only take the shortcut test once. If you fail it, you must take all four core tests.

What worked for me
I recommend that you attend a class at a CTEC� and review the curriculum provided for you. (Author disclosure: I work for a CTEC, so I know I’m not a completely objective source. However, I can honestly make this recommendation based on professional and personal experiences.)

I also recommend purchasing a nonvendor-biased book (in other words, something not published by Microsoft). Many folks in the industry have become intimately familiar with practice exam products like Transcender. Here are some of the typical questions my students often ask me about my experiences with completing the MCSE upgrade.

What path did you take?
Because I have an NT 4.0 MCSE, I took the upgrade exam (70-240) mostly to see what all the hubbub was about—but I failed it! Then I took each individual exam; thankfully, I passed them. As a trainer, I wanted to be familiar with each exam so I would be prepared to answer student questions; therefore I had always planned to take each of the four core exams anyway.

How long did it take you?
To complete the four core exams and the two electives, it has taken me around five months, averaging about one exam a month. I still have one exam to complete to put me at a total of five and a half months. I would recommend that you plan on spending six months to finish the process.

What electives do I recommend?
Choosing an elective can be a difficult task. Depending upon your interests and goals, you may be able to choose electives that can earn you additional certifications (kill two birds with one stone). If you like databases, you can complete the two SQL 7.0 or SQL 2000 exams and earn the MCDBA certification in addition to your MCSE. As far as “easy” electives go, I recommend Proxy Server 2.0 (Exam 70-088) and Migrating From Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 (Exam 70-222).

What exam was the most difficult?
The most difficult exam I faced was Implementing and Administering a Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure (70-216). You are required to have a solid understanding of DNS, DHCP, RIS, IPSec, VPNs, and more. Allow yourself additional preparation time for this one!

How much did it cost?
Because I work for a CTEC, most of the costs for my MCSE were covered by my company. The costs can range from $4,000 to $12,000 or more depending on where you go and what you decide to take or self-study. Here are some generalized cost breakdowns:

  • Each MCSE test costs $100.
  • Study guides range from $20 to well over $100.
  • Practice tests can be $100 to $2,000 (for a full suite of tests).
  • Training Classes usually range from $1,000 to $2,000 per class.

What was the single best study resource you used?
Hands-on experience! The best way to learn something is to use it. You should take advantage of every chance you get to play with, implement, or test the product. An excellent book that I also recommend strongly is Mastering Windows 2000 Server by Mark Minasi. This is an excellent guide for both senior and novice network engineers.

  • Microsoft’s Web site: The site provides a plethora of information, although it can sometimes be a little confusing.
  • Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine: This online magazine provides a wealth of certification information for Microsoft engineers, including salary info and certification stats.
  • CertPortal: An IT certification directory
  • Troy Technologies USA: A practice test site
  • Cramsession: Some of the best free study guides available
  • MCSEguide: This site offers sample tests and answers to frequently asked questions about certification.

What’s on the exam?
This is the question I hear most often from my students. Of course, I can’t answer that question directly. (I have signed an agreement with Microsoft stating that I will not give out exam questions.)

What I can tell you is what to study and focus on when preparing to take a specific exam. A great way to find this out is to view the “Skills Being Measured” section that is provided on each exam preview on Microsoft’s Web site. For example, look at the Preparation Guide for Exam 70-222, Migrating from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000. Notice there is a link to “Skills Being Measured” for this particular exam. This information will help you prepare.

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.

What’s the best practice exam? How do you complete the process quickly? Share your advice with other IT pros by posting a comment or sending a letter.