Hi again, everyone. Agent Levicki reporting for duty! It’s been one month since my last blog post, and I did promise to keep you updated every two weeks, so I have already had a good telling-off from the chiefs at Microsoft Press, so don’t you start! Seriously, I hope that you will forgive me for the hiatus. In my defence, I have been very busy with studying and exams. And thankfully my hard work has paid off.
You may remember from my last post that I had been studying for the Microsoft 70-297 exam, “Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure,” and I’m pleased to say that I passed that and have achieved the coveted Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification. The 70-297 exam is a tough exam in some ways and yet in a way it is fairly straight-forward. Let me explain what at first sight seems like a paradox.
It’s a tough exam because you have a number of what they call “testlets” in the exam, which are case studies which contain a lot of information which you need to read and understand before then answering a series of questions, based upon the information presented.
It’s made slightly harder, because once you have completed one testlet, you cannot return to that set of questions; that section is complete. You may have realised on other Microsoft exams that if you don’t know the answer to a question, sometimes you will find the answer when you read a later question because it just helps click some piece of loose knowledge into place in your mind. So you return to the question and answer it. This is not possible in the 70-297. Don’t worry too much, however, as it does warn you before you proceed to the next testlet: you shouldn’t get stranded on the next section before you intended.
The skills measured in the 70-297 exam are listed here. As you can see it is a lot of material, but if you’ve been studying for the MCSE and already taken and passed the core exams, you should find that all the material is knowledge you already have. It’s now a question of putting it together to make informed decisions, based on the information presented and Microsoft’s design recommendations for Active Directory.
And yet the exam can be seen as straight-forward in another way, which is simply that once you know the Microsoft recommendations for Active Directory design, the material presents requirements that can only be fulfilled with one answer, so the answer can only be the right answer, if that makes sense.
When I was taking the exam, there were a couple of questions that to me seemed almost too easy, because the requirement left only one possible answer. But be warned: some of them are quite involved and there are complex question types, such as “drag-and-drop” style questions, and on the whole, the questions are certainly not easy.
My study materials for this exam, as ever, was the Microsoft Press MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-297): Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure (ISBN: 9780735619708), which is a great resource and a good way to recap and revise all the material that I have learned on the MCSE road so far.
I also availed myself of the MeasureUp.com practice tests, which again I highly recommend. In my opinion, having already spent money on the study material and the exam itself, the cost of the practice tests don’t add much more to the total cost but give you a much better chance of passing an exam because it puts you firmly in exam mode.
I have a couple of other resources to recommend. One is a forum website called Proprofs.com; the forum for the 70-297 is here. Some helpful users share their study tips and others post their experiences of taking the exam. There is even a short study guide, which I found very useful.
The other resource that I would recommend, not only for this exam but for your career in Microsoft Active Directory is a mailing list / archive called ActiveDir.org, where by coincidence someone has recently asked a question about the 70-297 exam; that thread is here. There are some really good tips there, which I guess can be summarised thus:
70-297 Study Tips
- Read each question carefully. (Actually, this applies to all Microsoft exams!)
- Make sure you understand all the skills measured in the 70-297 exam.
- Make sure you know the Microsoft recommendations for Active Directory design: how and when to specify Active Directory Forests, Domains, Trusts, Organizational Units, Sites.
- Keep it simple. If you haven’t seen a need for two Active Directory Domains, for example, then you only need one, which is the simplest, easiest, and most-implemented scenario.
- Most people seem to recommend reading the questions first and then reading the case-study material, while keeping the questions in your mind, so that when the answer comes up in the text, you spot it straight away. I did this, but one caveat I would add is that sometimes there is conflicting information. For example, if a case study features interviews with two key staff members who disagree or have a different view-point, you need to decide whose information to go with.
- Someone also recommended this TechNet article, “Designing and Deploying Directory and Security Services,” as good study material for the 70-297.
If you’re about to take the 70-297 exam, feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments you may have. And I wish you the best of luck. Despite the fact that there are newer certifications in Microsoft Windows Server 2008, there are plenty of organizations out there that are running Microsoft Windows Server 2003, and the MCSE is still a great achievement for your CV. Also, the MCSE never expires. So once you have it, it’s yours for keeps. This is not an excuse not to keep your skills current, by the way!
I’m now ahead of my self-imposed schedule, which was to get the MCSE by the end of the year, so now I’ve got my eyes on the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 certification, Enterprise Messaging Administrator.
Having already done the Microsoft 70-236 exam, “Technology Specialist: Exchange Server 2007, Configuring,” for the MCSE, I now need to pass only two Microsoft exams: 70-237, “Pro: Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007,” and 70-238, “Pro: Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.”
Luckily, if I take these before the end of the year, I can take advantage of a whopping 25% off, by registering here, and so can you.
If you’re considering taking any of the MCSE exams or the MCITP Enterprise Messaging Administrator exams, please do get in touch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get studying!