IT Certification and Training Blog

3 Microsoft Exams’ Inner Mechanics

Posted by Kelson Lawrence on May 13, 2015 10:07:00 AM

How to Become a Microsoft Certified Professional

3.4. How to Work with Boson’s ExSim-Max for Microsoft Products

In the two preceding blog posts of this series (Section 3.3 Part 1 and Part 2), we discussed how to identify legitimate practice-exam products and recognize braindumps. Another important issue in those posts was how to determine which legitimate products are better than others. In this post, we’ll take a brief tour of Boson’s ExSim-Max for Microsoft line of products.

3.4.1. ExSim-Max for Microsoft—Introduction

ExSim-Max is the designation for Boson’s top-of-the-line practice-exam products. They are developed by writers who are experts in their respective subject areas and who work directly for Boson. Before an ExSim-Max product sees the light of day, it is put through the most stringent set of wringers by Boson’s technical experts in cooperation with Boson’s language experts. Of course, nobody and nothing is ever perfect; all humans occasionally make one mistake or another. Keeping that in mind, Boson’s ExSim-Max products come out as thoroughly scrubbed and polished as is reasonably possible. Boson’s two other practice-exam product lines, Marketplace and Editor’s Choice, are created by developers who are not affiliated with Boson directly. Marketplace products are created by independent individual writers and do not come with Boson’s money-back guarantee. Editor’s Choice products are created by other companies and are licensed to Boson.

ExSim-Max for Microsoft are practice-exam products that are intended to help you prepare for certain Microsoft certification exams. They are definitely the best practice exams that you can find. I am not a Marketing type, and I am not trying to sell you anything. I am simply stating a fact of life. For example, if I say that the sun always rises in the east and moves across the sky to the west, you don’t have to take my word for it; all you need to do to know it’s true is watch the sky during the day. As for ExSim-Max for Microsoft products, just take a look at the free demo for the exam that you are interested in; if you read my previous blog posts in this series, you should be able to know a good thing when you see one.

3.4.2. ExSim-Max for Microsoft—Design Principles

Each ExSim-Max for Microsoft product presents three or more fixed practice exams, each of which emulates the corresponding Microsoft exam. This blog post is not about the details of the Boson Exam Environment (BEE) exam engine that presents the products’ contents, but it’s worth mentioning that the BEE includes lots of nice and useful features that allow you to make various customizations. For example, you can randomize the order in which choices appear in each item or the order in which items appear in an exam. You can easily compile custom exams that focus on the subject areas that you specify, or you can run completely random exams that simulate the way the real exam is expected to run.

The items in a product cover the subject areas outlined in the corresponding official Exam Preparation Guide published by Microsoft. Just like everyone else, we must comply with the relevant legal requirements, which—among other things—do not allow us to disclose the contents of Microsoft exams. Therefore, we design our items to be different from the real Microsoft exam items. Our goal is to help you acquire the relevant technical knowledge so that you can correctly resolve the exam items on your own, not to give you ready-made answers that you would mindlessly pick on the exam. When you are working with our product, always keep in mind that your primary focus should be on understanding what certain features of an operating system (OS) or another Microsoft product are intended for and how they work, not on memorizing our questions and answers.

There are two major parts in our practice exams: (1) the scenarios and the associated choices and (2) the correct answers and the explanations. By default, only the scenarios and choices are presented, and you are supposed to figure out which choice or which combination of choices is correct or, in interactive items, which actions to perform. Identifying the correct answer is definitely the hardest part. Most of the time, you can’t just jump on what might appear as an obvious answer. We design our items in a way that usually requires your full concentration and thorough analysis of each situation. Unless you manage to tune yourself in to do exactly that, you are very likely to choose incorrect answers for a significant percentage of our items on your first go, before you read our explanations, even if you believe that you are already well-prepared. The idea behind this concept is that we want our products to be somewhat harder than the real exams. Once you have mastered ExSim-Max for Microsoft, the real exam versus our product should feel like a walk in a park on a sunny day compared to mountain climbing in a snowstorm. But don’t get discouraged because the scenarios are tough. After all, this is not a real exam that your boss says you must pass. This is a training tool; everything will become much clearer when you read the explanations. They provide a brief conceptual introduction into the relevant features and technologies followed by an analysis of the specific scenario and its requirements. In other words, the explanations will help you understand how things work in certain parts of the Microsoft world and will also guide you through the relevant documentation or helpful TechNet or MSDN blog posts that corroborate, illustrate, or elaborate upon the facts and considerations discussed in the explanations.

3.4.3. ExSim-Max for Microsoft—How to Make the Most of a Product

Okay, you’ve bought a product. What, exactly, do you do with it? Well, first things first: remember the ancient adage I mentioned in an earlier blog post? “Read the manual first!” Yes, that’s the one. First of all, you should open the User Guide that came with the product and read it. It will tell you for which exam the product will help you prepare, how many items are in the entire question pool, how they are organized into exams, and how you can customize those exams.

The User Guide will also describe the available types of items and how they are supposed to work. For example, the most common type of item requires that you select the best possible answer. You can easily recognize such items by the “(Select the best answer.)” instruction, which immediately follows the question. In these items, even if several choices suggest correct actions, you should pick the one that provides the best solution among the presented options. I am not going to describe here the entire User Guide; I’ll mention only the most important things, such as clarifications of the terminology, the major sources of references, and a list of the abbreviations used in the product. So, if you want to make really good use of the product, read its User Guide first.

When you move on to the product itself, at first, disable randomization of items and either load one of the fixed exams or create a custom exam that includes all items from the entire pool. The items are arranged in the order of the sections defined in Microsoft’s Exam Preparation Guide for the corresponding exam. Moving through the item pool in this sequence will make studying easier and more systematic because you will learn the material for one subject area at a time and will not have to endlessly jump from topic to topic. On the first try, don’t turn on the timer; consequently, you can be as deliberate about navigating through the product as you feel comfortable with.  Don’t open the explanations, don’t look at the answers, and see how many items you can answer correctly on your own. Use the result as a baseline for measuring your progress.

At the next phase, go over each item, including its explanation. Always read the explanations, even for the items where you feel 100 percent certain that you know the correct answer. Just because you can easily pick the correct answer doesn’t mean that you will learn nothing new from the explanation. If you notice that the same information appears to be repeated in two or more explanations, don’t skip it. Just because you think you recognize two or three sentences that you remember having seen in another item’s explanation doesn’t necessarily mean that both explanations are exactly the same. Read each explanation in full, and be very attentive. They might begin with a common introduction but will inevitably fork in different directions as soon as they start focusing on the specific scenarios.

Many explanations mention graphical tools and their various screens, menus, options, and other similar elements. For best results, you should have access to a live installation of the relevant OSs or other Microsoft products. If you rely on merely visualizing all the GUI elements in your mind rather than seeing the real thing, you might find it more difficult to follow the explanations. If you don’t have a lab at work where you can play with all the necessary software, maybe you can run Hyper-V on your home computer and create your own virtual lab. If you don’t feel confident in creating your own practice lab, Boson can provide you with access to practice labs. Anyway, read each explanation as many times as you find necessary to fully understand everything that it says. Do not restrict yourself to only the part that explains the correct answer; always read the entire explanation, with all of its Notes, Tips, or what might appear as irrelevant asides. Everything in the explanations is relevant to preparing for the exam, including even the sentences that say that something is irrelevant to your task in the specific scenario.

ExSim-Max for Microsoft products are designed to help you study the subject areas included in the corresponding exams’ curricula, rather than for your systematic learning of Microsoft software on a feature-by-feature basis. Therefore, the products provide information about specific OS or application features on an as-needed basis. As a result, the same feature might be described differently in different items. There is no contradiction if you find half a dozen somewhat different descriptions of the same feature in as many items. In each item where the feature is mentioned, the provided information is primarily focused on the functionalities that are relevant to the task in that item.

At the end of each item is a list of references. Most of them are links to Internet-based resources either authored or published by Microsoft. Use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis to decide which referenced materials you should read very attentively and in full and which ones you can just skim. But always do either the former or at least the latter; never ignore any of the references completely. No matter how well our content is written, it still never hurts to also hear from the horse’s mouth. The poor quality of most of Microsoft’s documentation and lack of any meaningful logical structure in it (please see the second blog post in this series for details) are offset to a significant degree by the fact that you are following the path outlined in our product’s explanations. These explanations keep you focused on the important stuff by making it easier for you to identify and learn what you need to know to pass the exam.

When you have finished studying all of the items in the product, turn on full randomization and set the timer or switch the BEE to simulation mode and complete the exams repeatedly until you get nearly perfect scores. But don’t just pick the correct answers from memory; always analyze, even if very briefly, the scenario and each choice before committing to a decision. This way, you will firm up your newly acquired knowledge and be less likely to make silly mistakes on the real exam. You may be thinking why bother studying the same concepts repeatedly if you remember them pretty well? Well, if you forego the analyses, your knowledge of the subject matter will be quickly substituted with mechanical memory, which will be of rather limited use on the real exam. Schedule the Microsoft exam only when you start feeling reasonably confident about your level of preparedness and when you estimate that you are just a day or two away from your peak performance. Once you’ve gotten to that point, do not procrastinate, because the only road from a peak is down. If, for some unrelated reasons, you miss the right moment for taking the exam, don’t force it; reschedule the exam, have a few-days’ rest, and then try to pump yourself back into shape for the new date.

3.4.4. What’s Next?

In the next blog post, which will conclude this series, we’ll discuss the exam-taking techniques: how to think, feel, and act when you are sitting in front of a computer in a testing center. In short, we’ll look at what it takes to pass a Microsoft exam.


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Tags: Val Bakh, Exam Preparation Options, Boson Microsoft exams, how to become a microsoft certified professional, ExSim-Max