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Student Diary: Win2K Server Exam

Lessons on the way to studying for the Win2K Server exam

Week One

  • It has action. (Oops, I didn't mean to replicate that.)
  • It has adventure. (Help, I can't see the forest for the trees. AD joke. Hur, hur.)
  • It has romance. OK, it's me ... but there possibly could be romance. (Could win the lottery and finish my Ph.D., as well.)
  • There are 5 aliens named Stu. (I made that up as well.)

In last week's episode, Orin (that's me) passed his Win2K Professional Exam. Now our trusty adventurer has his sights set on the Win2K Server exam. Armed with several different truckloads of evaluation CDs containing Win2K Server and Advanced Server (OK, roughly 3 CDs, so it is a small truck), his Win2K Server test preparation book from Microsoft, the Win2K Server Resource Kit, Minasi's resource kit, TechNet, Cram Session, and some Questions of the Day, his journey begins.

Week Two
Well, in a week during which my maternal grandmother died, I didn't accomplish as much studying as I hoped I might. Got the evaluation version that came with Exchange Beta (or was that SQL Server 2000 Beta) installed at home, so I’m playing with that. Still trying to decide what to do about DHCP. I've just got my cable Internet connection working through my Win2K Pro box, hence using ICS means that Win2K Pro is shunting out DHCP IDs to my Linux box as well as my dual-boot Win2K Pro/Win2K Server box.

Setup told me that to run AD I'd need DNS/DHCP on the same box. So I realize that the DHCP on the Win2K Pro ICS box is more a Clayton's DHCP. Anyway, it will probably be worth moving the cable across to the Win2K Server at some stage and using IP routing.

Doing a heap of reading. Ran through the practice exam on Hoping that Jon Bischke will get a Win2K Server exam up on soon. Got a fair amount of practice questions coming into my mailbox from various places.

I'd love to know what people think of the Sybex Win2K Server Study Guide. The only review up on Amazon is pretty darn positive. I don't believe that Jon has a review of the book up on 2000tutor. Hmmm, looks like this puppy has some Palm Pilot flash cards. I'm always a sucker for Palm Pilot extras.

I am thinking of booking in for September 28. The material doesn't seem to have the culture shock value of Win2K Pro. AD, GPO, and RIS are all somewhat more familiar when you've faced them in an exam situation before.

Week Three
Well, this week I was lucky enough to get caught up in the Transcender Beta Tests. I'm beta testing the product for 215 and 216. They have some pretty stringent requirements for testers, so I spent most of the last few days writing a report on the 215 product. I have to get one done for 216 as well. The other requirement is that I have to sit both exams before the end of the 3rd week of October. So I'm booked in for Server on the 29th of this month, and I suppose I had better provisionally book 216 in for sometime around the October 20. No rest for the wicked.

Still not comfortable with all the applications of GPOs and DFS stuff. There is only so much you can do on a small test network in terms of practical testing. This is where I'm going to be spending more time in the next week. Perhaps more so than Win2K Pro, there is a lot of knowledge from the NT 4.0 MCSE in this test. Maybe even as high as 30 percent.

This exam, though, feels more like NT 4.0 Server and NT 4.0 SITE combined rather than just Server by itself. Anyway, I'll report on my progress again next week.

Week Four
Having the Olympics on is really harming my ability to study. You don't want to watch it, but you leave the TV on anyway. Then you find yourself looking away from the computer screen toward the TV.

Finished my beta report for Transcender, so part of this week was spent studying for 216 as well as 215. I think 216 is definitely the more difficult exam, although it mostly seems like a rehash of CCNA material (without the Cisco focus).

No matter how many times I read about group policy, part of it isn't sticking in my brain. I suspect I need a huge Win2K network and some users to torment with it before I'll be fully comfortable with it. It just isn't something that you can simulate with five boxes of various OSs at home. The sorts of questions I'm looking at require a fairly large implementation. Of course I have a big network at work to torment users with, but that's just tormenting them with NT. I think I can inspire a whole different sort of terror with Win2K.

Resource Kit is becoming more and more my friend, especially the CD that comes with it. The books are a bit of a chore to cart around! Having the 3 CDs for Minasi, Resource Kit, and Training Kits definitely make life a lot easier.

I've been a bit dissuaded from relying heavily on the Training Kit given the negative comments that I've heard about it on this site. I am also considering the Sybex option for 216 because it doesn't seem that the Exam Cram/Exam Prep I ordered will be released by the time I take that exam.

(Transcender wants you to take the exam before a certain date if you beta test their product, hence I am sitting 216 sometime around October 21.)

So this weekend will be practice exams, practice exams, practice exams. Intrinsically, none of this seems particularly difficult—and it does tend to build again on the MCSE NT 4.0.

I guess one thing that vaguely annoys me is that I have yet to see many exam questions that bring out fundamentally cool solutions to problems. I guess what I'm talking about here is systems administrator creativity. The sorts of problems that you are solving in these exams are similar in style to the sorts you solved in the NT 4.0 track. It’s just the application of the solution that is different (i.e., you want to restrict this user or group of users from accessing that file or you want to stop this group of people hitting this area of the Web site).

It hasn't bought home to me the beauty, if any, of the new product. No "Wow, look how cool this solution is to that old kludgy problem!" My impression is that, for the most part, where Win2K shines in the ability to apply a solution is something that you won't be tested on in an exam at this level.

This may change as I go further and further into AD, Network Design, and Security Design. But my feeling about the Network area, at this stage, is that you'd have to be seriously fruity to prefer a Win2K box as a router to a Cisco (or Lucent) piece of technology. But I'll rant about that in another article.

Week Five
OK, I dunno if it’s just me, but this exam seemed significantly simpler than Win2K Pro. It hardly seemed like a systems administration exam at all. It was almost a tech support exam.

Instead of questions being seemingly randomly placed, there was a definite theme to each part of the exam. Now we'll talk about RAS, now we will talk about RAID.

It almost seemed as though this was not about Win2K at all. More like someone had put a coat of paint on NT 4.0.

I won't go to the point of saying that if you've ever even been in the same room as a Win2K Server, you'll pass this exam. That wouldn't be true. I didn't get a perfect score, but I know where I fell down, and where I fell down was in areas that were more about installing and configuring hardware than user/system/resource administration/management.

It wouldn't be such a stretch to take this exam back-to-back with Win2K Pro, assuming that you'd done some online practice tests for both. The practice exams are somewhere around the same level as the real exams.

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