Tags: oracle certification
Oracle is hosting a free Lunch and Learn Webinar on June 19th at 1:00 PM CST to discuss the benefits of certification. I’m sold on the benefits, but I’m tuning in to hear about the planned DBA certification offerings. I’m a certified Oracle DBA, so I definitely need to know what’s coming down the pike.
The agenda also includes information on their exam development. Sounds like interesting stuff to me. Registration is limited to 200, so I’d recommend you sign up now. (I chose the chicken salad box lunch for the event. Wonder if it will arrive on time?)
Tags: blogosphere, free stuff
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If you would like to receive a FREE Transcender practice test to review on your blog or give away to a reader, leave us a comment. Nothing says love to your readers more than giveaways!
Tags: .NET 3.5, PMP, Project+, what we're working on, Windows 7
Along with the customer support emails, I read all of the product request emails. I’ve noticed that a large number of the requests are for products that we currently have in development anyway. As an easy and interactive way of keeping our customers in the development loop, I thought we would start running a monthly “What We’re Working On” blog post so you can see what’s upcoming before it’s released.
George is deep into Windows 7. The first Windows 7 exam (70-680 TS: Windows 7, Configuring) was in beta a few weeks ago, and all our developers took the exam. George has already begun writing those items. I don’t have a concrete release date yet for our product, simply because we don’t know when Microsoft intends to release the live exam, and we don’t typically release our product until they do. Hopefully, in the July Edition of WWWO, I’ll be able to give firm details for when our product will release. (In the meantime, you can review Windows 7 Feature Walkthroughs on the Microsoft Learning site.)
Josh is still working hard on the .NET 3.5 tracks. We’ve released several .NET exams this year, but we still have a few more to go to reach our goal. He’s currently developing our 70-563 product. Two weeks ago, we released 70-505 in both versions. We just released the 70-561 product in the C# version, and the VB version is about a week away from release. By the end of the year, we plan to release 70-653, 70-654, 70-655, 70-656, 70-657, 70-658, and 70-659. And in case you were wondering: no, Josh doesn’t sleep.
Robin is working on the new version of the PMI exam, the PMP 4th Edition. We’ve started limited development on that one because the exam doesn’t go live until the end of June. We are firmly committed to seeing the exam before developing content. That way we are sure you have the best exam prep experience possible. I am scheduled to take it the first week of its release. In July, we’ll announce a release date for our PMI 4th Edition product.
In conjunction with the PMP exam, Robin is working our new Project+ practice test. We took the exam in April and May and loved what we saw. There are many new terms and new concepts, but we’re tackling them for you. If you haven’t added this crendential to your set of titles, consider it. All IT professionals need project management skills, even if you are using Agile methodologies. You still have to work with other departments that are using traditional means of project managment. Think seriously about tackling this one for the sake of your own knowledge (and for the added boost to your resume as well).
Oracle has released a lot of new exams lately. We’re considering adding more Oracle titles to our offerings. Let us know if you have any requests for Oracle certifications you’re considering. And please, if you have any other requests, comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to support your IT certification efforts and if we’re missing something you need, let us know.
- Jennifer Wagner
Tags: customer feedback, product support
Part of my job is to monitor quality of our product. One way I do this is to review all the customer support emails. We use a Service Desk application that allows us to track customer support issues and ensure they are resolved in a timely manner to the customer’s satisfaction. With the application’s dashboard, I can read all the customer emails we receive about our products.
In March, my group received 284 content-related emails. That might seem like a lot, but consider that we support over 150 practice tests and related products, each containing 300+ exam and flash card questions. If you do the math, you’ll see we have a lot of questions in our arsenal. So in that context, we get feedback on less than 1% of our content per month. Some products are more popular than others, and generally the more eyes there are on a product, the higher the potential for feedback. We have some products that never receive a single feedback email, and we have some that get an average of one a day. An exam’s audience and the difficulty of the exam influence the number and types of emails that we receive.
Believe it or not, I look at almost every email forwarded to my department. Because exams change and we want to stay up to date, we not only respond to customer emails, we also track them for trends. So if you read a lot of emails all at once, you get a handle on the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff, which makes us better able to change a product in response to the market.
Generally, we get three types of emails: kudos from customers that pass, flames from those who fail, and feedback on the clarity or accuracy of one of our questions. My group loves the kudos, but very few people email us with a passing test score. They bought our product, used it, passed the exam, and moved on to the next challenge.
Flame emails are infrequent, but they hurt. We sincerely try to work with each customer to pinpoint the issue: whether our test failed them, or whether they just weren’t ready to take the exam. Either way, they can use the Test Pass Guarantee to get a refund, no questions asked.
My favorite of the three is the emails with feedback on our questions. This category represents 99% of the emails my group receives. To me, the feedback is where the tires hit the road. Because the kudos and flames are few, this is how I determine how our products are really doing after we release them to the wild.
If you’ve ever considered commenting on the accuracy one of our questions and didn’t — next time, do it. We read them and we answer each one personally. When a developer writes a product, they really put a piece of themselves into the outcome. This group really tries to emulate the exam experience without violating the exam’s integrity. In non-biz speak, we try to present the same content, at the same difficulty level, but without copying the live exam. It’s not always easy, but we don’t release a product until we are certain that it will do what it is intended to do – help you pass the exam.
Sometimes customers write because they just need help understanding a concept presented in a question. Maybe they get the overall gist, but can’t understand why answer A is correct and B isn’t. If you need further explanation, send us an email. The Content Development group is made up of IT trainers. We specialize in helping IT professionals learn. That concept might be the difference between passing and failing on exam day. While we can’t personally tutor every customer, we can certainly confirm whether you’ve grasped the concept correctly or not, and point you at the most helpful references if you need to take it further.
I admit that we’re human, and we make mistakes. We try our best to minimize the chance of mistakes (from simple typos to incorrectly stated answers) and fix them as fast as possible. But when you put out as much technical content as we do, it happens. The fastest way we can recognize and fix those mistakes is when a customer points them out. Is that our ideal? No. We want to be perfect from the moment it’s released, but we appreciate the customers who take the time to point out an error.
So if you want to point out an error, ask a content-related question, or just tell us what a great question we’ve written, here’s how you do it. In our test engine (both download version and CD version), at the bottom right corner of each item, there’s a button that looks like this:
This will pull up a dialog box that looks like this:
Now that I’ve covered how to send feedback, I’ll follow up with some examples of useful and not-so-useful customer emails we’ve received, along with pointers on how to make the feedback mechanism work for you.
–Jennifer Wagner, Content Development Manager
[Editrix' note: Jennifer Wagner kindly consented to document her PMI certification path in this blog. After obtaining her PMP, she moved on to manage much larger (and more exciting!) initiatives here. Content developer Robin Abernathy has stepped in to continue documenting PMI certification, starting here: http://transcender.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/obtaining-your-pmp-certification-a-pmp-4th-edition-study-plan-part-i/.]
I’ve been an indirect and direct Project Manager for almost 12 years, and I’ve finally decided to take the PMP certification test. I’ve debated taking the exam for a couple of years now. I don’t have test phobia and I know a lot about exams, having written a few myself over the years. So for me, it wasn’t the actual test that scared me; no, the most daunting part was the PMP application process. Documenting my experience, tracking down the title and timing of my Project Management class, and putting myself out there for scrutiny was the big mental hurdle.
Now that I’ve lived through the application process and received my approval to take the exam, I can share my experience. (Because trust me when I tell you that if I have been denied, you wouldn’t be reading about my experience. I’m not into public humiliation.) As it turns out, the application process really isn’t that bad. I still have to study and pass the test, but I’m confident that I can succeed (or, again, you wouldn’t be reading this).
First things first: I created an account on PMI.org. With this account, I was able to fill out the online application for the PMP certification. I filled out details on my personal information and my college education. Luckily, I was able to get information from my college’s website. I even got to specify how I wanted my name to appear on my certificate when I pass. Easy enough.
Next, I found my college transcripts and scrolled through all my grades to find that one Project Management class I took in college. Yes, even that class I took 13 years ago counts for the training requirement. It was a 300-level course entitled Project Management. The class met for 2.5 hours twice a week for 10 weeks. Taking away exams and bathroom breaks, it counted as 40 hours. This satisfied the 35 hour requirement — and I got an A in that class, by the way.
So with the education requirement met, I moved on to the experience requirement. Because I have a bachelor’s degree, I was required to have 36 months of unique, non-overlapping professional project management experience. During those 36 months, 4,500 hours must have been directly related to leading and directing project tasks. And luckily, all my stress over this part of the application was for nothing, because I had really good records for a large project that I managed from 2004 through 2008. This project had incremental product releases and each of those releases had definite cycles. Even so, I still had to figure out how much time I spent in each of the five process groups. This wasn’t as challenging as I anticipated; it was just time-consuming. Forcing myself to devote time to document the tasks was the hardest part. I spent about 2 hours a day over 5 days documenting my experience. When I reached the required number of hours, I stopped. I could have gone further, but it wasn’t necessary. I’m lucky because all my hours were for one company and with my current manager. I might have had to do more investigative work if my experience had been for multiple companies, projects, or managers.
And with that, I submitted the application. The web site says that it takes five business days for approval, and of course I looked every day to see if I had been approved. And, in fact, it turns out it took five business days just like the web site said. On day five, I was approved and received a PMI Identification Code and a link to register for my exam with Prometric. Immediately, I scheduled my exam for July 6th at noon. And, of course, I turned over my credit card information to cover the $550.00 fees. I’m not a PMI member so it was a bit more expensive for me.
I went to Amazon.com and ordered the PMBOK 4th Edition because I will be taking the new version of the exam that releases on June 30th (see Robin’s previous post on selecting the right PMP exam edition to study). I’ve taken an online class for Project Management in the last two years, so I’m not starting from scratch, but I’ve still got to study. . . a lot.
So from my own experience, here are some tips I would offer.
- Once you start the online application, remember that you have 90 days to complete it. If you don’t complete the application in 90 days, your data is lost and you have to start over.
- As soon as you decide to work toward the certification, start compiling notes and do some preliminary work before starting the application. All the prep sites recommend Excel to document hours by projects within the required domains, and I agree.
- Gather all the documentation you can: meeting notes, Project files, emails announcing project kickoffs or deadlines, billable hours (if your company breaks them down), and so on. If you haven’t been keeping thorough notes, start now; it will mean less to gather in the future. Be sure to keep this data organized and available in case your application is audited.
- When documenting your experience, keep in mind that overlapping experience doesn’t count. If you worked on two projects simultaneously, it doesn’t count as double. Each project doesn’t require experience in each process group, but you must have experience in each process during the documented 4,500 or 7,500 hours. Your documented experience is for hours you lead projects or tasks, not those for which you completed. The best explanation I found on how to document your experience was this article on ehow.com.
- Grab a copy of your resume. Be sure you can contact any listed former employers or supervisors. If you are audited, you’ll need confirmation letters verifying your experience. It can be hard to get back in touch with previous employers or coworkers. Fortunately, the Internet is here to help. I’ve found coworkers from as far as ten years back using sites like LinkedIn. I actually emailed my current supervisor a copy of my completed application. If he is called to verify my experience, he had the information readily available.
There are a lot of different types of courses that are eligible for the education requirement. Upon starting this process, I expected to be required to take a PMP course by a PMI Registered Education Provider. [For a complete list of the accepted types of education providers, see the Eligibility Requirements section of the PMP Handbook.] But along with the variety of courses accepted, it turns out that there is no timeframe on the education requirement. My class from many moons ago (seriously, 13 years ago) was accepted. Again, have a copy of your degree and training certificates on hand in case your application is audited.
And pace yourself, like I did, so you don’t get burned out on the process. The worst part is getting everything together. I expect the exam to be easier than the application! I invite you to stay tuned to track my progress as I study and then take the exam.
Tags: exam development, geeks, Windows 7
Check out the Born to Learn post on Windows 7 exam development. It seems thoughts of certifications and tracks are already underway for Windows 7.
If you are a complete geek like us, you’re excited about the challenge ahead. We’re thinking Windows 7. One of us has already installed it in the office, and Robin has written a white paper on the new features (look for a copy in an upcoming post). Geekdom galore around here.
Granted, we’ve barely recovered from Vista and Server 2008, but we’re ready to conquer Windows 7 too. We’re tough like that.
– Jennifer W.
Tags: MCAS, study tips
I’ve registered for the Microsoft at Work RSS feeds. I’ve learned a few useful tricks and have gotten product updates, so I actually find them to be beneficial. I look at the RSS feed headers every few weeks and if something looks interesting, I’ll click and read.
I recently saw a tip that I thought would benefit anyone preparing for the MCAS: Using Microsoft Office Excel 2007 exam. This article is from 2007, but its usefulness hasn’t expired. It highlights three Excel features and provides clear and concise steps to use them. If you’re studying for the 77-602 exam (or if you just want to see three cool Excel tricks), click this link and check them out.
EDIT: So I asked Josh (codeguru) to read this post. I was expecting him to be wowed, but instead he taught me an important blog priniciple. He said that I needed to bring something personal to the post, and not just repost a link; this separates the content bloggers from the repost monkeys. (The give and take of constructive feedback is one of my favorite things about this team. I may have given a snarky reply because we have that kind of spirit too, but I did ultimately take his advice.)
So, personal confession time. One of these three tips has to do with Pivot Tables. I think PivotTables separate the casual users from the Power Users. This was the most difficult objective for me when I took the MCAS, and on my score report, this was my lowest score. If I had to study all over again, I would focus more time on this objective so I could reduce the amount of time I spent on the questions regarding PivotTables.
I looked for some resources that I thought would answer both the most basic and difficult questions about PivotTables. This is what I found:
- What the heck is a PivotTable and when would you use one? – About PivotTable reports
- How do you create one? – Dan Schechter’s training video
- Can I get from zero to pivot in five minutes? – Once more, with screenshots
Heck, I might just surprise my boss with a shiny new PivotTable in our next meeting.
Tags: outside expert, Transcender Club VIP
We’ll be giving select Transcender Club V.I.P. members free access to our practice test for the 70-638 TS: Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Configuring exam. If you’d like a chance to be chosen to receive free access to this product in exchange for your feedback, sign up for the Transcender Club V.I.P. program today!
Here’s the link to sign up: Transcender Club V.I.P. Enrollment. Please note that you must have a Transcender Club Account to access the V.I.P enrollment. If you don’t have an account, it is fast and easy to set one up: click here to get a Club Account.
Don’t worry if Office Communications Server 2007 isn’t your area of expertise; there will be more opportunities coming soon for outside experts to provide development feedback on Transcender exams. Sign up today to get your name in the pool for our next review opportunity.