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This review of the MCSE course is based on Windows NT, for which the course and exams have been made redundant and has been replaced by Windows 2000. This new course is apparently harder but the same principals apply. I feel it was very primature of Microsoft to do this as most business will not even conside using Windows 2000 until there have been at least another 1 or 2 service packs released. I first found out about the MCSE range of exams about 2 years ago. At the time I was working as a dead end job as an Office Administrator. After further investigation I decided that it was my only chance to get into the IT industry and into a real career with prospects. So I hunted around for training centres and found one called Amraf, which at the time only had centres in Birmingham and Essex (this has now grown to 15 around the country, which just goes to show how many people are taking these exams). They were actually the cheapest I could find at £1550 for the whole course, (not that this is always good criteria to judge people on) but I went to their open day and was very impressed by their brand new facilities. So I signed up for the course and booked my place in the first module, which was two weeks long and covered Windows NT Workstation and Windows NT Server. As it happened, I began looking for a job at the same time and managed to get an IT support analyst job in a small legal software company. So basically I managed to arrange the first 2-week course to run in-between the two jobs. To be honest I felt that the first two modules were quite simple and easy to follow especially if you had some general IT knowledge to start with. The exams are all computer based and multiple choice. The number of questions and time limit is dependent on which module you are taking. The pass marks average around 600-766 out of 1000 and all the questions carry different score values. The way the exams work is that there is a main te lephone number you call to book your exam and they can book you into any one of the hundreds of exam centres up and down the country. This is completely separate to where you take the course unless you have some kind of package deal. The exams all cost around £75 each which needs to be paid at time of booking. You can book the exam at any time that the centre is open (some open weekends and late evenings). You can take the same exam as many times as you need until you pass it, the only restriction is that if you fail the same exam twice you have to wait a minimum of two weeks before it can be retaken. During the course I went out and bought MCSE Core Exams in a Nutshell, MCSE Electives in a Nutshell published by O'Reilly (about £15 each) and books in the MCSE Exam Notes series for each module published by Sybex (Also about £15 each). I found the Nutshell books perfect for giving me just enough information to pass the exams and nothing else, and the Exam Notes books for going more into detail for my own knowledge. But looking back now I only needed the Nutshell books to given me the exact information I would need to be able to pass and nothing more. I also managed to get hold of a copy of the Transcender mock exams, which are basically very good guides as to how well you are doing with your studies and are even set up to run in the same environment with time limits and multiple choice questions. Unfortunately for my bank manager and me it took me three attempts to pass the first exam (Windows NT Workstation). I am not making up excuses for this but I wasn't use to the exam format and I never knew you could go back and check your answers before finally submitting them. So on my third attempt I passed and finally felt proud of myself. A week later I took the exam for Windows NT Server and passed that first time. I was now using to the exam format and the way Microsoft tried to catch you out all the time. So I booked the next course, which was Windows NT in the Enterprise, which was a weeklong. This was basically an extension to the previous two modules and I found this an easy next step. The only difference with this module is that it was an adaptive exam which meant that the number of questions you were asked was not set, instead, you start of with low scoring questions and as you get them right the questions get harder and there value grows until you have scored enough points to pass and the exam stops there and then, but on the downside of things, when you get a question wrong you get an easier question worth less, so when the program decides you cannot possibly pass then it stops and advises you of this. The third course was 2 days long and covered Networking Essentials. This was by far the most boring of all the modules as it was the least practical and you had to remember cable and network card names as well as large tables of data to help you make calculations. So this was just a case of sit down and learn it. The final course was a weeklong and covered IIS 4 and TCP/IP. I found this hardest of all, as I had never used either of them before. But I got my head down and managed to pass them both. Overall knowing what I know now about the course and how it works, I think if I had been motivated enough I would have been better of self studying for it all at home as I would have saved my £1550 that I spent on the course. I think that an MCSE is a good thing to have as it looks good on your CV and it is a great help to get your foot in the door in the IT industry, but if you don’t have the knowledge to back it up then you won’t last long there!! All the MCSE really proves is that you have a bit of IT knowledge and that you are good at studying and that’s it. Employees know this so be warned. Also there are a lot of paper MCSE’s out there (people that just study for the exams without actuall y understanding any of it). I am sure I have missed out loads of things, so if I have don’t be shy let me know and I will come back and make amendments. So there you have it. Good luck!!!
This is a must for anybody who takes their career in Systems support/engineering seriously. I personally am a developer and I have just achieved this certification because of the the overlap of exams with the MCDBA and the usefullness of having this certification on my CV. This is quite hard work to achieve and it is ideally done from within the framework of a role carrying out this sort of work on a day to day basis. If like myself you only touch on some of the apects of some of these subjects then you might find you need to do a lot more reading. The differnet options you can take are all detailed quite well on the Microsoft website, www.microsoft.com/mcp so I will not detail those - but I will give you some good pointers to passing well. First read the books - most of the approved study guides are quite good - some are better than others - read what others have said on Amazon and you will not go far wrong. But forget most of them for practice exams they are too dissimilar from the real thing. What you need to do in the way of practice exams is go to www.transcender.com and buy yourself some testing products. The whole thing will set you back about £100 on books and then £500 on software and then about £400 in exam fees assuming you pass each one first time. Failing exams is a costly habit that I have tried to give up. Of course you can send yourself on courses and go to boot camps and buy training software but all of these are only worth the amount of effort that you are willing to put in. If you are new to the industry then be warned of thinking that you could get these exams and then walk into a good job. You will still find it very hard to get a job, but it will give you the edge over people without this qualification. People with relevant experience should breeze through most of these and they really should have them to keep themselves on top of the pile of CV's.
About a year ago both my husband and myself embarked on the MCSE - or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer course. We had heard that most employers were asking for this qualification and as we were both trying to break into the IT market, we chose this form of certification. The MCSE is an exam track for the NT4 system (soon to be upgraded to the Windows 2000 system) and is a suitable qualification for those people who wish to pursue a career as an NT4 (or in future Windows 2000) network administrator. The course, which is changing soon due to the phasing out of NT4 exams and the introduction of Windows 2000, consists of 4 core units & 2 electives. The core was Workstation, Server, Networking essentials & Server in the Enterprise (sounds like something from Star Trek!), you could choose from a number of electives - most people did TCP/IP and IIS or MS exchange. There are however quite a few different electives to choose from. My husband completed his MCSE in 4.5 months. I got as far as "Workstation" & "Server" in 3 months which I passed with scores of 933 & 866 while 6.5 months pregnant. Just passing one exam makes you an "MCP" or Microsoft Certified Professional! I will be returning to my studies later this year (if I can keep off Dooyoo long enough!) When embarking on the MCSE, it's quite hard to decide where to study, what materials to buy and how to fund it. My husband & myself were both lucky enough to receive a re-training grant to pay for our MCSE course. It is worth looking around and asking at your local employment centre, local council and even local charities whether you are eligible for a grant for re-training as you may find that there are funds available to help you. (They will really grill you to make sure that you are serious about it!) If you have to pay for it yourself and you wish to go on a course, there are plenty available. Obviously the really top ones are the most expensive at ar ound £4,000-£6,000 and are really intensive. If you can't afford this, try a £1,500-£2,000 course, but do shop around as some places are better than others, check the pass rates of other students and ask to meet your tutor or see a class before you sign up. There are even training companies in London offering you your money back if you don't find a job within a certain time of completing your MCSE. This may be a useful avenue to follow. (Check the back of the Evening Standard on a Wednesday (I.T. adverts day) if you live in London.) I would say that in-class they run through everything VERY quickly as there is a lot to get through, make plenty of good concise notes. I would say that 99% of the work is done OUTSIDE the classroom - pure slog - these exams are not easy to get, you have to work hard for them. They also cost around £80 a throw, taken at approved testing centres (not your college) so make sure that you are actually ready before you take them. If you can get hold of a piece of software called a "TRANSCENDER" - this can be very useful as it gives you a series of multiple choice questions and tests your knowledge in a similar way to the exams. Also check out www.transcender.com for more on-line exam tests. These are a great help to prepare you for exam testing. The exams themselves are fairly nerve racking - they are multiple choice taken on a computer & at the end when you have finished (you get plenty of time) you have to press the button to see if you passed - this is a very tense moment! (Fortunately I passed both of mine, even with the baby kicking me all the way through!) As for the course books, some colleges provide these as part of their course materials, but if they don't Waterstones stock a large range of MCSE books - ask yor course tutor for his recommendation. My husband used Microsoft's own TCP/IP book & the Exam Cram IIS book, these were both reasonably useful, but beware that some of the books, even the Microsoft ones contained mistakes! I know this from checking other internet sites regarding the MCSE. If you look on the net there is plenty of helpful stuff available. It is possible to do the MCSE without doing a course, but unless you have a very firm foundation in NT 4 administration, the right books and plenty of time on your hands, I wouldn't recommend it. Once you have your MCSE, it's a prestigious qualification and it does tend to impress employers as they know how hard you have to work. The only problem that you will have with the NT4 MCSE is that at the end of next year your qualification is no longer valid - UNLESS you do the "fast-track" Windows 2000 updating course involving 2 or 3 more exams (£80 each) and more is training, although if you are in employment, your new employer may invest in you to do this. Microsoft have cleverly made it prestigious for companies to have MCSE holders by giving the companies that have them some titles of recognition (I can't quite remember what these are off-hand). You can also add to your MCSE by taking new exams and you can end up with more titles after your name, by the combination that my husband did he has the MCP, MCP+I (Microsoft Certified Professional + Internet) and the MCSE! My husband is now working in IT and found the MCSE a very useful foot in the door, but you do need to gain more experience than just the exams, see if you can get a work placement if you were not familiar with NT4 before your MCSE as this will really help you get to grips with its application in the work place. You shouldn't find it too hard to get work with your qualification, but above all if you choose the MCSE, work hard & keep reviewing your exam material as some employers may test you on it before employing you! Good Luck!
It’s the qualification that more and more employers are asking for, but how do you pass your MCSE? The key is to find the right method for you, and what works for someone else may not work at all for you. There are 3 main ways to study and I will detail the pros and cons of each. (Note: For the purpose of this review the MCSE is for NT4 and I’ll update it when I’ve completed the Windows 2000 upgrade exams) Home Study Pros: The least expensive option, around £500 will get you all the study materials you need. You choose the pace of the study and the times when you can do it. Cons: Least likely way of actually passing the exams. You will need access to at least one computer (or 2 networked PCs if at all possible) that you can install NT Server and Workstation on. Course Pros: Everything is spoon-fed and if you get a good teacher this will be the quickest way to learn. Cons: Incredibly expensive (at least £4,000 for any decent course) and time consuming (4 weeks or more). They often tell you to take a break after the course before taking the exams, which means that many people never take them at all. Home study and intensive course Pros: Cheaper than the full course and you can study before the course at your own pace. Cons: You need to have done about 100 hours of solid study and passed entrance exams to get on the course. Which did I do? The home study and intensive course worked out best for me. 3 months intensive study (getting up at 3.30am!) using books, exams and online testing was followed by a two-week course. It was great because everyone else in the class had passed the entrance exam too which meant the whole two weeks was very fast-paced. I took one exam every day and a half and passed all first time round, and so did 3 out 4 of the others on the course. Was it worth it? It cost a lot in te rms of time and money but I do believe it was worth it. Having said that, I had to move jobs to get any recognition for my qualification – which is so often the case in Britain! The exams are not that hard if you are well-prepared for them.
I gradually worked my self towards MS cert but found the actual course rather difficult. /Not that I am simple, I have a maths degree, it was just that the teaCHER RELIEd to much on people second guessing where he was going. I think it might have just been him as others I know who did the cert had great times. Well any way I did pass and now teach for a company that work in many fields. If you can stick with it and get a good pass then it will open many doors, go for it.
I recently bought some Sybex MCSE books in Networking Essentials and Windows NT Server in the Enterprise. They are well structured and have review questions at the end of every chapter which point out which topics you may need to read over again. They also come with training CD’s which are very useful and contain preparatory exam questions. Just after my purchase, I realised Microsoft was finishing the Windows NT 4.0 exams on 31 December 2000. Although the books are very useful and detailed, I will not have time to study and take all four core exams before the end of the year and will have to buy some Windows 2000 MCSE books instead. It seems Microsoft are taking us for a ride, they should give more time in which to take the exams. I suspect that Windows NT 4.0 will stay with us in most organisations for at least another 4 to 5 years and companies will still need people with NT 4.0 skills. It appears as if Microsoft are putting on the pressure for us to upgrade our operating systems even if we don’t need to.
I gained my MCSE about three years ago now and I must admit it has boosted my career from first line to fourth line support since I have been qualified. It was a long drawn out process of about 9 courses and exams. I think the route taken to MCSE is a little obscure. The problem is that qualifications are gained in specific MS products, not neccessarily working practices. In IT there are many industry standards that have been elaborated upon by different comapnies. Look at HP UNIX and DEC UNIX. very simialr in some places, very different in others but both perform the same function. The problem I think is qualifications are generalised by statements like 'MCSE' but not by practical background and experience. There is a large shortage in this country for qualified IT people, but there seem to be a lot of unemployed unqualified people with a vast amount of experience. The other problem I have found is being MCSE, I am pigeon holed by potential employers ans MS only. The fact I am also CLP, UNIX, TCP/IP, OS/400, CISCO and CCSA/CCSE is completely overlooked. Qualifications are very worthwhile and I fully encourage anyone to gain industry recognised IT qualifications whenever they can. What you should also do is gain as many varied qualifications in hardware as well. Microsoft is not the start and end of IT by any means. UNIX, Novell, AS/400, DEC are all still out there and going strong. Don't overlook them!
I'm an MCSE myself but I believe that there are simply too many MCSE's out there and the certification has lost it's value. Don't get me wrong, it's better than no certification but it is no longer a badge of competence. Anyone with a few weeks to spare and access to cramsessions and braindumps can pass with little or no hands-on experience. It's time for Microsoft to consign MCSE to the entry-level and introduce a Master Qualification for the real professionals.
You can't help but notice in the job press these days that certification is more and more important, not more so in any area other than MS products. The sheer diversity of systems possible now with MS networking products has made this certification a vital addition to making your CV stand out fro the crowd. Increased usability has made many cowboys lives easier and easier and there's fewer and fewer ways to prove that you don't own a horse and whip/gun. The MCSE program can be gruelling at times and certainly is a financial strain at a usual cost of about £4500 for a typical course. However, if you know anything about NT at any depth and can network your way around a WAN with little effort this should be a breeze for you. One point I'd make is that the course is designed to teach you the MS way of doing things, which isn't always the best. So when sitting in an exam you're asking yourself... "Right, I know how I'D do it! But how would MS do it!?!" All in all a worthwhile investment for your career, but with rumours of MS cutting this for a new certification you have to wonder just how long it'll be recognized as the dogs ******** in MS knowledge. Try checking out the online courses and Computer Based Training packages and get the job done by yourself in your own time for about £1000 quid including exams.