Newest Review: ... modules were quite simple and easy to follow especially if you had some general IT knowledge to start with. The exams are all computer ... more
To be MCSE or not to be
Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE)
Member Name: Mazboy
Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE)
Date: 10/03/01, updated on 10/03/01 (2728 review reads)
Advantages: Looks good on CV, Helps you get your foot in the door.
Disadvantages: Doesn't prepare you for the IT industry.
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.
r>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!!!
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