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Posted Oct 1, 2007

Preparing for the M70-444 Exam

By Gregory A. Larsen

Are you considering becoming a Microsoft Certified DBA? Where do you start? How do you prepare for getting certified? There are lots of different methods to prepare for the exams. You can read some books, obtain hands on experience, or go to an instructor led class. In addition to these methods, you should also get some experience in the testing process. The testing format for Microsoft exams can vary. Some have multiple-choice questions only, while others have a combination of multiple choice and simulations. One of the best ways to prepare for exams is to get a set of practice tests. In this article I’ll review one such set of practice tests for the Microsoft M70-444 exam that is provided by “uCertify.com”.

About uCertify.com

The uCertify.com company has been in the exam preparation business since 1999. They offer over 70 different technical exams, and are currently working on 12 new exams. They offer demo exams via downloads that will give you a feel for how their exam engine works. When you purchase an exam, they come with free upgrades for a year and a money back guarantee should you fail the exam. You can use a credit card, Google Checkout or PayPal to purchase their exams. To find out more about the M70-444 exam from uCertify.com check out the following web page: http://www.ucertify.com/exams/Microsoft/70-444.html

Review of the M70_444 Exam from uCertify.com

The uCerify.com exam was easy to download and install. After installing the download, I was only provided with the demo version. The demo version contains a small number of questions, articles, and notes. In order to obtain all the questions I needed to unlock the product. As part of obtaining the uCertify.com exam, I was emailed a license key from the sales department. This license key was used to easily unlock the product.

During the installation process, an “uCertify PrepEngine” icon was loaded onto my desktop. When I clicked on this icon, the following window was displayed:

From this window, I was able to access all the different aspects of the uCerify.Com exam PrepKit. As you can see, there are a number of different tests you can take. There is also an interactive quiz component, as well as some study notes and articles. You are also able track your testing progress. In addition to the notes, the exam provides a “Tip of the Day”. This can be found next to the yellow exclamation point icon in the above screenshot.

One of the first things I did was try to determine the number of questions that were available in the PrepKit. On the uCertify.com website, they said there were 280 questions available, but from the screen shot above it appears that there are quite a few less than that. After looking into this, I found that there are 150 different questions in their question pool for the diagnostic, practice, adaptive, and custom tests. Then there was an additional 40 questions for the final test. Additionally there were 100 quiz questions. By my calculations, this exam contains 290 different questions. This is 10 more than their website was advertising.

Each one of the different tests pulled questions from the same question pool, except for the final test, which had its own question pool. The PrepKit engine allows you to set configuration options for each exam you take. Here is the typical configuration screen shot you will see when you take one of these Diagnostic Test, Practice test A, B or C, and/or the Adaptive test.

With this window you can control the number of questions you want to include in the test. You are also allowed to change the time allotted for the test, as well as the passing score. Since Microsoft typical requires a 700 or above as a passing score you might not want to change the passing score, or at least not below 700. There are also two different modes in which you can start the test: Test and Learn. In Test Mode, you are just given the question and must wait until scoring the test before you can determine whether your answer is correct. Where as, in Learn Mode you are able to find out the answer to each question immediately after answering the question. Whether in Test Mode or Learn Mode the answer and an explanation are displayed for each question. The explanation describes why the wrong answers are wrong and the correct answer is correct.

The PrepKit engine’s “Create a custom test” button provides you with additional options to really customize the test you are taking. Here are the options you are provided when creating a custom test:

To create your custom test there are 5 different chapters from which to choose questions. Each chapter has a number of “Available” questions. You can tailor your test to target a single chapter if you are studying a specific aspect of SQL Server. Or you can have your custom test select questions from multiple chapters. For each chapter you can determine the number of “Total” questions you would like on your custom test. As with the other testing options, you can have your custom test questions present in “Test” or “Learn” mode. My preference while I was studying was Learn mode, since this allowed me instant feedback in response to my answer.

Another aspect of the M70-444 PrepKit is the ability to perform a quiz. As mentioned earlier there are 100 quiz items that you can use to determine how well you understand SQL Server. Here is a look at the interface used to create a quiz:

Here you can select the number of questions you would like to be quizzed on by chapter. You can also control the time you would like to have for each question. The maximum time limit is in seconds, with a maximum of 65 seconds. This short time limit makes for some rapid-fire question and answering. With the quiz option, you get instant gratification once you answer each item, although you don’t get any explanation of why an answer is incorrect or correct. I think the explanations of why answers are correct or incorrect is a useful way to solidifying the concepts of each question. I think the quizzes are useful in simulating the pressures of trying to answer questions quickly. I feel the quizzes would be a more valuable learning tool if you could get an explanations regarding why the answers are wrong or right.

The last section the M70-444 PrepKit has the study notes and articles. There are 178 different study notes, and 9 different articles. The articles are divided into 3 different categories: How to, Study Tips and Articles. There are 4 different “How to” articles, two different sets of “Study Tips” and three different “Articles”. The PrepKit engine associates each study tip with one of the different M70-444 exam objectives. This is helpful in guiding you to those study notes that will help you become more proficient at exam objectives that you might not fully understand.

The Prepkit does a good job of tracking your learning process while you work through each test and quiz you have taken. A nice bar chart is displayed that represents how well you did on each test. The tool provides a “Readiness” and “Review” report. The “Readiness” report contains two different ways to look at whether or not you are prepared. There is one report that shows you how prepared you are based on the objectives of the exam, while the other report displays how well you are doing based on the different tests. Each report has some checkboxes and buttons that allow you to select your preferences in how you want to do additional testing. The checkboxes allow you to select what objective you want to use for additional testing, while the buttons allow you to pick the type of questions you want to be tested on. The different testing question options are: Re-test Correct, Re-test Wrong, Test Unattempted, and Re-test All. These options allow you to select the questions that you feel are most appropriate for your re-testing.

One thing I noticed about the exam process, once you started the test you were not able to cancel out of the test without your test being scored. Therefore, if you did this repeatedly you might have lots of items on the review report with some very poor marks. The PrepKit does allow you to remove any testing results with the click of an icon while you are reviewing the different testing results.

How well does the PrepKit Prepare you for the Exam?

The PrepKit does a great job of simulating the experience of the actual test. The questions in the PrepKit are well written and similar in content and style of the real M70-444 exam. If you have thoroughly gone through the PrepKit questions, and understood each question, plus understand why each correct answer is correct then you should be well prepared for the actual exam. One good side effect of the PrepKit, is it will help you feel very comfortable with the actual testing process. Feeling comfortable with the testing format should lower your stress level allowing you more energy to focus on the actual test questions.

Suggestions on how to take the test.

I would suggest you use the “Bookmark” feature when doing the practice or real exams anytime you come across a question you are not sure of the answer. Just bookmark the question, than skip to the next question. Don’t spend a bunch of time struggling to answer a question you really don’t know the answer for. Once you have completed all the questions that you are sure you know the answers, then come back and answer the questions you have bookmarked. Using the “Bookmark” check box allows you to not struggle and get frustrated about trying to answer questions where you really don’t know the answer. If you struggle on a question and spend lots of time trying to figure out the answer you will most likely get frustrated. This frustration will cause additional anxiety that will allow you to lose concentration on those questions where you really know the answer. So skip over those tough questions by bookmarking them, and then come back to those questions during the review cycle of the testing process. When you come back to these tough questions, try to eliminate the answers that are obviously wrong first. This will help you narrow down the number of possible answers to pick from. Typically, I found that you normally could reduce the guessing down to two different answers. If you can narrow down your guessing to only two answers then you have a 50 percent change of getting the right answer.

Conclusion

The uCertify.com M70-444 PrepKit was easy to download, install and use. It had a comprehensive set of questions that covered all the objectives of the exam, and a money back guarantee. The questions and testing process did a great job of simulating the real Microsoft test. The user interface was easy to use and offered a number of different ways to customize the test questions you were presented. The PrepKit also offered articles and tips to help you prepare for the concepts being tested. If you are struggling over what tests to buy I would say you can’t go wrong with the uCertify .com Prepkit.

» See All Articles by Columnist Gregory A. Larsen



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