On Aug. 10, 1999, Novell announced a continuing re-certification requirement that all CNEs and Master CNEs must meet in order to keep their certifications current. If you fall into either category, you must pass one of the following exams: NetWare 4.11 to NetWare 5 Update (exam 50-638, which will be retired on July 15, 2000), NetWare 4.11 to NetWare 5.1 Update (exam 50-652), NetWare 5 Advanced Administration (exam 50-640), or NetWare 5.1 Advanced Administration (exam 50-654). Since most of us have trouble getting away from work in order to attend a Novell course and study for the exam, we have to consider the self-study alternatives. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll discuss some of the Novell and non-Novell study guides, and I’ll tell you what you need (in terms of software and hardware) in order to prepare for the exam.

Material covered by the 50-638/652 exam
The challenge of studying for this exam is to cover all of the material that can potentially show up on the exam. When the test originally came out (50-638), it consisted of 70 questions, a significant number of which were simulation questions. You had to demonstrate how to create such things as a ZENworks application object and a DHCP resource record. Recently, Novell changed this exam to its new adaptive format. Now, you’ll see only 15 to 25 questions.

The total number of questions that you get will depend on how you answer the first few questions. On an adaptive exam, questions are scored based on their level of difficulty. If you answer one question correctly, you’ll face a more difficult question. If you answer that question, a question of even greater difficulty appears. If you miss a question, however, a less difficult question will appear. This process continues for each category that you’re being tested on until a baseline knowledge level is established. How your knowledge baseline compares to the passing score for the exam dictates whether or not you pass the exam.
For a current list of the objectives that the certification exam covers, click here. You also can check Novell’s FaxBack at 800-233-EDUC or 801-861-5363.
I must admit that this is the first exam I’ve encountered that you can’t pass unless you’ve used the product (which is as it should be). In order to familiarize yourself with the different features of Netware 5, you’ll want to get a copy of Netware 5.x and at least one workstation. Although you won’t need access to the Internet, you should obtain access to a printer with NDPS built in. It will help you understand NDPS’s functionality more fully.

Self-study options from Novell
The Self-Study Kit
For CNEs who don’t subscribe to the CNE Product Link, Novell’s Self-Study Kit offers enough material to get you on your way to passing the exam. Three CDs in the box give you a working three-user copy of Netware 5. A fourth CD contains a series of digital videos, which will walk you through complex technical concepts that you need to learn and will review key concepts. Simulations and test software will help you become familiar with all of this information. This CD also contains a collection of technical white papers; you should print and read these white papers. The kit also includes two books: one covers a great deal of conceptual material, and the other is a study guide that reviews and references the information that the first book and the CD cover.
Usually, you can purchase this product from Novell for $396. Right now, it’s $496, and it comes with an update that covers Netware 5.1.
Novell’s CNE Update to Netware 5 Study Guide
Of all the books that I used while studying for the 50-638 test, Novell’s CNE Update to NetWare 5 Study Guide impressed me the most. With a minimum of fluff, it covered the material that I needed to know. Written by David James Clarke IV, this book is worth the $49.99 cover price. The exercises were easy to follow, and the chapter on Netware 5 IP Services cleared up several things that other references had never explained fully. If you plan on completing one or two chapters a night (not including the time that you’ll spend on the exercises), you should be able to read the book about twice a week.

Novell’s CNE Clarke Notes Update to NetWare 5: Course 529
Since most of us don’t feel like carrying a 700-page book to work, another option is very appealing. Novell’s CNE Clarke Notes Update to NetWare 5: Course 529, which is very similar to the Cliff Notes study guides, is a condensed version of Novell’s CNE Update to NetWare 5 Study Guide. Although it contains less information than its bigger brother does, Clarke Notes allows you to study without having to carry a huge book around. Nicely priced at $24.99, this book also references sections in the CNE Update to Netware 5 Study Guide when you want more details.

Self-study options from third-party sources
Cyber Pass
Cyber Pass has been around for several years. The question pool for these practice tests is 214, and they should give you a good idea of the kind of questions that you can expect to see on your exam. Expect to pay around $60 for the unlock code once you’ve downloaded the exam. Although it’s not an adequate substitute for having a good book by your side, it has proven to be excellent at identifying weaknesses and areas where further study is needed. If you want to install the software on your machine at the office and at home, follow the instructions about making a backup registration disk, which will allow you to install it on your home machine without having to purchase a second copy. Creating a backup also allows you to reinstall the software at a later time without having to purchase another license.

Self Test Software
Initially, Self Test Software (formerly known as Big Red Self Test Software) provided question pools for Novell products, but it has branched out into other areas, such as Microsoft and Cisco. Expect to pay around $79 for the question pool for this exam. The interface that you see with this product is very similar to what you’ll see on the exam. As always, it shouldn’t become the sole study aid that you use to prepare for your exam.

You should check this site periodically for up-to-the-minute information about current test objectives and dates when exams will be retired. You’ll also want to print out the latest CNE and Master CNE progress chart to find out if the certification track that you’re on has changed or when new opportunities for additional certifications become available.

Suggestions for studying for the test
Setting up your practice environment
You also should put together a couple of PCs at your home for studying. You don’t need anything fancy. I suggest that you look at Internet auction sites, such as uBid and Onsale, for any computers that you need. You won’t need to spend a lot of money, either. Just pick up a couple of Pentium 166-MHz processors. For the server, get at least 96 MB of RAM in the system (though 128 MB would be better). For the workstations, you’ll need at least 64 MB of RAM (though 128 MB would be better). That way, you can run NT as a client desktop OS comfortably. You can get by with a 2-GB hard drive in the server, but I suggest that you get a 4-GB drive. It will allow you to set up mountable volumes with NSS (Novell’s Storage Services), which is a subject that you’ll probably see on the test. Of course, you can get away with using a crossover cable between the server and the workstation, but you should spend the extra $40 and get a four-port hub.

In order to become comfortable with using Windows 98 and NT as client operating systems with Netware, you ought to purchase a copy of PowerQuest’s Partition Magic and set up these two desktop operating systems. Since you’ll probably have one or more questions about the differences in ZEN policy objects and the installation of the client software for these desktop OSs, Partition Magic will help you learn how to use these OSs.

By the way, if you‘ve never used Netware 5 before, don’t bother taking the exam yet. It’s almost impossible to pass this test unless you have some practical experience with this product. So, set it up on your machines.

Selecting study materials
Once you have your test network in place, your next step will involve selecting your study materials. If you use several different types of study materials, you stand less of a chance of missing information that may end up being crucial and making the difference between passing and failing your exam. So, I suggest that you pick up one book, one question pool, and one other study tool.

Set a certain amount of time aside each day for studying. Stick to that amount of time. Find a quiet place where you can study without distractions. Just like an athlete in training, you must practice every day, or you’ll lose your momentum and your will to win. Use the forums on education.novell.com and ask questions in order to ensure that you’re interpreting the information correctly.

Taking the exam
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get to the testing center at least half an hour before you’re scheduled to take the exam. Doing so gives you a buffer zone in case you get caught in traffic and start running late. You don’t want to start stressing out before you even see the exam. Spend a few minutes relaxing in your vehicle before you walk into the testing center.

Just before the test starts, take a minute or two to review the printout from Cramsession. It’s a good source of information, and it may unlock a few pieces of information that will help you ace your test. If you find any other sites with test “information,” be very careful. Often, these sites are unreliable, and their information is wrong or old. Novell usually changes the questions on their exams, and there’s no point in studying information that won’t appear on the test.

A good mental attitude will help you pass your test. If you walk into the testing center and don’t feel confident in yourself, then you may make your fears come true. Consider each question by itself; don’t worry about other questions until you come to them. Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer to a particular question. Just read the question and examine all of the choices carefully. Then, pick the best choice(s) based on how the question is phrased. (Remember, some questions may require more than one answer.) Don’t second-guess yourself and don’t spend too much time on one question.

Whether you’re studying a week before the test or you’re taking the exam, the most important thing that you must do is pace yourself. The more efficiently you spend your time studying for the test and taking the test, the more likely it is that you’ll be rewarded with a higher score and a passing grade on your first attempt.

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, KY. He’s an MCSE, a Novell Master CNE, and a Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He’s also the help desk editor for Network World. If you’d like to contact Ron, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail that he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.