Transcender developers discuss the behind-the-scenes development strategy for practice exams

January 17, 2013 at 9:55 am | Posted in Microsoft, Transcender news, Uncategorized, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Our partners at Global Knowledge recently sat down with several members of the Transcender practice test development team — specifically George, Aima, and Josh — and picked our brains about “how their practice exams are developed and how they have evolved to keep up with changes coming from Microsoft. In the end, we learned that there are major challenges in writing practice exams that accurately reflect and teach students important exam concepts, Microsoft is moving towards more open standards, and customer feedback is crucial to developing and evolving Transcender practice exams.”

You can read the entire article here on the Global Knowledge blog: The Evolution of Microsoft Certification Practice Exams.

Have your cake and online product too!

March 20, 2012 at 7:56 am | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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Ever wonder if we (Transcender) actually read your comments on our blog, or the feedback/suggestion emails you submit? I can tell you that we do, but I’d rather show you.

Check it out – combined delivery is here!

In response to your ever-evolving study habits, we have changed the way we deliver our product. Where previously you had to decide how you wanted to use our product before you bought it, now you can complete your purchase without having to commit to one delivery method. With combined delivery, you have access to both the installation version of our product and 90-day access to the online version. The content is exactly the same for both versions, the only thing that changes is where you are while you’re studying.

Our download product lets you install your practice test on 2 different computers, while the online product lets you access your practice test from anywhere, anytime as long as you have an internet connection. Should you want to access the online version beyond the 90-day period, just log in to your Club Account and check out your recently expanded extension options.

Not impressed yet? How about a $70 savings? Yep! We may have changed our delivery method, but we chose not to change our prices. Everything else in life is already so expensive, we thought we’d do something a little different. Combined delivery for a single price means you save about $70 when compared to buying these products separately. Happy studying!

What We’re Working on – Summer Wrap Up

August 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Transcender news | 7 Comments
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The last couple of months have brought a lot of changes to the IT certification landscape. We’ve seen exam prices rise, certification tracks retire, new exams release, and our very favorite – revisions to existing exams (sigh). Each of these exam changes requires us to pause our current projects, evaluate our products, and make any adjustments necessary to ensure you continue to pass your exams after studying with Transcender. Needless to say, it’s been a really long and very hot summer!

Let’s start with a quick product release recap, in case you missed our tweets & Facebook posts. Since June 2011 we’ve put out the following new and revised tests:

As for what we’re working on today, Bob is deep into the last couple of R2 updates for our Oracle practice test products. These updates continue to be just minor adjustments to clear out any deprecated features from the previous release version and ensure we’re referencing the most updated Oracle Guidebooks.

Robin is revising the last few items in our existing CISSP product before moving on to the PMP4ED revision. That revision will be based on updates we expect PMI to release at the end of this month, but there’s nothing we can share yet on that front.

What’s the rest of the team doing, you ask? Don’t worry, they’re not bored. George is working closely with our editor on the last few Exchange 2010 SP1 updates. Ann keeps these guys on a pretty short leash when it’s down to the wire, so I know George is looking forward to getting these revisions completed. Joshua is down to his last two projects for our Visual Studio 2010 practice test products.

Finally, in response to several emails from our customers, Troy determined that it might be time for an update to our CCNA exam. However, after sitting for the live exam and comparing it to our existing practice test, it looks like most of the topics currently covered on the exam are included in our practice test product. Instead of adding a lot of new concepts that you aren’t likely to be tested on, Troy will focus on the way we present the questions in our product, so it will better mirror what you’ll see on your exam.

While we’re on the subject, I cannot stress enough the importance of including lab practice in your CCNA study plan. Whether you purchase our CCNA simulator product, buy someone else’s, or set up your own switches and routers at home, please do not show up to at the test center without some real or virtual hands-on lab experience! This certification is designed to test real-world skills, not just book learning.

There are a couple of other practice test-related projects we’re working on, but it’s just too early to share any details here. Sorry for the tease, but I can tell you that a couple of upcoming release announcements are directly related to requests I’ve received from many of you over the last few months so I want to make sure you’re the first to hear of it! Check in with us over the next couple of months for more info.

–Aima Rotella

What We’re Working On – June Edition

June 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Microsoft, PMI, Transcender news | 9 Comments
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It’s not quite Summer Solstice, but many of us are already feeling the heat! The mercury isn’t the only thing rising around here. Gas prices are through the roof, airfare is at a pre-recession high, and soon the cost of some of your favorite IT exams will also rise. (For details, check Microsoft’s press release here: Microsoft exam prices will increase this summer – http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/btl/b/weblog/archive/2011/04/22/so-about-that-price-increase.aspx). So what are we doing this month to keep cool & help you save a few bucks?

As for those pesky exam price increases, be sure to check out our voucher packages between now and June 30th. If you shop before July 1st, you can lock down your Microsoft exam price at today’s rates. You have to commit to an exam attempt by October 31st (other restrictions may apply; check our web site for details), but if you’re already on the road to certification, then it’s worth the savings!

In response to several customer requests (THANKS for keeping us in the loop about your study habits & tools), we’re updating our Windows Server 2008 Study Guides for R2. Because of time & resource constraints, we’re limiting the updates to the TS-level products, since that’s where most of your concerns & questions have been focused. But remember, if you own pre-R2 versions of either the practice test product or the study guide, then you’re eligible for a free upgrade to the latest version. Log in to your Club Account to download updates, or contact our Customer Support team, who will be more than happy to talk you through the upgrade process.

George (gmonsalvatge) was finally set free from the grip of Windows Server 2008 R2 only to turn his attention to yet another Microsoft product update – Exchange Server 2010. After completing practice test content for his first SharePoint 2010 project, George turned his attention to SP1 revisions in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 products Cert-70-662 and Cert-70-663. Once these products are updated to reflect the latest revisions in the Microsoft exams, we’ll be sure to focus all our efforts on the PRO – Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator (70-668).

Josh (codeguru) has just sent the first Windows Application PRO practice test product to QA so we’re only a few days away from releasing Cert-70-518 C#/VB! We’re also just a couple of weeks away from releasing the first of our MCPD Upgrade to Visual Studio 2010, Cert-70-621 C#/VB products,  so look out for these additions to the Visual Studio path on our site soon.

A few more exams rocking our world this summer – CompTIA has released their new Security+ (SY0-301) exam, which means Robin is knee-deep in all things cloud computing, virutalization, and even an evil twin! Yes, we mean the wireless access point kind, not the Stanley Kubrick kind, but it’s still kind of interesting.  Troy is wrapping up our VCP-410 practice test product. This was one of those projects that made it on our project schedule due almost entirely to your requests, plus a bit of our own VMware curiosity.  So please keep those email requests coming, because I’m not kidding when I tell you we read & track every last one of your emails.

Finally, this one has been announced before, but worth mentioning again in case you missed Robin’s post – PMI has announced an update to their current PMP4ED exam, and to answer your questions, YES, we plan on revising our practice test to align with any changes in the exam domains.

And last, but certainly not least, a few non-product related events filling up our summer dance card – Cisco Live! (July 10-14), and CompTIA Breakaway (August 1-4). We plan to attend both of these shows and would love to hear if you plan to be there too. Shoot us an email and let us know which show(s) you’ll be attending this Summer, and if we’re there, we’d love to meet up!

Stay cool, stay hydrated & as always, thanks for reading!

~Aima

What We’re Working On – March Edition

March 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Transcender news | 9 Comments
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The only hint of Spring around here is the calendar reminder to spring forward our clocks this weekend. So I hope that as you read this from whatever part of the world you find yourself in today, you’re safe, warm, and studying hard.

As for the latest developments in Development (heh), we released a few things, we’re working on a few things, and we’re sitting & waiting on a few more things. But I won’t bore you with the details, so here are the highlights:

The recently revamped CCNP practice test products (ROUTE, SWITCH, TSHOOT) have been published and are available for purchase HERE:

The certification track has undergone a lot of change, but this new approach by Cisco seems well received by IT professionals. We’re curious to know: what do you think about the new 3-exam track? Are you a newbie to certification and feeling relieved because taking three exams sounds way better than taking four? Are you a CCNP veteran and just blasé, confused, or frustrated by yet another change to the track? Let us know with a comment here, or drop Troy (mcmillantroy) an email at troy.mcmillan@kaplan.com, as he’s always interested in hearing your feedback.

George (gmonsalvatge) has finally been freed from the grip of Windows Server 2008 R2 and is focused on finishing up a couple of SharePoint 2010 products. I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but it’s worth repeating here – the SharePoint 2010 products on our project schedule for this year are the TS – Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring (70-667) and the PRO – Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator (70-668). Some of you have emailed to request the Developer practice products for this track, but as of this post those particular tests have not made it onto our 2011 project plan. But keep sending me your emails if you’re looking for study materials for 70-573 or 70-576. I really do track our customer’s interests. I take your requests and add them into our backlog so whenever we have some wiggle room in our schedule, I know exactly what you’re looking for us to publish!

Josh (codeguru) has successfully tackled through the most difficult topics in the 70-516 C#/VB practice test and is now breezing through the last few sub-objectives to wrap up development on this one and move on to the Windows Application PRO practice test product. The order of attack for the remaining practice test products in this track remains as follows:

  1. 70-518
  2. 70-521
  3. 70-519
  4. 70-523

What we really had fun with the last few weeks was the CompTIA A+ refresh videos. Well, fun for us, but torture for Robin, who (it turns out) hates hearing her recorded voice…honestly, that only made it funnier! But that’s neither here nor there. What I wanted to share with everyone was the link to all 4 videos on our YouTube channel. The conversations aren’t very long, and they’re certainly not boring. What they are is informative. You’ll get to see these two brainiacs sharing their knowledge about A+ exam history, trends, changes and its future. Don’t bother checking out this series if you’re looking for test questions and answers – we take our NDAs very seriously around here. But do take a few minutes to listen if you’re getting ready for the A+ exams or even if you have your A+ certification and want to stay on top of new topics.

One last thing, speaking of new topics – our friends at Train Signal (with the help of their friend Mike Rodriguez) posted a great list of March certification updates. Let me know if anything in this write-up catches your eye. There are a few things that were already on our radar, but our opinion isn’t the only one that counts around here, so can’t wait to here what you think.

Thanks for reading & happy Spring!

~Aima

What We’re Working On – February Edition

February 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Transcender news | 10 Comments
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We had so much news to share in January that it’s hard to believe it’s time to recap what we’re working on in FEBRUARY.

From looking at our 2011 Development Calendar, I think it’s safe to say we have a jam-packed year ahead. But as always, things change so quickly in this business that I’ll limit the news in this post to the line-up we currently have in development. I’ll start with the most requested products: Windows Server 2008 R2 updates and Visual Studio 2010.

George called in some favors and has Troy helping him with the last few R2 updates for the Cert-70-646 and Cert-70-647 exams. Both of these updates are scheduled to release at the end of February. As George discussed in his previous post, if you already purchased these products, you can log into your Club Account at the end of the month to look for updates. If you’re waiting for the updates to roll out before buying a practice test, you can find out when the new version is released by checking the product description on our Web site. We’ve kept the Marketing team busy, and they’ve updated all product descriptions to include R2 as the new versions become available for sale.

Josh will finish up the VS 2010 practice tests. The 70-513 C# and 70-513 VB are available now, and the 70-516 will be released next month. The order of attack for the remaining practice test products in this track will be as follows:

  1. 70-518
  2. 70-521
  3. 70-519
  4. 70-523

I’m hoping Josh doesn’t check out this blog post because he’s focusing on one project schedule at a time, and I’m afraid seeing this list in writing may cause some anxiety.

You’ve probably read Robin’s posts about the A+ refresh, so it should come as no surprise that her first priority this year is to ensure that our practice tests adequately cover any new content being tested on the exams. As is usual practice here, we will wait to confirm that changes in the CompTIA exam are available nationwide and/or globally before releasing any new content in our practice tests, but since Robin’s made a lot of progress already, those A+ revisions to our products should release within days of the new exam content hitting test centers! Keep checking back with us, or ask Robin directly, and we’ll let you know as soon as we know regarding a release date.

Finally, our Oracle 11g practice tests products are getting a facelift. Most of this product line has been on the shelf for a while and it didn’t take us long to get Bob his very own project blueprint and schedule. He’ll be identifying the Release 2 version changes in the Oracle exams against our practice test content and closing any content gaps in our products. We should release the first revision, Cert-1Z0-051, by mid-March.

That covers the most recent projects & customer requests I’ve received, but if there’s a specific exam you’re studying for or a track you’re looking to explore this year, feel free to email us through the Transcender site or drop a comment at the end of this post. Either way, your emails always make their way to someone on this team and we’ll give you the most updated information we have regarding practice test products.

Thanks for reading & stay warm!
~ Aima

Bringing a new Oracle (expert) into the fold

January 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Oracle, Transcender news | Leave a comment
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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Winter’s in the air (and on the ground – our Atlanta office is into it’s 2nd snow day and if I don’t see ice melting soon we may really have a state of emergency in my house!)

…but where was I?
Oh yeah, it’s a new year, but first, out with the old:

We had some growing pains in 2010 as we tried to expand into different business areas and take on new projects all while maintaining a growing product line of certification practice tests. Although I feel we did a stellar job of keeping a positive attitude and our eyes on the prize, we at Kaplan IT Learning were not immune to the effects of a hurting economy. Yet through it all, we managed to exceed our production goals and maintain the high quality customer support our students have come to expect from this team.

Which brings us to the new:

It is with GREAT pleasure that we welcome a new addition to our Product Development team this year! Please help us give a warm welcome to Bob Bungenstock, our new Oracle content developer. Bob comes to us with almost 15 years of technical training experience with Oracle Corporation, where his training responsibilities included SQL, PL/SQL, DBA Admin and Performance Tuning courses throughout North America and Asia. Since leaving Oracle, Bob has held a position as Visiting Professor at DeVry University in Atlanta. I could continue to bore you with all his professional credentials, or we could get to the good stuff.

We’ve been doing our homework and have found out that although he’s got family ties to Ohio, Bob’s NOT a Buckeye fan, but prefers the Big 12’s Sooners. It may not be the SEC, but at least he’s not another Buckeye. We have plenty of those in the office already, and we were in need of a little balance in the scale. Besides our “competitive spirit”, we also enjoy a sense of humor and during his first week here Bob shared this book after a conversation with Troy. It only took reading the first couple of entries to know that Bob would fit right in!

Look out for his first blog contribution later this week where he’ll get the chance to introduce himself and get to know some of you through your questions & comments.

As always, thanks for reading along and we look forward to hearing about your continued IT success in 2011!

What We’re Working On – Fall Edition

September 29, 2010 at 9:59 am | Posted in Cisco, Microsoft, Transcender news | 10 Comments
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I’ve been taught that honesty is the best policy, so allow me to be honest with you here. I honestly enjoy sharing news on what we’re doing and planning to do every month. I honestly enjoy receiving and replying to your questions & comments. But, in all honesty, there is no way I’ll have the opportunity to coherently describe the projects we’ll be working on over the next three months, knowing all that’s involved in closing out 2010. I hate to admit it, but since we’re being honest and all…

To that end, I’ve decided to lay it all out for you here & now, as this may be the last good block of time (and sanity) I have before I lose all touch with reality as we make our race to the 2010 finish line.

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Here’s what hit the shelves in August:

Now for NEW news. Several people have asked,

“What happened to those SharePoint 2010 products George was working on in August?”

Great question! George was well on his way to meeting, if not beating, his deadlines for the 70-667 practice test product when we heard about R2 updates to the Server 2008 exams. Review and revisions of the 70-640, 70-642 & 70-643 have now taken priority, forcing us to postpone the release of SharePoint products. George’s primary focus for the next few weeks is comparing our current Windows Server 2008 products against the most updated Skills lists and ensuring that our practice test product continues to offer the information you need to pass your exams! The 70-640 updates should release in the next 2 weeks, but as this and the others hit the shelves, we’ll be sure to notify you via Twitter and on our Web site.

The second most popular question since our August post is,

“Where are those new Visual Studio products Josh is working on?”

Another great question! Josh delivered his last bit of content for the 70-511 practice test product to our Editor, and that project should be in the production phase by next week, meaning we should release by early October. Meanwhile, Josh is a few questions into the 70-515. Either he has found this subject matter easier or he’s just exhausted, but he hasn’t been mumbling to himself half as much since he started this project. In any case, the 70-515 practice test should release in early November.

I should also mention that we’re just days away from releasing the Cisco CCNP 642-813, SWITCH practice test. I’m really excited about both the ROUTE and SWITCH practice products. Troy’s goal was to make the CCNP line as solid as the CCNA products and so far it looks like he’s spot on. Troy & team have since moved on to focus the development efforts on the TSHOOT product. If you’re familiar with the exam or even seen the Cisco training, you’ll understand the monumental undertaking this is. We’ll keep you guys updated on the progress for this one and when we have a better handle on a release date, we’ll be sure to share that with you.

Last, but certainly not least, we appreciate you sticking with us as the weather turns from toasty to frosty. So while you make plans to buckle up this season and finally take that certification exam you’ve put off all year, we’d like to save you a few bucks. Check out our 2-Day Transcender sale!

~Happy Testing!
aima

What We’re Working On – August Edition

August 10, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Performance-Based Testing, Transcender news | 7 Comments
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So while August will be all about staying indoors & enjoying the air conditioned office while working on finalizing products for SharePoint, .NET, and Microsoft Office, July was all about new releases. In case you missed any, here’s what just hit our virtual shelves:

Assuming we don’t melt from the sweltering summer sun, we’ve got big plans for August!

A few members of our team got their first look at the Microsoft Office 2010 Word and Excel exams (and PASSED). Considering that our closest certified test center offering these exams is almost 2 hours away – and a huge thank you! to our new friends at Berry College –  it’s quite the accomplishment to claim multiple Office 2010-certified developers on the team. They ROCK. With that said, I know some of you have been patiently waiting for Office 2010 practice test products, but I don’t have details on release dates to share just yet. We’re committed to delivering the Microsoft Office live-in-the-app experience (great!), so the development process for these products is a bit different (read: longer; not so great), but we hope to have something on the shelves before end of year.

What I can share details about is that we’ve made significant progress in a few other areas that you guys have been busy asking us about – CCNP, Visual Studio 2010, and SharePoint 2010. We’re just a few days away from the release of the Cert-642-902 (ROUTE) practice test for the new CCNP track. This product and with the SWITCH product were given top priority over the last 3 weeks, which means Troy and Ann are rarely allowed out of their chairs if there’s a practice test item/answer/tutorial waiting for their edits or approval. But the torture is only temporary and it means we expect to release the ROUTE product by August 13th, and the 642-913 practice test by September 2nd.

Joshua is glad to finally have a project plan for the new Visual Studio 2010 with .NET 4.0 practice test products, or at least a plan that hasn’t changed in the last 7 days! I admit, we had a couple of rounds of musical chairs with his list of priorities, but I think we finally settled on a release order and schedule that makes the most sense based on what you guys showed us you needed when studying for .NET 3.0 and 3.5. We absolutely take customer feedback into account when we order our development priorities. So we aim to release the 70-511 practice test this month, after which Joshua will move on to the 70-515 and then the 70-513. The goal is to release as many of the TS certification practice products by the end of the year as we can (while keeping as much of Joshua’s sanity intact as we can).

For CompTIA certification details, I’ll point you to Robin’s Linux+ post here. The LX0-101 practice test product is in QA and within days of release, while Robin is already about 1/3 of the way through writing items for the LX0-102. Look for a new vendor track (LPI) to be added to our Web site when the new Linux+ products release. We want to make sure everyone looking for Linux+ certification study materials understands the new partnership between CompTIA and LPI, so we’ll provide the practice tests under BOTH CompTIA and LPI vendor track names in hopes of easing the search. But if, like me, you have moments of complete confusion over the abundance of certification changes this year, feel free to check out Robin’s blog posts, or shoot us an email with your questions!

–Aima Rotella

What We’re Working On – July Edition

July 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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So it’s taken me well into July to realize I never shared what we were working on this summer! It’s been a busy few weeks since our last recap, and it’s looking like it’ll be a busy end to 2010, so let me share our July To-Do list before another month gets away from us.

George and Robin learned a great deal at Microsoft TechEd 2010 last month, and brought home a laundry list of topics for our team to address. At the top of that list was your interest in SharePoint 2010 certifications. So we’ve added a couple of Administrator exams to our project plans, and hope to roll these out (70-667 & 70-668) starting in the fall. In the meantime, George will work on releasing the Windows 7 upgrade product for Microsoft exam 70-682.

Robin made a quick transition from TechEd to CompTIA, and is near the finish line for the first of two new Linux+ products (LX0-101 and LX0-102)! For a quick reminder of the latest changes in the Linux+ world, check out Robin’s post or the CompTIA site, http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed/linux.aspx.

Another request we’ve been receiving regularly since TechEd is for the new Visual Studio 4.0 practice tests. Josh is all over these. In May, we reported his complete immersion in these beta tests, and he barely caught his breath before the exams went live. But he took a couple of days to sort through the resource material and is focused on releasing the first TS practice test, 70-511, by August 2010.

In case you missed our tweet, the 70-686 practice test (PRO: Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Administrator) released last week. Best of luck to those of you going the PRO route! Aside from the usual relief that comes with crossing another project off the list, this release also brings Troy back to full-time Cisco focus. With Cisco Live breathing new life into your requests for CCNP practice tests, Troy has submitted a solid project plan to get the best product to you in the shortest amount of time. He’ll be busy authoring content this month for an early August release of the new ROUTE practice test.

In other news, I wanted to thank you for the all the Twitter & Blog love in June! We hope to make it as easy as possible for you guys to share your questions/concerns with our team directly, and having you connect through Twitter during the week our guys were at TechEd really made us feel like we could be in a hundred places at once & not miss a thing! Your comments and questions posted to our blog also help us learn what topics we should address next here and what posts haven’t quite clarified things for you. So keep those coming; let us know what you want to read about next.

Last note for this month:
I’ve gotten quite a few requests for the new Microsoft Office 2010 practice test products. Unfortunately, I’ve had to reply to most of you by saying that the products are on our calendar, but we don’t have release dates yet. I hate to be so vague, but honestly, it’s been a bit of a mission to find a facility where we can take these exams, and we have no intention of developing a practice product for a test we’ve never seen. So bear with us for a couple more weeks while we sort out vouchers, test center availability, and project blueprints, and as soon as we have a schedule in place, we’ll let you guys know when those products will hit our shelves.

Until next month – grab your shades, lather on the sunscreen & enjoy your summer!

–Aima Rotella

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