Windows IT Library UPDATE, April 16, 2003

MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram2

Authors: Dan Balter and Derek Melber
Publisher: Que Certification
Published: November 2002
ISBN: 0789728745 Paperback, 512 pages plus companion CD-ROM
Price: $29.99

If you want to attain Microsoft certification to help your career prospects, but you're not sure how to get started, one potential source of help is the "Exam Cram" series of books ( ). One of these books, and the concentration of this review, is "MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram2." This book is for IT professionals who want to pass the first of Microsoft's four core OS exams: Exam 70-270 Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional.

If you've never taken a Microsoft certification exam, I recommend that you read the book's introduction first. The introduction discusses what the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) system entails and provides overviews of the certifications that are currently available: the MCP certification; the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification; the MCSE certification; the MCSD certification; and the Microsoft Certified DBA (MCDBA) certification. For more details about these different certifications, visit the official Microsoft Training & Certification site (

The book's introduction also lists additional materials and resources that can help you prepare for the exam. The list of resources includes Microsoft training kits, the monthly Microsoft TechNet CD-ROM, other relevant study guides, and formal classroom training that Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs) or third-party training companies offer. The book's introduction concludes with advice about how to register with a testing center and how to track your MCP status after you've passed a certification exam.

Be aware that the authors didn't intend that the book cover everything you'll need to know about Windows XP Professional Edition to pass the certification exam. The authors had two major goals for the book: to "present and dissect the questions and problems we've found that you're likely to encounter on a test" and to "bring together as much information as possible about Microsoft certification exams." I believe that the authors have achieved both of those goals. To get the most out of this book, you should use it for test preparation and review, not to learn the concepts you'll need to know to pass the exam.

After you've read the introduction, the authors suggest that you take the accompanying self-assessment test. This self-assessment will help you determine how ready you are to take the XP Pro certification exam. Taking a certification exam isn't cheap, so you need to be well prepared if you hope to pass the first time.

"MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram2" contains 12 chapters, including "Installing, Configuring, and Troubleshooting Hardware Devices and Drivers," "Implementing, Managing, and Troubleshooting Network Protocols and Services," and "System Monitoring, Performance Optimization, and Recovery Features." You can find out more about the book's contents by visiting the Que Publishing Web site ( ). To find the book's Web page, initiate a search by using the ISBN number (0789728745). You'll be able to read a sample chapter, "Establishing, Configuring, and Managing Resources." The sample chapter doesn't include the chapter title. To find the sample chapter, you have to first click on the "Managing Access to Shared Folders" link. Links to sections in the chapter are included: "Managing Access to Shared Folders"; "Monitoring, Managing, and Troubleshooting Access to Files and Folders"; "Managing and Troubleshooting Web Server Resources"; "Managing Local and Network Print Devices"; "Practice Questions"; and "Need to Know More?" This book's Web pages could have been presented better.

Each of the book's chapters follows a similar structure and is comprised of the following components:

  • Opening hotlists--These lists contain terms and phrases that you should understand, as well as a list of techniques that you need to master. For example, to install and deploy XP Pro, you should be familiar with dynamic updates, the Sysprep tool, and the User State Migration Tool (USMT), and you should know how to use Sysprep to create an image.
  • Topical coverage--The bulk of each chapter concentrates on the various topics associated with that chapter's subject matter. For example, in the chapter about implementing and managing user and desktop settings, topics include fast user switching, synchronizing offline files and folders, and the Control Panel Sounds and Audio Devices applet.
  • Practice questions--So that you can test your knowledge after reading a chapter, each chapter ends with a series of relevant questions.
  • Details and resources--To point you in the right direction for additional study material, each chapter contains a useful "Need to Know More?" section. This section lists the details of both Microsoft and third-party resources and typically includes Web site addresses and the titles of books and CD-ROMs.

The book's authors, Dan Balter and Derek Melber, are experienced technical trainers and consultants. You can learn more about Melber by visiting the BrainCore.Net site ( ); you can learn more about Balter on the InfoTechnology Partners site ( The editor of the "Exam Cram" series, Ed Tittel, is also an accomplished IT author, with more than 20 years of experience in the computing industry.

The book's companion CD-ROM contains a preview edition of a practice test for the Microsoft Windows XP Professional certification exam from PrepLogic ( ), a provider of certification training tools and practice exam software. As you progress through the sample questions, you'll see how well you perform under exam conditions by watching the time count down. Or you might prefer to work through each test question and check your answer immediately. After you've completed the questions, you can have the test exam graded. The CD-ROM lists details of how to purchase the full version of the practice exam. The CD-ROM also contains the entire contents of the book in PDF format.

As a bonus, "MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram2" includes a removable cram sheet. The cram sheet is a collection of key facts about XP Pro that have been assembled from different parts of the book. The cram sheet is a useful tool for reviewing vital information before you take the certification exam.

You can browse through the complete list of books in the "Exam Cram" series by going to the Exam Cram Web site. While there, you can also take advantage of the site's other certification aids and resources. For example, you can stay focused on your certification goals by signing up for an "Exam Cram 2 question of the day." If you do, you'll receive email messages containing questions that pertain only to the exam or exams for which you're currently preparing. Another helpful resource on the Exam Cram site is the Certification Center, in which you can read articles and engage in discussions about the different aspects of certification.

As you prepare for your exam, you should acknowledge that earning the XP Pro certification would require more than simply showing up for the exam. In fact, Balter and Melber strongly suggest that you be "keenly aware that it does take time, involves some expense, and requires real effort to get through the process." Their book represents an excellent resource to help you reach your goal of becoming a Microsoft-certified XP professional.

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