The secret path to knowledge (and a better exam experience)

July 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Study hints | 1 Comment
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When you click the “About This Exam” button in the Transcender test engine, you get a little boilerplate popup window. I think we’ve all grown blind spots to “About this…” buttons (they just say you’re using software version 6.07.2x or that your shareware license expired 111,035 days ago, you cheapskate) so I’ll reproduce it here click-free:

To use this practice test effectively, you must read and understand the explanations for all the practice test questions. Simply answering the practice test questions and/or memorizing the questions and answers does not give you the full benefit of the product.

In other words, if you bought a Transcender practice test and you’re going through simply answering the questions, you’re having an exam experience like this:

You are the network administrator of a company that wants to destroy
the world for some unknown reason. All servers run Windows Server
2008 and all client computers use Windows Vista. You have changed the
IP address range on the DHCP server in a branch office in order to
advance your company’s evil agenda. You need to change the reverse
lookup zone on the branch DNS server role to reflect the IP address
change and enable secure dynamic updates. What should you do?
A. Install Remote Server Administration Tools on a Vista workstation
B. Some wrong answer Netsh blah blah blah
C. Some wrong answer ServerCMD blah blah
D. Some command line command blah blah
Answer: A

… which is well and good if you get a question on RSAT, but the questions in our practice test aren’t on the vendor exams. They cover the vendor’s test objectives, they replicate the vendor’s style and format, they follow Bloom’s Taxonomy rules, but they’re not the live questions. Maybe the vendor has a question about that Netsh command you just skipped over. Maybe if we produced 10,000 question practice tests we could ask every conceivable question about a given technology, but that would take a year to work through (and be reeeeally expensive). Instead, we put a lot of work into the tutorials and, believe me, into selecting the right kind of wrong answer for every item.

I titled this post the “secret path” because I’m a little surprised to encounter the attitude that tutorials are unnecessary if you’ve gotten the question right. That’s not to say you’re doing it “wrong” if that’s your preferred study method, but really, you’re not getting (as they say) the Full Benefit of the practice tests if you ignore the tutorials. For those people, let me assure you:

Study the tutorials. Know the tutorials. The tutorials are little compasses that point toward the little gaps in your knowledge, the stuff you forgot you didn’t know. And if you understand why an answer is wrong, you’ll also know the situations in which that answer could be right.

Here’s another illustration, from a demo question from the Cisco 640-816 test, “Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 2:”

Which of the following commands could you use to verify the type of
serial cable you are connected to (DCE or DTE)?
A. show interface
B. show controllers
C. (omitted)

Answer:
B. show controllers

Tutorial: The show controllers command provides hardware-related
information on Cisco router interfaces that can be used for
troubleshooting and diagnostics. Sample output of the command is:

routerA# show controllers serial 0
HD unit 1, idb = 0x1C44E8, driver structure at 0x1CBAC8
buffer size 1524 HD unit 1
V.35 DTE cable, clock rate 64000

The preceding output indicates that a V.35 DTE cable is currently
connected to interface Serial 0, and that a clock rate of 64000 bps
has been detected from the DCE.  The following output would indicate
that a clock rate has not been detected from the DCE:

routerA# show controllers serial 0
HD unit 1, idb = 0x1C44E8, driver structure at 0x1CBAC8
buffer size 1524 HD unit 1
V.35 DTE cable, clocks stopped

This condition would be rectified by configuring a clock rate on
the DCE router.

The show interface command is issued in privileged EXEC mode
and displays the usability status of interfaces configured for IP.

If you know every topic covered in that tutorial, you’d be ready for any number of live scenarios, such as: Which command would help you troubleshoot a Layer 1 issue with a Cisco router? What is the purpose of the show interface command? Which of the following is a serial cable? Which device sets the clock rate for communications, DCE or DTE? Which command would generate the output “V.35 DTE cable, clock rate 64000“? Which of these displays the correct mode for issuing the show interface command? and so on.

In closing, the secret path to knowledge and a better exam experience is (choose only one):

A. Keep going through the practice test until you score 100% on every question. Once you know all our questions, you’re guaranteed to pass the live exam.

B. Take the practice test once, review the ones you got wrong, and study the reference links on those questions to make sure you’ve covered all the gaps in your knowledge base.

C. Always study the tutorials.

1 Comment »

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  1. This is especially important for our developer exams. Sometimes we embed code in the tutorials that is not in the question or answers themselves. Not only does this give you a real-world application of a concept, but prepare you for the exam so that the code won’t trip you up.


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