60 Days For Passing MCSE

Greetings True Believers!

So it's been a while since I've checked in via a blog post. It's great to see many of you joining the conversation on twitter as well as on the 60 Days to MCSE forum on Born to learn.

So what have I been up to? Well, first and foremost, I spent a lot of unnecessary time trying to get my System Center 2012 evaluation environment up. It took me much longer to complete the setup and installation than expected. I ran into a number of issues (most of them end user related). I'm not going to go into depth into the issues I had as they became non-issues when I started from scratch and followed John's blog post here. This is a comprehensive installation document that WILL get you a working environment in the end. He provides great insight as he failed to get SC2012 installed the first time as well using just the evaluation documentation. Follow this guide and you should have no issues.

As far as my lab environment, I'm running a custom-built system based on the specs by Jeff Guillet at Expta.com. This is a low-cost (Under $1k) system that is fast and quiet. Jeff did a phenomenal job of determining the specs for this system.

 If you are looking for a lab system, this is the way to go.
Besides getting the lab environment built, I made my way through some of the documentation and a couple of videos. It’s not as much progress as I would have liked.  However, I have been able to download a lot of the content I need so I won’t need to hunt and peck for the information.

One thing that will make your "information" procurement easier, is a script developed by Jan Egil Ring that allows you to download content from TechNet edge using PowerShell is locate here. It's similar to the script for downloading content from MMS 2012.

Here is my updated Plan…
Study Activities
Week 4
·         Continuing building test lab using Evaluation Guide (Ch 4,5)
·         Run through 2-day Private Cloud Jump Start series from back in March. (1-6)
·         Begin Prep for 70-646 Exam
·         Create Central Store for all documents and study materials for Private Cloud exams
Week 3
·         Take Exam 70-646 (5/23)
·         Celebrate passing exam with a new book (TBD)
·         Make my way through documents listed in 70-247 blog document
·         Make my way through documents listed in 70-246 blog document
Week 2
·         Make my way through remainder of documents listed in 70-246 blog document
·         Run through downloaded videos and documents, when I have time
Week 1
·         Run Through Symon Perriman’s Private Cloud Labs
·         Run through downloaded videos and documents, when I have time
This will be a tough week as I have a VMware vSphere 5 ICM Train the Trainer class all week. I’ll need to fit studying in at night and during travel time to TechEd.  Also, need to fit in family time so as you can see in my schedule, much of the work will be done prior to arriving at TechEd
Week 0
·         Last Minute Exam Prep
·         Attend TechEd cram sessions (if available prior to taking exams)
·         Sit in on broad SC 2012 sessions
·         Exam 70-247 is Scheduled for Monday; Retake on Thursday if necessary
·         Exam 70-246 is Scheduled for Tuesday; Retake on Thursday if necessary

A little something on My Test Taking Strategy….

As a veteran of multiple certification exams and an MCT responsible for helping students with their exams skills, I want to share my test day strategy.  Hopefully, you can take some tips from it to improve your test day results!
1.     I always schedule my exams for a 12:30-1:30 start time.  That is normally the time of day when I’m “on my game” mentally.  Also, this leaves me the morning to do some last minute preparation and I’m not rushed. 
2.     I make sure to get a good night’s sleep.  If you prepared properly, should not have to do a late night cram session for your exam.
3.     Make sure I have two forms of ID and any other requirements per exam.  As a college instructor, I can take the academic versions of the exams.  These require a college ID so I make sure I have that as well.
4.     I find a quiet coffee shop (or noise cancelling head phones), and review my materials.  I like to run through the areas that are my sticking points.  Also, I will run through 10-20 practice questions at the end of my review session to get me in the test-taking mode.
5.     Have a light lunch and try to relax.  Depending on your caffeine tolerance, you may or may not wish the forgo caffeine prior to the exam.
6.     I arrive to the test location 15 minutes early so I can check in and use the bathroom (or water closet for those across the pondJ).  You won’t be able to use the restroom during your exam so keep that in mind with lunch as well.  The exam reminder recommends 30 minutes, but my test site is never busy so I’ve never had a problem with 15 before.  When I have arrived 30 prior, I’ve always started early.
7.     Unless I bring a coat or a bag, I leave my cell phone in the car.  You won’t be able to bring it into the exam room.
8.     Once into the exam, I have a specific strategy for each question that I will explain below:
a.     The length of the exam should be posted with the exam information.  If so, you know how much time you have for each question.  Use this time as part of your preparation.  Most practice exams allow you to input the time limit and # of questions.  Simulate the exam day experience during your study and it will help you be more comfortable on exam day.
b.     If I have 2 minutes per question, I set a limit of 2 minutes I will take on a question before moving to the next question
9.     Once I have completed all questions and run through my review, the moment of truth is here.  You are a few clicks away from success or failure.  This can be nerve-wracking the first couple of times you take an exam as you wait for the system to tell you whether you passed or failed.
10.  Once you complete your exam, you’ll be provided a copy of your exam report with your score.

Mike’s Exam Question Strategy
Here’s my strategy for each Question

1.     Read the entire question end to end without going down to the answers.  You need to familiarize yourself with what the question is looking for.
2.     Review the answers provided but try not to answer the question unless you are 110% positive you know the answer.  At this point, many test takers get into trouble.  We have been taught that we should go with our “first Impression”.  While this is often a correct method, it can lead you into an incorrect answer.  The reason is that exam questions are designed to be a bit tricky.  You will have answers provided that may be correct for some situations, but not the one you are dealing with in the question.  We want to get rid of these answers.
a.     I will mark my “first impression” answer at this time just in case I hit my time limit and need to move onto the next question.  An answered question has a possibility of being right but an unanswered question is always wrong.
3.     Now run through the question again.  This time you know the provided answers and can match those answers to the information provided in the question. 
a.     Often times, there is information in a scenario that is not necessary, so use your knowledge of the subject matter to weed out this information. 
4.     Based on the information gleaned through the second pass through of the question and using the information that is relevant, I try to weed out some of the answers. 
a.     For example, if the question is asking for you to export DNS zones from AD and they provide you different command line tools to do it, you should be able to get rid of utilities you know cannot perform the task. 
b.     The goal is to get down to 2 answers to choose from.  But even if you only get rid of one answer out of four, that’s changing your odds to 1:3.  I’d take those in Vegas in a heartbeat!
5.     If you are unable to come up with a definitive, go with your first impression answer or your “best” answer based on the question, and move on to the next question
a.     If you are not definitive on the question, mark it for review and comeback to it after going through all of the questions.  In regards to marking questions for review, I mark all questions that I am not 100% on, and I want to go back to them
6.     After running through the questions the first time, I go to the review section which allows you to go through just the questions marked for review.  This is helpful since it will only give you the questions you want to go over again
a.     During this pass, I repeat the same process as above.  One thing I make sure to do is count up the number of reviewed questions and determines how much time I have left based on the exam countdown clock.
7.     That’s it!  By the end of step 6, I am ready click the submit button!
The key to successfully completing a certification exam is providing answers to ALL questions to the best of your ability.  That’s why we use the review option to comeback to questions you are unsure of.  I can guarantee there are questions you could spend 10-15 minutes on, and you would still not have an answer.  In that same time period, you may be able to cover 5-7 questions you do know the answers to.  You need to get to the “low hanging fruit” questions and come back to the ones requiring more time.  But always…ALWAYS…enter an answer for the question before moving to the next question.  This ensures you have an answer for every question should your time run out.
While searching for some other resources for test taking strategies, I came across this great video from Tim Warner.

Lastly, I wanted to give out a big thank you to Gray Eimermann from TrainSignal who is giving away access to a Private Cloud certification-specific video archive.  To access the archive, follow the instructions in Gary’s blog post here.

Until next time…Excelsior!

Source: Mike - Blog to Learn


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