Cert21–Ready for Prime Time?
Will Cert21’s Web-based practice exams lead you to certification success?
- By James Carrion
- January 01, 2002
Prospective MCPs who wish to prepare for the Windows 2000 certification
track by taking practice exams have many products from which to choose,
and an increasing number of these products are Web-based. If you like
the idea of taking practice exams across the Internet, you may have come
across Cert21.com while looking for Web-based products. This month, I
put Cert21.com to the test and give you the skinny on whether or not it
can help you pass your Win2K exams and whether the site lives up to Cert21’s
claim of being the most realistic practice-exam site around.
When you navigate to the Cert21.com home page, you can choose from a variety
of certification exam programs, including the Microsoft MCSE, MCSD and
MOUS tracks. I chose the MCSE track and was presented with 18 MCSE exams,
including the core Win2K exams, as well as numerous electives. The exams
vary in the number of questions in the database. For example, each of
the four Win2K core exams has more than 200 questions available. I looked
at the 70-210 Win2K Professional exam, which had a total of 380 questions.
Practice exams can be taken in one of two modes: Practice Mode (Figure
1) or Test Mode. In Practice Mode, I was able to take four exams comprising
95 questions each. The order of questions and the answers are randomized
to ensure you don’t memorize question or answer location. You can change
the number of questions you want presented, as well as change the amount
of time the practice exam will last. As an option, you can turn off the
timer altogether. You can also change the scoring method from “Standard”
to “Partial Credit” to simulate Microsoft’s practice of allowing for partial
question credit on some of the Win2K exams.
|Figure 1. In Practice Mode, the Cert21 tests
have a basic test interface that allows you to peek at the answer.
(Click image to view larger version.)
I found the test engine interface to be simple, yet functional. When
you start an exam, each question has basic navigation buttons so you can
move through the questions at will. There is a “Show Answer” button, which
gives you a peek at the correct answer. There’s also a “Comments” button
where you can provide feedback to Cert21.com on a question with which
you disagree or find ambiguous. I can only hope that Cert21.com actively
reviews this feedback and that the questions in the database are refined
Test Mode, as shown in Figure 2, is designed to simulate the real exam
with the approximate number of questions and time duration of the real
exam. It uses the same basic interface as Practice Mode, minus the “Show
Answer” button. In either mode, you don’t know if you answered a question
correctly (unless, of course, you peek in Practice Mode) until you reach
the end of the exam and it’s scored. You can mark questions at any time
for later review during the review session prior to ending the exam, just
as you can in the real thing. After the exam is over and it’s been scored,
you can also review any incorrect answers.
|Figure 2. Here is a fairly simple question in
Test Mode. Note that there’s no way to peek at the answer in this
mode. (Click image to view larger version.)
I found the technical content to be fairly accurate, with the exception
of an occasional ambiguous question here and there. I also found that
most of the Win2K Professional exam objectives were represented in the
pool of questions I reviewed. I didn’t find the questions themselves to
be complex or difficult to answer—most of them were straightforward and
simple. The question explanations were a little short and could be expanded
upon to provide detail for not only why the correct answers are correct,
but why the incorrect ones aren’t. Most of the questions were structured
like flashcard questions—simple questions with one-line simple answers,
not quite as difficult as the real exam questions, but adequate for testing
your knowledge of the subject.
|Cert21.com Web Based Practice Exams,
30-day unlimited access subscription—$25 average price
(based on number of questions in database)
There are a handful of questions in which the question and answer explanations
have external links to Microsoft technical reference documents. This is
a nice touch, but I estimated that less than 5 percent of the questions
in the database had such links. In addition, some of the links didn’t
work, apparently because Microsoft has a tendency to restructure content
on its Web site quite often. Cert21.com should add more links to its questions
so that the practice exam not only tests your knowledge but also serves
as an active learning tool for building your Win2K knowledge.
Room for Improvement
Cert21.com has done a nice job with its Web-based practice exams. The
exams are especially useful as a flashcard quizzer to test your knowledge
of Win2K subject matter before you take that final trip to the testing
center. Cert21.com needs to beef up the question explanations and links
to external technical references to make the exams effective, knowledge-building
tools. The exams do offer solid coverage of the Win2K exam objectives.
I don’t think I would characterize these exams as the most realistic practice
exams available, but they’re a good start.