While I was studying for the MCDBA and MCSE certifications I came across a number of free and low cost resources that helped me study for my exams. I’ve shared a number of these resources with the MCDBA discussion list and the following is an updated version of my resource list for the MCDBA and MCSE certifications. I’ve sent this out to so many people, that I finally decided to make it more widely available.
While I was studying for the MCDBA and MCSE certifications I came across a number of free and low cost resources that helped me study for my exams.
You’ll find that the majority of these resources are for the Windows NT 4 track, but as time progresses more and more Windows 2000 resources will be available. (Click here to see the new Windows 2000 Exam Resource List)
- If you haven’t already, check out the many discussion lists for Microsoft certifications, you’ll find excellent discussions of many useful topics all over. Here are some of my favorites:
- http://www.learnquick.com (Look for the link titled: “Join Technical MCSE MCP MCSD Mailing Lists”)
- http://www.saluki.com (Look for the link titled: “To Networking Professionals Information”)
- http://www.sunbelt-software.com (Look for the link titled: “NT/2000 Community”)
- There are a number of websites with free online testing; here are some of the ones I came across during my studies:
- Companies that sell practice exams often have demos of their product available. By downloading their demos you get a free set of questions to help you practice. Plus, you will find out which testing interface works best for you, that way you can purchase only the products that you like most.
Sample tests are available to download from the following websites:
- http://www.lancircuit.com (Examiner)
- http://www.microhard.com (MCSEQuest)
- http://www.mcseguide.com (Free Accutest download)
- http://www.uCertify.com (Free Demo Prep Kits and online demos)
- There are online certification websites that allow you to take an exam similar in function to the MS exams but with completely different set of questions/topics. Two things I like about these sites are that they give you an electronic certification to show your hard earned knowledge and by taking these exams you are expanding the question set that you are exposed to which helps with your MCSE/MCDBA studies. If you take one of these exams and notice you have a problem with some of the questions, you should then have an idea of what topics you need more work in.
Both of the following websites currently provide free online certification exams:
- http://www.brainbench.com (formerly www.tekmetrics.com)
- The following is a list of a couple of web sites that have good links and study guides for the different MCSE exams…
- There are lots of good books out there to help with your studies. I personally liked the practice exams and simulations that come with the New Riders Training Guides. I really like the interface for their practice exams. Their simulations force you to know the user interface of the products you’re studying, not just remember answers to questions that you read.
I also really enjoyed the Sybex Exam Notes series, the Osborne/Syngress Study Guides and the MCSE Readiness Review. Having many different books available will help more than trying to just use one. Check out your local library to see if the have an updated technical library. Also, some companies have their own technical libraries or will reimburse you for books you purchase for your certification.
- TestOut! had a demo CD available on their web site, http://www.testout.com, but removed the free CD link. You might try contacting them to see if they will send you their demo CD, it had a full set of NT4 simulation exams including practice tests for the core MCSE and some of the electives. I really liked the interface for their practice exams and wish they hadn’t taken the demo CD off their web site. It also had practice exams for the CNE and A+ certifications.
(UPDATE) TestOut! is now offering this exam CD for $29.95, check out: http://www.testout.com/promo/examsim.html.
- Read thru as many books and articles as you can on the topic you are studying for. Check out free online sources like:
- Different ways of practicing work for different people. One of the ways that has worked most effectively for me is to use the testing interfaces that allow you to grade yourself as you go. This way you get immediate feedback and can go back to the sections that you need to study more quickly. Not all practice exams are setup to do this by default. Check the options for the practice exam you are using to see if it has some kind of Grade Now option. Another option I found handy is being able to go thru one section at a time, this allowed me to first figure out which sections I needed the most work on, then to go back later and do more than one section at a time when I understood the material better to see what I remembered.
- Keep an eye out for vendors that provide practice exams or training, sometimes you’ll be able to use their beta products in return for your feedback on the product. This is a good way to get training on a new exam before there are lots of resources available. Personally, I have had good luck with both Transcender’s beta products and DigitalThink’s products using their beta program.
- Hands on training is one of the best methods of learning that I’ve found. If you are able to set up your own personal lab using the software that you’re studying it will help because you’ll be able to practice to see what works and what doesn’t. Microsoft has 120-day demos of many of their products, check out their web site for more details.
- For understanding the OSI model, check out the OSI Protocol Solitaire game at: http://www.decodes.com/solitaire/solitaire.html
- Get a group of friends together as a study group and quiz each other on the material you’ve been studying. This is especially helpful when you have different resources because you may find that someone else’s book has a better explanation for something you’ve been trying to understand. When you try forming your own questions you’ll find that you have to think harder about what you’re studying in order to ask a question that is not to easy, but not to hard either…
- If you haven’t already, sign up for your free subscription to Tech Republic. This website has too many features to list here, so check out: http://www.techrepublic.com you won’t be sorry you did.
- If you’ve already taken a Microsoft Exam and passed it and got your MCP welcome kit, make sure you sign up for your free subscription to MCP magazine. Go directly to the http://www.mcpmag.com website and click on the subscribe link. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to get your higher access to the MCP magazine web site by logging into the MCP website (https://partnering.one.microsoft.com/mcp) and click on the “MCP Magazine Online” link. If you have one of the premium certifications, you’ll want to click on this link from the “Premier Benefits page” instead, because you get even better access to the MCP Magazine website.
- I mentioned Discussion lists before, but it’s worth mentioning again… In my opinion, Discussion lists specifically targeted for the exam or certification you’re interested in are an important part of your studies. Find out what everyone else is using to study and see what was helpful for them. Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand, but also take a look at the older messages in the discussion lists to see what other topics have been discussed. You may find some very useful information that would have otherwise unnoticed.
I hope you enjoyed my first published article and that you found these resources helpful.
Good Luck with your studies!!!
Jeff M. Belina
MCP, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE, MSS, i-Net+
e-certified VB/C++/MS SQL programmer