Tons of Fun: Pass That Exam! MCSE in a Box
Some vendors suggest you can become an MCSE simply by working through their massive bundles of books, CDs, and practice exams. But can you? We'll tell you which products really pull their weight.
We live in an age where one-stop shopping is the preferred
purchasing method. All you need to do is head down to
your local Wal-Mart Supercenter for a 31-inch TV, diapers,
and a gallon of milk, while you simultaneously let them
rotate your tires and develop your baby pictures.
Now the technical professional has a similar resource.
With the growing popularity of the MCSE certification,
many companies now offer what has come to be known as
the “MCSE-in-a-box” approach. These sometimes-behemoth
study kits promise everything you need to obtain your
NT education and MCSE certification. No more searching
for the right study guide and practice exam product. No
more wondering what test to take next. And no more excuses!
In this evaluation, we look at seven products that purport
to teach you all of it. We chose these products for review
specifically because they offer the promise of a complete
education—lessons, quizzes, hands-on labs, sundry
exercises, and practice exams. Note that with all of these
products, (with the exception of the product by Microsoft
Press) the one thing that isn’t in the box is the
product software you’ll need to get hands-on experience.
For that, if you’re not running the products, you
can use the 120-day evaluations that Microsoft offers
at seminars and throughout its Web site.
Makes Up an MCSE in a Box?
|The products evaluated here
vary in components and content. But all
have one thing in common: They provide
comprehensive training materials to help
you prepare for the core exams for the
MCSE title. The core exams include:
- 70-058, Networking Essentials
- 70-064, Windows 95, or 70-073, NT
- 70-067, NT Server 4.0
- 70-068, NT 4.0 in the Enterprise
Several also cover elective exams to
help you complete your certification.
The most common electives addressed
by these products include (but aren’t
- 70-053, TCP/IP on NT 4.0
- 70-077, Internet Information Server
3.0, or 70-087, Internet Information
While buying by the pound can save money (as shown by
our special pricing chart), it won’t necessarily
enhance your study process. The fact is, individual products
don’t always meld well even when joined together
in the same box. As our reviewers found, the mix can become
boring for the student to work through.
Likewise, the price of a bundle isn’t always a measure
of its true value. One of the least expensive products
reviewed here gets the highest marks.
if pur-chased sepa-rately
and accu-racy (B)
ques-tions for exam prep? (D)
prep or exam prep?
|IDG Books Worldwide
Core Requirements Study Kit
|2 books: NT suite, NE
Complete, compre-hensive, and readable;
labs are well thought out.
Value of CDs appears to consist in
allowing you to install Internet Explorer,
so you can go on the Web and get up-to-date
MCSE Exam Training Series with MasterExam
$1,899.95 for CDs or videos; $1,995.95
for a bundle that includes Sybex study
|30 CDs: NT suite, NE, TCP/IP,
Good multimedia presentations. Handy
interact feature. Decent exercises.
MasterExam provides accurate measurement
of your readiness for real exam.
Awful setup program and lousy searching.
Superficial treatment of subject.
Certified Systems Engineer Core Requirements
|4 books: NT suite, NE
The Gospel according to Microsoft.
It would be pretty embarrassing if something
were on the test and not in here. Plus,
you get evaluation version of the product.
Lots of redundancy and methodo-logical
inconsis-tencies among volumes. CDs
(other than the product evals) add little
value. Visual presentation (user interface)
|New Riders Publishing
|2 CDs and 2 workbooks
Navigator is great! If you happen to
skip ahead, you always know what you
have left and where you stand.
Exam prep questions need improvement.
Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea
to make the online study guide more
product-oriented instead of just exam-oriented.
|PC Age, Inc.
|One CD: NT 4.0 suite, NE,
TCP/IP 4.0, IIS 4.0
||Less than 1 lb.
Good study material. Nice testing engine.
Exam-specific throughout. Easy to use.
Simulations are too picky about mouse
clicks/ keystrokes. No search capabilities
in study material. Not all test explanations
have cross-references to study material.
|Sybex Network Press
Core Requirements, Second Edition
|4 books: NT suite, NE
||Slightly better for technical
prep than exam prep
Information is thorough and accurate.
Well-designed exercises. Lots of exam
Exam-specific material is scattered
throughout book and isn’t indexed.
No explanations provided for answers
to review questions. CDs are difficult
$1,995 complete; $1,295 limited
|Complete version: 9 books,
1 CD, online training access, digital
upgrades. Limited version doesn’t
include online training or upgrades.
||$1,995 for complete version
Something for everyone. Entire system
designed so that you not only prepare
for exam, you also acquire in-depth
knowledge of the products. Plus, training
manuals provide an excellent desk reference.
Tools seem fresh out of production.
Additionally, test engine is difficult
to navigate and the review section provides
no help for wrong answers.
A. How closely does the product map
to exam objectives?
B. Is the product error-free and accurate?
C. Does the product give you good value
for its price and quality?
D. Are there sample questions that map
to the exam or help you prepare for
NT 4.0 suite includes modules
for NT Workstation, NT Server, and NT
Server in the Enterprise exams.
NE = Networking Essentials; IIS
= Internet Information Server
Each of our reviewers holds at least an MCSE title. Their
job was to evaluate each bundle inside and out, then gauge
its relative worth for two groups of people: those seeking
an education in NT from the ground up, and those already
working in the field but wanting to get certified. The
real finds in this group of products do both well.