Tags: resource review, SQL Server 2012, study resources, study tips
I am always trying to gain more knowledge that will advance my career. However, I’m finding that keeping up with the leading edge of technology can be a bit pricey. I don’t want to find myself looking for loose change in parking lots or scuba diving at night for quarters in the wishing fountain at the mall to pay for training and materials on SQL Server 2012. Thankfully, Microsoft offers a lot of FREE resources to help you learn SQL Server 2012.
I highly recommend the SQL Server 2012 virtual labs (http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/en/us/learning-center/virtual-labs.aspx). At the time of this post, there are 19 labs that are between 45 and 90 minutes each. They cover such topics as AlwaysOn Availability Groups and Upgrading to SQL Server 2012. Bang-for-the-buck-wise, this is the best way to gain experience with SQL Server 2012. With these virtual labs, you don’t have to invest money in SQL Server 2012 licenses or buy additional hardware to set up a multi-server configuration to prepare for certification; you just need a highspeed Internet connection and Internet Explorer. The labs consist of virtual machines running SQL Server 2012 with accompanying lab text in a sidebar. Not every feature of SQL Server 2012 is enabled in the VM, but there are enough features to play around with and get a feel for the controls.
The labs have step-by-step instructions. I actually recommend that you ignore them the first time around. The beauty of these VMs is that you do not have to perform the lab by the directions. You can use the lab to experiment with the software and test different features.
Free Books Online
The SQL Server 2012 Books Online resource contains everything that you wanted to know about SQL Server 2012 but were too clueless to ask. You can access it on the web at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms130214.aspx. If you are in a firewall or proxy-restricted environment, you can download the information directly from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=347. The downloaded version is nice to have on your mobile device if you’re stuck in an airport with no Internet connection and the airline can’t locate the plane that is supposed to take you home…totally hypothetical situation of course.
Microsoft Books Online allows you to search on any topic. The search results are pulled from TechNet and other authoritative sources.
The information is FREE and is generally used by technical writers to put together materials for SQL Server.
Microsoft Prep Guides
These are the classic pre-certification resource: the objectives and sub-objectives that you must master to pass the test. For example, the prep guide for the 70-462 exam, Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases, can be located at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462. Here’s a tip: you can change the last number in the URL to match, your specific Microsoft exam to find the prep guide for that exam.
The prep guide pages have four tabs: Overview, Skills Measured, Preparation Materials and Community. The Overview tab describes the audience profile for the exam and any certifications associated with the exam. The Skills Measured tab lists tasks that you must master to be successful on the exam. The tasks are broken down by objective and each objective’s weighting percentage for the exam. The Preparation Materials tab displays the officially Microsoft sanctioned training materials. By now you might be reading along and saying, “Gee, George, I already checked there, and it was a dead end!” I feel your pain. Generally, there is not a lot of preparation information listed for a relatively new exam, and what is listed usually isn’t free. So I encourage you to check out the Community tab which has links to newsgroups that can give you a better perspective on training and possible offer some reviews on just-released instructional materials, so I find them a better resource for new technologies.
The Skills Measured tab lists the tasks Microsoft recommends that you know for the exam. I would suggest that you don’t limit your knowledge or experience to the items on this list. In my recent experience with Microsoft exams, the Skills Measured tab contains about 95% of what you will be asked on the exam. The other 5% will be the kinds of questions you can only answer from experience (which is where the virtual labs come in handy). Remember, Microsoft is moving away from the standard fact-based multiple choice question types, and weighing their exams more heavily toward question types that emphasize hands-on knowledge — such as Build List and Reorder, Extended Matching, and Case Studies. This is why you need to have a lot of practical knowledge of SQL Server 2012 to pass the exam.
Despite what is listed, there probably is a Transcender practice test available or SOON TO BE AVAILABLE for most of these exams. Check the Transcender web site regularly over the next few months for the availability of the practice test.
Free e-book: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012
You should definitely obtain the free e-book on Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This e-book is an overview of SQL Server 2012 and will introduce you to some new features in SQL Server 2012. You can download the e-book from the link for the 70-462 Microsoft Prep Guide, http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462#tab2.
Again, this is where those virtual labs come in handy. I guarantee that the certification exam will expect you to be familiar with the functionality changes between previous versions of SQL Server and SQL Server 2012. Go through the e-book chapter by chapter, and use the virtual lab to poke around every new feature introduced in the book.
To successfully pass a Microsoft exam and not spend a dime on additional training is possible, and I have done it, but you have to dedicate some time to it. You should go through each task in the prep guide for the exam. Learn all you can by searching for the task in the books online, and then perform the task in the virtual labs. This will enable you to update your existing knowledge of administering older versions of SQL Server and translate those concepts into 2012.
It is not hard or expensive to learn SQL Server 2012, but it is time consuming. Block out some time in your schedule and use the free resources that are available to master the skills required to gain your SQL Server 2012 certification.
Tags: a+, study tips
If you’ve been keeping up with CompTIA news, you know that the new A+ series (220-801 and 220-802) will be available in October 2012. Based on the Exam Objectives released by CompTIA and my past knowledge as a Subject Matter Expert, I’ve already started developing Transcender’s practice tests for the new A+ series.
As part of the new exam series, CompTIA has included some objectives that specifically cover virtualization. I wanted to take some time here to explain the level of knowledge on this topic recommended to pass the exams. I also wanted to cover using virtualization in a classroom environment for A+ technician training.
In the two new A+ exams, there are four areas that cover virtualization in some way: three bullet points in 220-801 and one entire subobjective in 220-802. The points that cover virtualization are as follows:
- Objective 1.1 Configure and apply BIOS settings.
- BIOS configurations
- Virtualization support
- BIOS configurations
- Objective 1.6 Differentiate among various CPU types and features and select the appropriate cooling method.
- Virtualization support
- Objective 1.9 Evaluate and select appropriate components for a custom configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs.
- Virtualization workstation - Maximum RAM and CPU cores
For 220-801 Objectives 1.1 and 1.6, the main thing to understand is that certain vendor BIOS versions and CPUs have actually been created to provide additional hardware support for virtualization. In its infancy, virtualization worked entirely through software. But with recent advances, vendors have created BIOS versions and CPUs that support hardware-based virtualization. Is it necessary to have a BIOS or CPU that provides this level of specialization? No. You can still run software-based virtualization. But like special gaming graphics cards help gaming computers perform better, having a BIOS and CPU that provides hardware-based virtualization support will make your virtual environment much more efficient. Intel or AMD Virtualization Technology uses the hardware more efficiently and is controlled by the BIOS. But it is disabled by default in the BIOS.
For 220-801 Objective 1.9, the main thing to understand is that you need a fast processor (or multiple processors) and lots of RAM. RAM is the one component in a computer that limits the number of virtual machines that you can run simultaneously. The RAM and CPU are the two primary considerations when designing a computer that will host virtual machines.
- Objective 1.9 Explain the basics of client-side virtualization.
- Purpose of virtual machines
- Resource requirements
- Emulator requirements
- Security requirements
- Network requirements
For 220-802 Objective 1.9, there are multiple points that you must understand. Virtual machines are not physical computers, even though they will look like separate physical servers to any remote users. Virtualization allows administrators to install multiple operating systems on a single physical computer. Each separate virtual machine can then provide separate services. But the virtual machines are only capable of operating at the performance limits of the physical server, and the virtual machines must share the resources of the physical server. So if the physical server only has 4 GB of memory, the performance of each virtual server is limited to part of that 4 GB of memory.
The security of each virtual machine must be considered as well. Simply securing the physical server is not enough. Each virtual machine will need the appropriate security, anti-virus, and anti-malware software configured. Each virtual machine will also need its own network configuration if remote users will need to access the virtual machines via the network.
Finally, test-takers should understand that virtual machine managers are applications that run on top of a host operating system, while hypervisors are virtualization software that do NOT need a host operating system. Virtual machines managers include VMWare Workstation, Virtual PC, MAC OS X Parallels, and Linux KVM. Hypervisors include ESX and HyperV.
In closing, I want to encourage you to actually install some of the virtualization products that are available. Learning about the basics of virtualization is important. But setting up a few virtual machines can actually make the world of virtualization come alive. There are many options out there, some of which are free (our favorite!). My suggestion is to take a look at the following:
- Windows Virtual PC - www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/ FREE
- Oracle VM Virtual Box - https://www.virtualbox.org/ FREE
- VMWare Workstation – http://www.wmware.com/ 30-day trial for FREE
Using any one of these tools would be particularly helpful in a classroom. You can configure multiple virtual machines for your students and allow them to “break” them. Simply make sure that you have a backup of the VHD file under another name, and you can restore the VM using a flash drive.
Watch for my upcoming post where I explain the Mobile Devices objective in 220-802. Until then, happy testing!
Tags: code exams, exam item types, extended matching, study tips, test-taking tips
As technologies evolve, so do the means of testing your technical knowledge. While the multiple choice standard still has its place, Microsoft and other major vendors are rapidly evolving beyond such mechanical (and easily braindumped) question formats. Microsoft has even released a catchy YouTube video on the subject:
An awful lot of research goes into the most effective question format. In the past few years we’ve seen an explosion of new item types and testing techniques. Some have been rolled out, some have been rolled back, and some are newly announced but haven’t yet been sighted in the wild. Here are the ones encountered by the Transcender Team, with our notes on each.
This item type was announced in early 2011 (Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue: Introducing a New Item Type on Certification Exams), but we didn’t encounter it in an exam until recently. George, our Microsoft Windows Server and SQL Server expert, first tackled extended matching on the beta exams for SQL Server 2012. Here’s what he had to say:
I encountered Build-list and reorder questions that required you to know the exact sequence in which tasks should be performed. There were also Active Screen items that required you to answer questions based on a scenario. I also saw the new “Extended Matching” questions. The Extended Matching questions looked kind of like case studies, because they were a set of multiple choice questions answered in one time frame. However, these did not have the usual four or five answer choices. No, each question had the same 14 choices. The questions were slightly different, but the choices were the same. These question types caught me off guard and I found them completely confusing until I realized you could actually have the same correct answer for more than one question in the set.
The Extended Matching questions were like someone put a long multiple choice question, a matching question, and a pint of buttermilk in a blender, pulsed it, left the horrible concoction on the kitchen table overnight, and then tricked you into drinking it in the morning.
We’re hoping that you go into your exams a little more prepared than George, so we’re in the process of revising our 70-667 practice exam and our 70-432 practice exam to include this new item type. This will give you the chance to get comfortable with how Extended Matching items are put together, and not be caught off guard on exam day.
Case studies and code case studies
Case studies (mini-tests that are timed separately from the SAMC/MAMC questions) are nothing new in the Microsoft world, but they did vanish from the testing scene for a few years, until recently (see George’s post, The Case Study Gets Its Groove Back). Because each case study has its own clock, the trick is not to let them eat into your overall exam time. However, the Code case study was a new twist on the concept. It was touted in Born To Learn last year (Code case studies: test drive our new item type for developer exams). Josh reported on this item type extensively here a few months back (They’re back: the return of the developer exam case study). They’ve been incorporated into all of our practice tests for these technologies.
As of this writing, you can still access Microsoft’s mockup code case study here: http://mcppoc.rangers.ms/
Short Answer Code
This item type will incorporate live coding into the exam, and as far back as our SMEs can remember, this item type is a first for Microsoft. Short answer code items were announced in October 2011 (Check Out the Short Answer Code Item Type). While we haven’t encountered this item type on a certification exam yet, here’s what we know about it so far: the item will have a field in which the candidate writes a short code segment to accomplish the task in the scenario. All the standard tools that would be available to a developer in real life (such as syntax checking) will be reproduced on the test, so in theory, you can’t trip yourself up with a simple mis-key or typo.
Have you encountered this item type yet? If so, we’d love to hear about it.
MAMC: Choose All that Apply
“Wait,” you say. “That’s not a new item type. That’s the same old multiple choice question that Microsoft (and Transcender) has been doing all along.”
Well, yes. But in the course of reviewing the most test-worthy item types, psychometricians made a surprising discovery: this classic structure is actually one of the hardest to answer without a thorough knowledge of the subject being tested. You can read about the methods used by psychometrician Liberty Munson here, Investigating the Psychometric Performance of Our Item Types.
How many times have you encountered a multiple choice question where you weren’t sure of all the answers, but the fact that the question said “choose two” or “choose four” let you safely guess the parts that you weren’t sure about? If Microsoft has anything to say about it – and, let’s face it, they do – then this guessing technique will be ruled out. Fortunately, Transcender has used this MAMC structure in all of our practice tests, so users should be prepared to answer them on exam day.
What about simulations?
A few years ago, simulation exams were the item type of the future; almost impossible to braindump, and representing a real-world test of the user’s skills. Microsoft introduced the simulation format with the 83-640 Windows Server Configuring exam. Problems with exam delivery, though, sidelined this particular format, which reverted to the conventional 70-640.
While there may have been some setbacks, this was an excellent testing format, and it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out of future Microsoft exams. We think the live coding exams for developers represent one new direction in which to take simulations – the goal of which, after all, is to have the user perform real-life tasks.
For one last obsessive look at this subject, check out Liberty Munson’s Born To Learn post on Microsoft’s changing attitudes towards the building of certification exams (Exams Grow Up)
–the Transcender Team
Tags: CISSP, study tips
Back in September and October, I wrote a few posts regarding the 2012 update to the CISSP exam. (If you missed them, see the post on part I of the changes here, and the post on part II of the changes here). If you remember, there wasn’t a large amount of new content. Most of the changes are mainly the moving of a subdomain from one domain to another or the revision of the wording of a subdomain.
With that said, we have now released a new version of our CISSP practice test that covers the 2012 Exam Guide. For these latest updates, we have taken the time to write new questions to ensure that you understand these topics. We have also moved the content according to the new Exam Guide. Finally, we have revised some of our old questions to better reflect the live exam experience.
We hope that you’ll take the time to study the explanations when studying for this exam. The explanations often go beyond the scope of the question itself to ensure that you fully understand the topics that you may see on the exam.
Keep in mind that we reference Shon Harris’ CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, 5th Edition. Word is that a 6th Edition will be released at some point. When that occurs, we’ll be sure to update the reference list on the product so you can have a direct link to the new book.
Be sure to drop a comment here if you have any questions regarding this latest update!
Tags: CISSP, resource review, Security+, study resources, study tips
Well, 2011 is more than halfway done, and my world has revolved around all things CompTIA. Between Windows 7 updates for the A+ exams and a new Security+ exam, I have had little time to focus on anything else. But the CISSP certification has been on my mind, mainly because I was already working on security topics for the Security+. So immediately after completing our new Security+ (SY0-301) practice test development, I began updating our CISSP practice test. This update will focus on expanding the explanations for our items, writing new items on new content, and editing existing references to cover the All-In-One CISSP Exam Guide, Fifth Edition.
The latest news is that an update to the CISSP exam is scheduled for January 1, 2012. A quick visit to the ISC2 website, https://www.isc2.org/cib/Default.aspx, and you can download the newest Candidate Information Bulletin (CIB) for the CISSP. The CIB is a document that lists the knowledge areas that are covered in the exam. The CIB also contains candidate-focused information on the exam format, exam guidelines, and so on.
After downloading and reviewing the CIB, I realized our students (you) would probably appreciate an explanation of the changes that I noted. So what follows is a brief description of the changes. Please keep in mind that I am strictly analyzing the content of the CIB. I do not in any way have any inside knowledge about the new CISSP version that is coming in January aside from what is listed in the CIB. For each Knowledge area, I will be highlighting any changes in red. Changes include any new data or any data that is moved from one Knowledge Area, or subobjective, to another.
As always, the 2012 update to CISSP covers 10 main Knowledge Areas (changes are in bold, red font):
- Access Control
- Telecommunications and Network Security
- Information Security Governance and Risk Management
- Software Development Security (formerly Application Development Security)
- Security Architecture and Design
- Security Operations (formerly Operations Security)
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning,
- Legal, Regulations, Investigations, and Compliance
- Physical (Environmental) Security
I will analyze the first five Knowledge Areas in this post. In the coming weeks, I will analyze the second five Knowledge Areas.
In the Access Control Knowledge Area, there are now four subobjectives instead of three. Subobjective 4 is completely new. Here are the new subobjectives for the Access Control Knowledge Area (changes are in red and boldface font):
|subobj 1||Control access by applying the following concepts/methodologies/techniques: policies, types of controls (preventative, detective, corrective, etc.), techniques (e.g., non-discretionary, discretionary, and mandatory), identification and authentication, decentralized/distributed access control techniques, authorization mechanisms, and logging and monitoring.|
|subobj 2||Understand access control attacks: threat modeling, asset valuation, vulnerability analysis, access aggregation|
|subobj 3||Assess effectiveness of access controls: user entitlement, access review and audit|
|subobj 4||Identity and access provisioning lifecycle (e.g., provisioning, review, revocation)|
In the Telecommunications and Network Security Knowledge area, there are now four subobjectives instead of three. The first subobjective for this Knowledge area, Establish secure data communications, is actually included as part of subobjective 3. Here are the new subobjectives for the Telecommunications and Network Security Knowledge area (changes are in red and boldface font):
|subobj 1||Understand secure network architecture and design (e.g., IP and non-IP protocols, segmentation): OSI and TCP/IP models, IP networking, implications of multi-layer protocols|
|subobj 2||Securing network components: hardware (e.g., modems switches, routers, wireless access points), transmission media (e.g., wired, wireless, fiber), network access control devices (e.g., firewalls, proxies), end-point security|
|subobj 3||Establish secure communication channels (e.g., VPN, TLS/SSL, VLAN): voice (e.g., POTS, PBX, VoIP), multimedia collaboration (e;g;, remote meeting technology, instant messaging), remote access (e.g., screen scraper, virtual application/desktop, telecommuting), data communications|
|subobj 4||Understand network attacks (e.g., DDoS, spoofing)|
In the Information Security Governance and Risk Management Knowledge area, there are now 10 subobjectives instead of 14. The Support certification and accreditation subobjective was completely deleted. The Develop and implement information security strategies and Assess the completeness and effectiveness of the security program subobjectives are now part of the Manage the security function subobjective. Finally the professional ethics subobjective has been moved to the Legal, Regulations, Investigations, and Compliance Knowledge area. While subobjective 5 and 6 may at first appear new, but they are actually just existing subobjectives that has been reworded. Here are the new subobjectives for the Information Security Governance and Risk Management Knowledge area (changes are in red and boldface font):
|subobj 1||Understand and align security function to goals, mission, and objectives of the organization.|
|subobj 2||Understand and apply security governance: organizational processes(e.g., acquisitions, divestitures, governance committee), security roles and responsibilities, legislative and regulatory compliance, privacy requirements compliance, control frameworks, due care, and due diligence.|
|subobj 3||Understand and apply concepts of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.|
|subobj 4||Develop and implement security policy: security policies, standards/baselines, procedures, guidelines, and documentation.|
|subobj 5||Manage the information life cycle (e.g., classification, categorization, and ownership)|
|subobj 6||Manage third-party governance (e.g., on-site assessment, document exchange and review, process/policy review)|
|subobj 7||Understand and apply risk management concepts: identify threats and vulnerabilities, risk assessment/analysis (qualitative, quantitative, hybrid) , risk assignment/acceptance, countermeasure selection, tangible and intangible asset valuation|
|subobj 8||Manage personnel security: employment candidate screening (e.g., reference checks, education verification), employment agreements and policies, employee termination processes, and vendor, consultant, and contractor controls.|
|subobj 9||Develop and manage security education, training, and awareness.|
|subobj 10||Manage the security function: budget, metrics, resources, develop and implement information security strategies, assess the completeness and effectiveness of the security program|
In the Software Development Security Knowledge area, the same subobjectives are listed. But within each subobjective, there are some minor changes. For subobjective 1, risk analysis was removed. For subobjective 3, the listing of the tools to assess the effectiveness of software security are no longer listed. Here are the new subobjectives for the Software Development Security Knowledge area (changes are in red):
|subobj 1||Understand and apply security in the system life cycle: Development Life Cycle, Maturity models, Operation and maintenance, and Change management.|
|subobj 2||Understand the environment and security controls: security of the software environment, security issues of programming languages, security issues in source code (e.g, buffer overflow, escalation of privilege, backdoor), and configuration management.|
|subobj 3||Assess the effectiveness of software security|
In the Cryptography Knowledge area, a new subobjective has been added and two subobjectives have been minimally revised. Here are the new subobjectives for the Cryptography Knowledge area (changes are in red):
|subobj 1||Understand the application and use of cryptography: data at rest (e.g, hard drive) and data in transit (e.g., “on the wire”).|
|subobj 2||Understand the cryptographic life cycle (e.g., cryptographic limitations, algorithms/protocol governance)|
|subobj 3||Understand encryption concepts: foundational concepts, symmetric cryptography, asymmetric cryptography, hybrid cryptography, message digests, and hashing.|
|subobj 4||Understand key management process: creation/distribution, storage/destruction, recovery, and key escrow.|
|subobj 5||Understand digital signatures.|
|suboj 6||Understand non-repudiation.|
|subobj 7||Understand methods of cryptanalytic attacks: chosen plain-text, social engineering for key discovery, brute force (e.g., rainbow tables, specialized/scalable architecture), cipher-text only, known plaintext, frequency analysis, chosen cipher-text, and implementation attacks.|
|subobj 8||Use cryptography to maintain network security.|
|subobj 9||Use crypgraphy to maintain application security.|
|subobj 10||Understand Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).|
|subobj 11||Understand certificate-related issues.|
|subobj 12||Understand information hiding alternatives (e.g., steganography, watermarking).|
Watch in the coming weeks for the second half of this post that covers the other Knowledge areas. During that post, I will explain how these changes may affect your studying habits and what it all means for our Transcender practice test.
Tags: oracle certification, study tips
If you’re working on your OCA, and possibly even your OCP, you have already run into quite a few product names and acronyms used by Oracle for “add on” products that enhance the fundamental capabilities of the Oracle database. But who has the time to investigate all these products while preparing for an exam? Exactly. So I thought I would offer our Oracle exam candidates the Cliff’s notes version of one of Oracle’s most popular products.
RAC, or Real Application Clusters, is probably the hottest “add on” product that Oracle has released in the last 5 years. It’s important to recall what you already know regarding the Oracle architecture as well as Backup and Recovery if you’re going to properly understand the benefits of RAC. If you have your OCA in Database Administration, you know that if the Oracle instance fails, the DBA just starts the database back up and it goes through a process called automatic instance recovery. During this process the database is reading the redo log files (and the undo log files) to determine which transactions logically completed but haven’t been written to the datafiles. This process also checks the redo and undo log files to determine if a transaction wasn’t completed (either because it was rolled back or just never committed) but the datafiles were updated. This situation needs to be “fixed” when the database is restarted, so that the logical state of all transactions is synchronized with the physical reality of what’s written to the datafiles. During this automatic instance recovery, the database “rolls backward” and “rolls forward” to ensure that data that has been committed but hasn’t been written to the datafiles does get physically written to the datafiles, and that data that hasn’t been committed but has been written to the datafiles is physically scraped off the datafiles. Once complete, the Oracle database is available for use.
This is all very cool, no? How the only action on the part of the DBA was to start the database. The database recognizes when there was a need to perform automatic instance recovery and begins that process as soon as the database was restarted. Nothing different the DBA does other than start the database regardless of whether it previously suffered instance failure or not. You just have to wait a little longer for it to become available to users if the software determines it needs to go through this automatic instance recovery process.
STOP! Take note – the time required for the database to complete automatic instance recovery following a crash, even though it happens automatically, may take longer than permitted based upon your business situation. In some mission critical applications, a corporation may lose thousands of dollars for each minute the database in unavailable. The solution to this problem is RAC. RAC provides a second instance to be running mapped to the same set of database files. Now, if instance failure takes place on one node, the user sessions are swapped over to the second instance which is already running. There is no loss of data and each user continues to work in their session. It’s amazing to see this work, if you have a chance to catch a demo of this be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. RAC is considered to be one of the “high availability” tools that Oracle provides since it eliminates downtime when instance failure takes place.
I realize this doesn’t take care of that growing list of acronyms, but I hope it lets you check at least one thing off that list!
Tags: study tips, test-taking tips
If you’re familiar with our blog and our product, then it should come as no surprise that when you ask us we always encourage you to take a practice test before taking your certification exam. Well now you don’t have to take our word for it! It seems the good folks at Purdue University have the research to prove it. In a study involving 200 college students, a group of Purdue University researchers found that taking a practice test before a subsequent exam trumped several other popular methods of learning—including repetition and concept mapping.
One of several experiments went something like this: Students were asked to read several paragraphs about a scientific topic. They were then divided into four groups.
- The first group simply read the text for five minutes.
- The second group read the text in four consecutive five-minute sessions.
- The third group performed “concept mapping,” a process in which students drew detailed diagrams about information from the excerpt they were reading.
- The fourth group read the passage once and took a “retrieval practice test,” which required them to write down what they recalled from the text.
A week later, all four groups took a quiz that asked them to recall facts from the passage they had read and draw conclusions based on those facts. Here’s where it gets really exciting…while the students in the fourth group anticipated lower scores on the quiz, they were actually able to recall 50% more compared to those who participated in the first three groups. This means, those who read and then took a practice test had higher exam scores a week later!
Surprised? Yeah, so was most of the education community. Although experts are not completely sure why retrieval testing is so effective, there are some theories. It could be that by recalling information, we are organizing it and creating meaningful connections that our brains later recognize. Another theory is that the effort involved in remembering information helps to solidify it in our minds. Meaning as we’re working through a practice test and identifying areas of weakness, we’re actually using the struggle to remember information as a retention source for later recall. This makes us feel a whole lot better about the forum chatter that says our Transcender practice tests are so much harder than the “real thing”.
If you want to check out the details of the Purdue study as well as more feedback on theories from “experts” the article can be found here, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test. Whatever the reason behind their results, the Purdue study makes a very compelling case for using practice tests to prepare for your upcoming IT certification exam.
Tags: a+, study tips, Windows 7
Well, here it is January 31, 2011, and I am diligently working on A+ once again. CompTIA announced last year that it would be updating the A+ exams this month to include questions about Windows 7 and IPv6. So far, we haven’t heard anything more. While customers have been asking us about our A+ practice test updates, no one has reported actually seeing the new content in a certification exam. Just like you, folks, we are waiting to see the new content hit test centers. But while we’re waiting, I can give you a few insights from my past years of A+ experience, and tell you where I would focus my attention if I were studying for the test today.
As always, start by taking a look at the Exam Guide from CompTIA located at http://www.comptia.org/certifications/testprep/examobjectives.aspx. (You will need to provide some information to download the objectives.) While the objective’s titles still include 2009, the relevant objectives have already been updated.
When it comes to Windows 7, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different editions that are available. You need to understand all the hardware requirements for installation, the installation methods, and the upgrade paths from other operating systems. You will also need to know how to navigate to the common tools that are used.
As for IPv6, you need to understand how it compares to IPv4. Here’s some quick bullet points:
- 128-bit addresses, versus 32-bit with IPv4
- Larger packet size accommodation
- More secure (IPSec enabled)
- Allows 340 undecillion addresses, versus 4 billion with IPv4
- Allows double-colon zero suppression – FF02:30:0:0:0:0:0:5 can be rewritten FF02:30::5
If you’ve read my previous posts, you may remember me mentioning that I had the rare (and as it turns out very rewarding!) opportunity to meet Mike Meyers near the end of last year. We recorded some chat sessions about the A+ exam refresh and the new expiration policy for the A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications. And I CANNOT wait to share everything we talked about with y’all! The wait is almost over…we have four sessions we think you’d like to see, and starting February 14th, we’ll release one of those sessions each week!
So you should hear from me again in a couple weeks. Until then, let us know if you see any Windows 7 or IPv6 content on those exams – without violating the NDA or posting actual questions, of course! Let me reiterate, PLEASE do not include actual exam questions in your comments, many thanks. Just share your general observations of any changes to the exam. Or ask any questions about the expected changes, and we’ll be happy to answer as many as we can.
Tags: oracle certification, study checklist, study tips
There have been a number of posts on our Transcender blog that address the issue of how to prepare for a certification exam. Recommendations have included various study techniques, training classes, and certification prep tests. All good stuff! With this post, however, I’d like to speak specifically to the strategies you should employ when you’re actually taking the certification exam.
Disclaimer: My experience comes from the Oracle certification exams, where I have taken approximately 10-12 certification exams and fortunately (or maybe just due to dumb luck) have passed them all thus far. So apply in other areas with caution.
Here are the approaches I recommend. You’ll notice that some of these suggestions apply to all tests, but again, I’m coming from the Oracle test taking experience specifically:
- Try to schedule your test in the morning. Most people will have an advantage if they take an exam when they are fresh and ready to go rather than trying to take the test after the stress of a long day at work.
- Be sure to eat a good breakfast before your exam and don’t forget to grab your picture ID before leaving the house.
- Read the question carefully. Break it into pieces if it’s a long question. Make sure you understand what the question is asking BEFORE you start to formulate an answer in your head.
- Answer the easy questions first. (Please note, this is Oracle-exam specific as not all certification exams allow you to move forward & back between questions.) Feel free to skip around looking for the “low hanging fruit” . I don’t believe Oracle advertises this, but before you can submit your exam it displays a very nice matrix which makes it obvious which questions haven’t been answered. That way if you jumped around you can be absolutely sure that you didn’t forget to answer some questions
- Determine the correct answer (if possible) before looking at the alternatives.
- If you aren’t sure of the answer, work with the various alternatives. You are now going to have to make an educated best guess. Here are some strategies:
- Delete alternative choices which you know are wrong
- Often you run into questions with double negatives. For example, consider a true/false question which says “It is wrong to say that the Oracle DBA cannot determine a user’s password”. The double negatives cancel each other out, and the question can be transformed into “It’s true to say the Oracle DBA can determine a user’s password”, or just “The Oracle DBA can determine a user’s password”. Determining the truth value of the last statement is a lot simpler than working with the original statement that contained the double negative.
- If there is no penalty for wrong answers, it always makes sense to make your best guess. In the Oracle certification exams, your score is determined by the number of correct answers, so make sure you have an answer for every question on the test. Sometimes guessing correctly on say 2 of the 5 questions which you totally don’t understand can mean the difference between passing and failing.
- If you have two alternatives that are just the direct opposite of each other, it is likely that one of them is right. For example, “the DBA can start up the database using SQL*Plus” and “the DBA cannot start up the database using SQL*Plus” in most cases implies that one of these statements is true.
- Always be aware of the number of questions you answered thus far as a percent of the total questions, and how that compares to the number of minutes that have elapsed as a percent of the total minutes allowed for the test. For example, if you have answered 15 questions so far and there is a total of 60 questions, you’ve answered 15/60 or 25% of the questions. That means you should have consumed about 25% of the total time allotted for the test. If the test is 2 hours (120 minutes), you should be 25% through the time, or 25% of 120 minutes, or 30 minutes. If more than 30 minutes have gone by, you’re not on schedule to answer all the questions and you need to accelerate the pace.
Oracle certification exams typically contain between 60 and 90 questions. You should allow between 90 minutes-2 hours to complete, and aim for a passing score between 60% and 80%, depending on the test. This is a ballpark, average scenario, but remember Oracle reserves the right to change this at any time so don’t hurt the messenger! When a new test is released and Oracle deems it more difficult than the previous version they may adjust the passing grade to a lower value than the passing grade of the previous version of that exam.
I hope that these strategies will help you on exam day. The best strategy is always to be prepared for the exam. That means reading reference materials, using the software to confirm your understanding of the reading, and taking practice exams to test your readiness for the real thing. Good luck to all with your career goals and however Oracle certification may be a part of that.
Give me a holler if you have any Oracle exam day questions!
Tags: PMBOK 4th Edition, PMI, PMP, study tips
There are six objectives covered in the PMP exam:
- Monitoring and Controlling
- Professional and Social Responsibility
I covered the Initiating process group in Part I and the Planning process group in Part II. But remember, I am just highlighting the changes in the PMBOK 4th Edition as compared to the PMBOK 3rd Edition.
And now on to the Executing process group.
Process Group Three: Executing
In the PMBOK Third Edition, the Executing phase had six processes, but there are eight processes in the PMBOK Fourth Edition. The Manage Project Team process moved from the Monitoring and Controlling phase. The Manage Stakeholders process moved from the Monitoring and Controlling phase and was renamed the Manage Stakeholder Expectations process. The Request Seller Responses and Select Sellers processes were consolidated into a new process called Conduct Procurements.
The changes to the Direct and Manage Project Execution process are in Table 7. Continue Reading Obtaining Your PMP Certification: A PMP 4th Edition Study Plan – Part III…