What are you in for when you sit for a Windows 2000 exam? Will you be staring down 50 standard multiple-choice questions, or will you be presented with Win2K dialog boxes to complete?

While there are never any guarantees, your Win2K exam is likely to be composed of a mixture of the following question formats:

  • Standard multiple-choice questions requiring a single answer
  • Standard multiple-choice questions requiring multiple answers
  • Drag-and-drop scenarios
  • Drag-and-connect questions
  • Build-and-order list questions
  • Build-a-tree scenarios
  • Case studies

The last thing you want to have to do during an exam is spend time trying to learn how an answer must be constructed. You should be free to spend your time worrying about the correct answer. Therefore, I’m going to introduce you to the different types of questions you could see on a Win2K exam and explain how they work.

Multiple-choice, single answer
The standard multiple-choice, single-answer questions are the ones you remember from school. A few sentences set up the question, and then you’re asked to select the single best answer.

When answering multiple-choice, single-answer questions, remember that a couple of answers may actually present solutions to the problem but only a single answer is recommended or most efficient. Be sure to read all potential answers before moving on to the next question, even if you think you’ve found the correct answer before reading all the choices.

Typically, at least one potential answer is a throwaway, consisting either of a nonexisting utility, an unrelated program, or an unadvisable procedure. Identifying throwaways can help narrow down credible choices, should a question leave you confused.

Multiple-choice, multiple answer
Never for the life of me will I understand why every Microsoft multiple-choice question doesn’t read, “select all that apply.” Instead, you’ll often see questions that instruct you to “select two,” “select three,” or even “select four.” Occasionally you’ll see questions that read, “select all that apply,” but every time I receive a “select X” question, I have to wonder why the test is deliberately being made easier.

You’ll receive these gifts, too. A few sentences will set up the question, then you’ll be instructed to select multiple answers. As with multiple-choice, single-answer questions, there will usually be a few throwaways. Again, be sure to read all potential answers before moving on to the next question. I know that sounds redundant, but in the pressure-cooker that is an IT certification exam, it’s tempting to blow on to the following question as quickly as possible. Don’t.

Drag-and-drop scenarios
If you took Windows NT 4.0 exams, you probably remember being asked to drag and drop potential answers from one panel onto a diagram. By selecting and placing available objects into specific slots, you answer Microsoft’s drag-and-drop scenarios.

Understand that you can often use the same object multiple times. Know, too, that sometimes you’ll be directed to use all the objects or components provided, while other times you’ll be instructed to use only those that apply.

Drag-and-connect questions
Questions using drag-and-connect scenarios will present you with a set of objects and a collection of connections. You’ll be asked to link the objects using the connections supplied.

Of course, you’ll drag and drop the objects and connections as you would in drag-and-drop scenarios. Expect to use each object once but the connections as often as needed.

Build-and-order list questions
Build-and-order list questions will present you with two panes. Add and Remove arrows separate the two panes. When you begin, a list of items will appear in the right pane. Your task will be to move items to the left pane and place them in the proper order.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t use all of the items included in the right pane. Many might not be used.

Build-a-tree scenarios
Build-a-tree questions look similar to build-and-order list questions. You’ll be presented with two panes. The biggest difference is that both panes will include lists.

The pane on the right will list several items, while the left will consist of tree nodes. Your job is to play a sophisticated game of matching. Build the tree in the left pane by placing items from the right pane in the appropriate branches, or nodes, of the tree.

You may or may not use all of the items. Don’t be concerned if you leave a few unused.

Case studies
You’ll probably find case study questions only in Microsoft’s design exams. These are likely to remind you of the dreaded word problems from math class. You know the ones. If two school buses are 13 miles apart, one traveling northeast at 34.35 miles per hour and the other traveling southwest at 54.45 kilometers per hour, it’s raining, one bus’s’ tires are pumped to 32 pounds per square inch while the other bus’s tires are 38 pounds per square inch, there’s a 32 MPH wind out of the south, and there are no stoplights but two hills each will cross with an average five percent grade that climbs 843 vertical feet, then when will the two intersect if both buses are using gear ratios of 1:1 and the time is currently 16:00 GMT?

Look for Microsoft’s case studies to include even more information. So much information will be presented that multiple tabs will be provided describing different aspects of the case study. Your job will be to answer a specific set of questions associated with each case study.

As with most word problems, much extraneous information will be provided. You’ll have to know what to look for and how to disregard the rest.

Be careful before you move on to the next case study in an exam. Once you’ve moved on to the next one, you can’t return to review or change your answers.

All questions, case studies included, are likely to present exhibits. Be sure to study them closely. It’s tempting to look for the single item in a diagram or exhibit, find it, and think you’ve discovered the answer. Do yourself a favor, though, and study the entire diagram carefully before selecting your answer(s).

Eckel’s take
Now that you’re familiar with the different question formats Microsoft is likely to hit you with on your next Win2K exam, forget about them. Don’t try to study for specific questions or even formats. Instead, concentrate on learning the material.

Too many times, I’ve talked to IT professionals who have failed an examination because they received a traditional format exam when they expected an adaptive test or they were unnerved by the question formats. If you focus on learning the software, test and question formats won’t matter.

Regardless, it’s still nice to know what you’ll see. I hope this review helps eliminate any trepidation you may have had and helps you focus on the material when you take your exams rather than being tripped up by the exam format.

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