The self-study prep approach has the advantages of being entirely self-driven and the most inexpensive overall strategy by far. The primary disadvantage is that self-study candidates don't have access to an experienced, knowledgeable instructor or mentor who can help them solve problems, answer questions or clarify matters as needed.
The ingredients required for self-study prep are as follows:
- One or more study guides, available from publishers or providers for most Microsoft certification exams.
- One or more sets of practice exams, available from practice test providers for all Microsoft certification exams, though coverage may vary from vendor to vendor).
- A home practice lab or equivalent set-up to enable hands-on exposure to Microsoft systems and software. This is where Windows 2003 has an advantage over Windows 2000, because free evaluation copies of the newer platform are still easily available online whereas Microsoft no longer offers free evaluations for older Windows versions. Windows XP evals are no longer free, so it may be necessary to purchase a copy of Windows XP Professional as part of your prep toolkit. Virtual PC software, like VMWare or Microsoft's Virtual PC/Virtual Server offerings, make it possible to emulate multiple-server environments using only one or two PCs.
- (Optional) A focused refresher/reviewer/tune-up tool, like an Exam Cram 2 title for help prepping and drilling for Microsoft exams.
10 PREP STEPS TO THE MCSA AND MCSE CERTIFICATION
Step 01: Choose your target Windows version
Step 02: Establish exam choices and order
Step 03: Deal with the desktop first
Step 04: Security options may appeal
Step 05: Digging into server and admin requirements
Step 06: Complete outstanding electives (optional)
Step 07: Completing the Core Exam (MCSE only)
Step 08: Prepping for individual exams (The self-study prep approach)
Step 09: Prepping for individual exams (The class-driven prep approach)
Step 10: Best exam prep practices
This was first published in March 2005