Passing the Microsoft 70-410 exam: one trainer’s perspective (Part 1)

August 22, 2014 at 10:48 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints, study tips | 11 Comments
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Editor’s note: today’s guest post was written by IT instructor Scott Winger. Scott is a computing technologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a technical editor for VMware Press. He also teaches continuing education classes in IT for Madison College.

You did the labs, looked at countless flash cards, and sat almost two dozen mock exams. You read: tons. You paid your hundred and fifty bucks. Now you’ve just clicked End Exam on the real deal, the Microsoft 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 exam.

So, in the second or two that Microsoft takes to grade your work, there’s a moment of confidence and pride because you know you nailed it. And then the confirmation appears: “Congratulations! You’ve passed.”

The above was my experience.

But how will you achieve that End-Exam moment of confidence and pride?

What do you need to buy?

What are the steps?

This set of posts, “Passing the Microsoft 70-410 exam,” will help you answer those questions.  I’ll provide closely focused examples from each of the official objective areas to help you know, how, where, when, and on what to focus your three required types of effort: lab work, research, and drilling.

What to Buy

The serious student who lacks reasonable access to a server will need to pay for labs, textbooks, or even training at some point. However, the good news is that there are many professional-level resources available for free.

For the price of a simple login, the Microsoft Virtual Academy allows you to customize a course of targeted videos and some basic self-assessment materials. The following link will deliver over 20 mini-courses for you to explore:

http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/product-training/windows-server

On the TechNet Video channel, you can access a series of screencasts and technologies geared for IT pros:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/video/ff830367

These overviews can be a great way to gain confidence in the material. However, for serious study and practice assessment, you’ll probably want to investigate the following resources, all of which I can recommend from personal use.

Craig Zacker wrote the Microsoft Official Academic Curriculum, Installing and Configuring Server 2012 R2. This course is available as both a textbook and a lab manual, and they are superbly constructed. And, not only did Craig team up with Microsoft’s Server 2012 team to write this book, but if you don’t have access to a machine with at least 12GB of RAM and an i5 class or better processor, you can buy a MOAC edition that comes with the Microsoft Official Academic Curriculum Labs Online space, which provides all the horsepower you’ll need for doing the labs.

(Note: the “Server 1” course I taught at my local Technical College came right out of Craig’s book. So check out the course catalog of your nearest Technical or Community College. You may be surprised how pertinent, affordable, and enriching these institutions can be.)

The next vital acquisition is one of the Server 2012 R2 tomes, which are designed to cover every role and feature and provide the valuable insights of their highly qualified authors. I used Mark Minasi’s Mastering Windows Server 2012 R2, and found it to be excellent.

When you’re ready to test your knowledge, Transcender.com’s 70-410 Exam Engine is not an option: it’s essential. The only question is when to buy it. (Read on for my recommendations for timing your purchase.) However, at this early stage, it’s worth joining the Transcender Club (a free login) so that you’ll be notified of any flash sales and possibly score yourself a discount.

Finally, of course, you’ll have to register and pay for the exam. Microsoft frequently rolls out a Second Shot program, which allows a free exam retake in case you don’t pass the first time. It’s worth checking their Special Offers page on a regular basis while you’re still in learning mode. And as of this writing, I see you can download a free e-book by Mitch Tulloch, Introducing Windows Server 2012 RTM Edition (PDF, Mobi, EPub).

That’s it. Buy the above things at the right times as described below, and work with them as they were designed to be used, and you can pass the difficult 70-410 with confidence.

What to Do (and when to do it)

To get started, buy Craig’s book and lab manual. And if you don’t have access to the computing power you’ll need, buy them with the online lab space. And buy one of the Server 2012 tomes.

Next, spend about a hundred hours reading Craig’s book cover to cover, doing the labs as you go. (If you didn’t purchase the edition with online labs, refer to the free Microsoft Virtual Academy and TechNet video training.) During this lab/research phase, you should supplement your reading with TechNet’s Server 2012 collection and by skimming the related sections in your tome.

There are also quite a few excellent resources on the web. Microsoft’s TechNet Library should live in your bookmarks bar. (See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh801901.aspx )

When you’ve finished the research/lab phase, it’ll be time to buy the Transcender 70-410 test engine and drill with the flash cards and the mock exams. Your goal in this phase is to score in the mid-80 percentages each day for the entire week leading up to your exam. Remember, to be eligible for Transcender’s Pass Guarantee, you’ll need to take your exam within six months of the purchase date. (Also remember that if you buy the Exam Voucher with your test engine, that cost is not covered by the guarantee.)

In my next post I’ll describe how you can create a personalized Server 2012 study guide while doing your labs, research, flash cards, and mock exams. I’ll also focus in on questions from each of the 70-410 objective areas.

If you’ve got comments, I’d like to hear them.

Thanks in advance and good luck.

–Scott Winger

11 Comments »

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  1. Hello,
    I have to say thank you for sharing this post. I found it to be very helpful and very good information.

    I plan to take my exam in Nov first week. The first time I took the exam i failed. I was not to upset about it since it was my very first time taking any kind of exam. Now i know what I need to work out. It’s been almost 1 month since the exam but I plan on getting back on track again. Just needed the break since the stress got to me after really thinking about the exam.

    I look forward to your next post .

    • Louie:

      I’m glad to have helped.

      I think you’ll find the upcoming second post helpful too.

      Good luck in November!

      Scott

  2. […] Part 1, I provided a timeline for gathering resources and working yourself up to exam day. In this post, […]

  3. Thanks for the info. I am considering studying for the MCSA Server 2012 exams and noticed there are two authors that seem good. The first are the Craig Zacker books you mentioned. But I have also found what looks to be a massive comprehensive guide by William Panek. What are your thoughts on Panek?

    • Todd:

      I didn’t use William Panek’s “MCSA Windows Server 2012 R2 Complete Study Guide” when I prepared for the 70-410, but to help you with your question, I found a promotional unabridged copy of the book’s 8th, 9th and 10th chapters online.

      And the quickest way to tell you that I think the book is worthwhile is to tell you that, based this 20 minute perusal, I chose to buy the book.

      Here’s why:

      This book is complete, well organized, and the author knows what he’s talking about. He’s also taken great care to provide material that, while directly related to the published exam objectives, provides important background that you might miss elsewhere.

      However, I wouldn’t read a book like this cover to cover: it’s way too massive for that. I plan on using it as a starting point leading to web-based deep dives.

      Said another way, when I want to know – what Microsoft wants me to know – about a particular Server 2012 Role or Feature – this book will provide very useful starting points.

      Note, although this book provides exam questions, I’ve found no better exam prep resource than customized exam engines written by companies dedicated to that task. And I’ve found Transcender’s engines to be amazingly good.

      To conclude, this book will be a valuable complimentary tool; but not my main exam prep resource.

      I hope this helps.

      Good luck!

      Scott

      • Thanks Scott. Much appreciated

  4. I realize this article is a bit old, but I have to tell you. The MS Virtual Academy is marketing material, nothing more. It in no way will help you pass even the first test on server 2012 R2, 70-410. Transcender I purchased and can score above 90 every time, even 100. But, failed the 70-410 with my worst score in 3 tries. I am an 18 year IT person. Have installed and configured Windows many, many times. Active Directory, Networking, Virtualization, etc. Bottom line is the MS tests are a scam. Trick questions that make little sense. On my last try I actually believed I did good and must have passed! but I did not. A 571.

    • Dear anonymous commentator, I am sorry to hear of your negative experience, and I hope you took advantage of our Transcender test pass guarantee. With regards to trick questions, it’s important to remember that Microsoft has “best practices” and sometimes what works in real life is not the answer they’re looking for. (TechNet articles are my go-to reference for “The Microsoft way of doing things.”) Also, the MS Virtual Academy materials are only one of the resources that Mr. Winger recommends – if MVA didn’t work for you, have you tried the other steps in this article? Best wishes in your future certification endeavours!

  5. I have taught this material for the past 17 years, the original NT 4.0 MCSE when it was 7 tests! I also teach with the Craig Zacker book for the 70-410, it is well constructed and is very clear in the reading I highly recommend the book. I have used Transcender in the past with great success in my classes. I too am an advocate of test preparation, there is nothing that can prepare you for a Microsoft exam other than test prep. However, I also agree Scott that performing the labs and understanding the material is paramount to passing the exam. I have started to construct videos that accompany the 70-410 material at https://www.youtube.com/user/networkedminds

  6. Jon:

    I was nicely surprised by the information density in the sampling I did of your video presentations on the 70-410. Nice job.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    All:

    Check out Jon’s tech videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/networkedminds there may be explanations there that are exactly what you’re looking for.

    Scott

  7. Hi


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