Looking for insider certification tips without the cheesy brain dumps? Seeking real-world IT and certification information free of charge or hassle? Want to compare your certification experiences with others? Who doesn’t?

Fortunately, there’s a great Web site (besides TechRepublic) where this kind of information exchange is possible.

Check out MCSE Live
The road to IT certification is expensive, both in terms of time and effort. You can smooth some of the potholes by hanging out at MCSE Live. Even if you don’t have time to check the site every day (who does?), you can subscribe to the site’s free e-mail bulletin.

The MCSE Live inbox offers intriguing subjects like “Do you think your employer has it ‘in’ for you?,” “I’m beginning to hate users,” and “Recommended books for MCSEs,” so odds are good that you’ll come across messages you want to read. At least I do.

Each MCSE Live Update highlights the week’s most popular posts. You’ll also find a “Thread of the Week,” a “Tip of the Week,” and a “Featured Member.”

From real-world IT problems to tips and tweaks to certification advice and experiences, MCSE Live message boards offer a breadth of IT exam and general operations information. Hosted by Windows 2000 Magazine Network’s MCSETutor.com, the boards are reviewed to ensure that the site doesn’t become a tawdry listing of inaccurate and profane brain dumps. The site’s purpose is to encourage IT professionals to share tips and information, which it does well.

Message boards are broken into the following categories for easy navigation:

  • General—Certification, job and salary, trainer, and event information, along with a special forum dedicated to women in IT
  • The Real World—Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP information, as well as messages targeting Novell, Linux, UNIX, hardware, networking, security, and development issues, among other things
  • Windows 2000 MCSE Exams—Forums dedicated exclusively to Windows 2000 MCSE issues and specific exams
  • MCSE Elective Exams—Information on elective MCSE exams, both current and retired
  • Other Certification Exams—A location for discussing other certification programs
  • Windows NT 4.0 MCSE Exams—A read-only section left on the site for reference purposes
  • 2000Tutor.com Forums—Book review and tutorial discussions

Don’t let the name fool you
While the message center’s name is MCSE Live, you’ll find much more than just Microsoft certification information. You’ll also find tips and advice for the following certifications:

  • CompTIA’s A+
  • Linux
  • Cisco
  • Novell
  • UNIX
  • Oracle

Click out to MCSETutor.com from the MCSE Live site, and you’ll find even more certification information. MCSETutor.com offers a free testing clinic with sample test questions from destinations across the Web, a Top Sites directory that links to top certification sites, and articles on certification.

Other sections of the site provide adaptive testing tips, advice for building a testing lab, and a breakdown of the Windows 2000 MCSE certification track. Also notable is a collection of notes that debunk common MCSE myths.

Eckel’s take
Internet sites and newsgroups offering certification news and information sometimes fall from favor. What causes the downfall? Who knows for sure, but I’m willing to bet it has something to do with the proliferation of brain dumps. How many respected Web sites offer brain dumps? That’s right: none.

The reasons are clear. Number one, while I haven’t studied judicial precedents, I expect brain dumps violate the nondisclosure agreements candidates agree to when they take an exam and thus, they’re illegal. Number two, brain dumps are often inaccurate. Number three, they don’t really help you learn what you need to know as a certified administrator or technician.

MCSE Live and MCSETutor.com should be welcome additions to your certification preparation toolbox. They can help you determine which certifications are right for you, ensure that you’re well prepared for exams, and point you to the materials you should use as you study for your date with destiny.

Which Web sites do you use to help prepare for certification?

We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.