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  1. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    Default Xeno's MCSA/MCSE journey

    Well, here we go. I feel like I need somewhere to talk/rant/ramble about all the things I'm learning as well as provide accountability to keep myself on track. I'm starting from square one having never taken a MS exam in my life. I've been working with Server 2003 on a Jr. Admin level for 3 or 4 years now, so I'm familiar with all the basic functions.

    Why am I choosing to complete certs on a 7 year old Microsoft OS rather than work on the MCITP? That's a good question, and one I asked myself before starting on this course. Our domain is still very much mixed between 03 and 08. A total migration is on the horizon, but 03 will be around in our shop for several years to come. Because I've been working with Server 2003 for a few years now, I feel like it would be a waste to have that experience but not be able to put those letters on my resume. I know the MCITP will continue to gain industry exposure as more shops migrate, but the term "MCSE" just has a certain ring to it that will still be there long after the exams are retired.

    I titled this thread my "MCSA/MCSE" journey because I'm going to focus on the MCSA for the short term. I've already finished my Security+ so I know the MCSA is do-able in a reasonable amount of time. I'd really like to continue on to the MCSE, but that will largely depend on how tired of MS material I am in a few months. Time will tell.....

    So....what am doing at the moment?

    I'm working on the 70-290, have watched the CBT Nugget series, and am working through the TestOut/LabSim software. I'm feeling pretty good about most of the topics. I like to start with CBT Nuggets to get a birds eye view of everything. Then the TestOut software helps me really identify the areas I don't understand. I'm going to follow those up with the MS Press book and see where I'm at. Hopefully I'll be ready to sit the exam at that point. I'm looking at a test date sometime in December, but am waiting on the reimbursement from my last cert before I actually book.

    I'll try to update here regularly. It should be easy, because my wife is getting tired of hearing me talk about what I'm learning. I've been needing somewhere to put it all down.

    If you made it this far, "I hope this has been informative for you, and I'd like to thank you for reading!"
    Last edited by xenodamus; 11-26-2010 at 10:33 PM. Reason: grammar
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  3. Senior Member
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    #2
    I think you should do fine on the 290. Since you have some years of experience with 2003, it should be easy for you.
    Since you are going to have 2003 around for a while in your shop, it makes sense to at least get the MCSA, if not the MCSE. You could then upgrade to the MCITP certs later on.
    Good luck!!
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  4. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #3
    Yea, the MCITP upgrade will probably be next on my list of studies. I wish I had gone for the 2003 exams a long time ago. If I had, I would be working on the MCITP right now rather than making up for lost time.

    I spent most of this weekend working through the TestOut units and just finished the last one a few moments ago. The instructor for the course was a bit dry and monotone, but there was alot of good info. I really like the simulations in TestOut products and I think they help alot with an exam like this one. The software comes with a few hundred practice questions but I'm going to save those until my final preparation. I feel pretty confident with most of the topics and I'm hoping I have a good foundation to really soak up the info in the MS book.

    I'll be starting on that in the morning. I've only glanced at it, so I don't have a clue about how long it will take me to work through. It looked like half the content was hands-on labs. We'll see soon enough.

    I probably spent a good 8 hours with my nose in the books this weekend so I'm going to call it quits and work on Season 4 of Dexter with the wife this evening
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  5. Still a noob earweed's Avatar
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    #4
    Good luck with the 290 studies. If the testout for 290 is as good as that for the 70-643 then you should be ahead of the game using that.
    Also good to see another Dexter fan here. I only watch 4 or 5 hours of the tube a week anymore but that's one of my staples. Kind of surprised your wife would like it as the subject matter isn't something women usually get into.
    No longer work in IT. Play around with stuff sometimes still and fix stuff for friends and relatives.
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  6. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by earweed View Post
    Kind of surprised your wife would like it as the subject matter isn't something women usually get into.
    She seems to really like the mixture of blood/gore and soap opera drama...lol. Not sure what to make of that

    I missed my usual study time this morning. We were awakened every 2 hours during the night by the local tornado sirens. The tornado sirens also make the dog at the foot of our bed howl like he's in pain. So, between the two I didn't sleep very well and 5:00 came way too early .

    I'll get back on track in the morning, though. Until then...happy studying!
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  7. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #6
    Wow...it's been almost 2 weeks since I posted here. I've been working my way through the MS text recently, but not as quickly as I would like. I know I could be done with this book by now. I find myself zoning out and having to re-read sections because my mind was elsewhere. There are alot of minutia in the book that you don't pick up from the CBTs but I'm just having trouble staying focused. I think it's because so much of the material is stuff that I'm familiar with and it's hard to read page after page about how to share a printer when I do it everyday. I usually don't skip sections, even when I'm familiar but I think it's warranted in some of these chapters.

    I think I need to go ahead and book the exam for about 2 weeks out. I need a kick in the pants to power through the rest of this book and start hitting the practice exams. I'm thinking about buying the 2nd shot voucher packs. I usually over prepare for every exam I take (which is probably why I haven't failed one yet...knock on wood), but I think having the second shots would give me the confidence to hit these exams more quickly than I normally would. Plus, my employer is reimbursing me for exam costs so that's not a factor anyway.

    I should probably get off the interwebz and put my nose back in this book.....
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  8. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #7
    Well, I took my own advice and booked my 70-290 yesterday. The first available test date at the center I frequent was 1/3/11. I really didn't plan to spend another 3 weeks on this material, but it won't kill me. I'm still working on the MS text but I'm almost through the actual learning/labbing chapters. Then I just need to work on the exam prep at the end of the book and the practice tests from TestOut. I don't know if I can keep myself busy for 3 weeks with that stuff, though. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
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  9. Artist's impression mikedisd2's Avatar
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    #8
    Skip the bits that you know. I was a printer techinician for years and didn't bother with the printer chapter for 70-270. On the exam, the printer qu's were still too easy (pity the unexpected Unix question wasn't ).
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  10. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #9
    Finished part 1 of the MS text on Friday (the learning/labbing portion). So, I've spent the weekend working through part 2, which has all the review questions for each objective area. I'd say I'm doing ok on them overall. I do hit questions now and then that I just flat out don't remember the answer to. But I always remember things more clearly after I get them wrong. I didn't finish the entire Q&A section of the book but I hope to in the next few days.

    After that I've got the TestOut practice questions to run through a time or two. 15 days and counting....
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  11. A Driven Member
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    #10
    I can relate about needing a place to rant and share cert goals. You're doing well and have some really good certifications and experience.

    I personally have never tried any of the MS certifications (although one day I would like to try). My goal is to get CCNA first, because I'd like to transition from dev role to networking role and continue seeking technical work rather than business analyst dev/analyst positions.

    Is it true that Microsoft certifications are difficult to pass? It looks like you have chosen a variety of good study materials. Good luck on your studies and cert...
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  12. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #11
    Quote Originally Posted by byten View Post
    Is it true that Microsoft certifications are difficult to pass?
    This will be my first M$ exam, but I don't thing they're inherently difficult. Some are worse than others depending on content, but the 290 is supposed to be at the easier end of the spectrum. I don't think it will be that bad, and if it is I have a second shot anyway.
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  13. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #12
    I took and passed the 70-290 today. One down...five to go.

    This exam was trickier than I expected. It wasn't an amazing score...but a pass just the same. I knew going into the exam that there were a few areas that I wasn't 100% confident on. In the end I scored lower on topics that I felt solid about - like managing physical disks and hardware. That was my lowest area, and I was totally blown away by that. I must have made some dumb mistakes somewhere. Who knows. One thing I will say is that I have NEVER had that many sims on one exam. I'm talking 10 or more. I actually like the sims, though, so that wasn't a problem. They were the easier portion for me.

    It's been a long day, though, so I'm going to hit the sack early. My 291 studies begin at 5 in the morning. I think I'll start with the CBT Nuggets for a nice overview of the material. I like to get a birds eye view so I know what I'm getting into.

    This was a nice start to the new year. Hopefully there will be more passes to come....
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  14. Senior Member pizzaboy's Avatar
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    #13
    Congrats, I guess I'll be seeing you over in 291
    God deserves my best
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  15. Murky Diver Breadfan's Avatar
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    #14
    Congrats on the 290 pass and see you over on the 291 board. There isn't much conversation over there so it'll be nice to have to one more person over there.
    Right now, I'm reading everyone else's stuff instead of my own, trying to get my head out of the muck to finally get this one over with and on to the MCITP board.

    What are you using for the 291? I'm using the MS book, labs, and Testout, and finishing up with Transcender (but only after I feel like I have mastered each area, otherwise I tend to start memorizing the questions/answers, which is the opposite of what I need).

    Again, good luck with the 291 studying and congrats on the 290
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  16. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #15
    Yea, these 2003 forums can look like a ghost town at times.

    For the 291 I have the CBT Nuggets, TestOut, and MS Self Paced Traning book. I was looking over the topics in the MS book for the first time last night and I don't think this exam looks nearly as scary going in with a CCNA. I've already got all the network knowledge under my belt. I just have to learn to apply it the M$ way.

    I don't have a test date set for this one yet, but I'm hoping to take it in 4-6 weeks. I'd like to average that on all the exams and start on the 2008 track by summer time.
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  17. Murky Diver Breadfan's Avatar
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    #16
    I don't have a test date set for this one yet, but I'm hoping to take it in 4-6 weeks. I'd like to average that on all the exams and start on the 2008 track by summer time.
    You and me both...
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  18. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #17
    I'm 2 days into the 291 and have watched about 3 hours of CBT Nugget videos thus far. I skipped over a couple of videos at the beginning of the series on IP addressing and custom subnetting. I practiced subnetting until my eyes bled for my CCNA - no problems there.

    I went through the videos on DHCP setup and maintenance and there were alot of good tidbits here and there. I can setup a scope and authorize a server, but I've never taken a deep look at the options available in the config.

    Right now I'm on the 2nd of 4 DNS videos. This is an area I know I'm lacking knowledge. I've never really had a need to know more than just what DNS is and how to use nslookup/flushdns. So there are alot of new terms and ideas being thrown at me in these sections.

    That's what I love about following a thorough certification study track, though. I hate having gaps in my knowledge (of which DNS is one). I'm hoping alot more of those gaps are filled in by the end of this trek.
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  19. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #18
    Wow...just watched DNS parts 2 & 3 and felt *LOST* during half the videos. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. I was trying to watch them while doing some simple tasks via remote software on user PCs.

    I'm not going to sweat it much at this point and just keep trucking along through the nuggets. I've still got TestOut and MS Press to go through. I just felt like sharing that experience.
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  20. Senior Member pizzaboy's Avatar
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    #19
    For me the MS Press filled in the gaps that the nugget videos left out IMO.
    God deserves my best
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    #20
    I enjoy reading this thread because I have the same goal as the OP ..
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  22. Senior Member MrAgent's Avatar
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    What was your score, if you dont mind me asking?
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  23. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #22
    Quote Originally Posted by MrAgent View Post
    What was your score, if you dont mind me asking?
    730 - I was disappointed since I've done much better than that on all my other recent exams. Still a pass...but I like to feel like I've "mastered" the material when I pass an exam.

    Quote Originally Posted by pizzaboy View Post
    For me the MS Press filled in the gaps that the nugget videos left out IMO.
    That's what I'm banking on too.

    Quote Originally Posted by chopsticks View Post
    I enjoy reading this thread because I have the same goal as the OP ..
    Glad to be of assistance. When I started this path I thought it would be really cool to have a thread that documented my thoughts and struggles from 0 to MCSE. Now that we have a baby on the way I've got that much more motivation to power through this stuff while I still have some peace and quiet left.
    Last edited by xenodamus; 01-06-2011 at 08:56 PM.
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  24. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #23
    I'm currently working on the TestOut series for 291. I'm very satisfied with it so far. I started the section on DNS this morning and it's already clearing some things up. I think one of my main issues was not understanding the relationship/difference between zones and domains. In the nuggets it was zone this and zone that when I wasn't totally clear on what a zone was to begin with. The DNS section of TestOut is massive compared to the other content areas for this exam. It may take me a few days just to work through DNS. That's fine, though. With the reputation this test has, I want to make sure I'm clear on these main topics.
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  25. Senior Member xenodamus's Avatar
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    #24
    Done with DNS....for now. I definitely feel much better about it at this point. I'd say I feel like a 7 out of 10 on the content. I think I'd have to cover most of that material one more time for it to really stick. Most of it wasn't complicated, it's just alot to remember and take in. I'm going to press on with TestOut and hopefully get into the M$ text soon. It would be AWESOME to knock this one out by the end of January, but I'm not sure if that's a realistic goal.....depends on how long it takes me to finish the material I have left. I feel like I could go into cram mode and take this next week, but I'd rather spend a little more time and lab everything up properly.
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    #25
    Out of curiosity, why are you going for both MCSE and MCITP?
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