How Valuable Are Practice Exams?

risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
Hi guys,
It's been a while since I've posted here. Been pretty busy at work and have been out of the certification circuit for a while. Now that I'm back in it, I'm having a really tough time with this 70-220 exam. I've taken it 3 times over the past 8 months and I just can't pass it. 3 hrs 40 mins is a long time to wait 3 separate times only to find that you failed. I scored a 546, 686, and 630 in that order. I actually did worse the third time I took it. It just doesn't seem like my traditional method of study is helping with this one. Knowing the facts just doesn't seem to cut it like it did for the MCSE core exams and my A+ and Net+. I've tried getting the experience, and used a text book for this test along with MSDN online tutorials but none of that seemed to help.

Out of desperation, I decided to purchase a stand-alone practice exam from MeasureUp. Transcender is supposed to be good but they are a little pricey. I'm trying to get my certs on a tight budget. I really hope this practice exam helps. It's the first stand-alone practice test I've ever purchased because I never really thought they'd help that much to merit spending that kind of money when, for a few bucks more, I could just take the test again and hopefully pass it the 2nd time. So far, my strategy consists of reading my text books front to back, taking tedious notes on them, making and studying flash cards based on my notes, doing the exercises in my text book and working through the questions but none of that seems to work for this test.

Not to mention that on most of my past tests all this effort has usually only got me a minimum passing score and I always use up every last second of time on the exam. I also notice that most of the people who post here don't seem to mention putting in that kind of effort yet they report that they pass with significantly higher scores than the minimum of 700 and they finish the test in a lot less than the time alotted. I also realize that once I land a more demanding job than the one I have now, I'm not going to have the luxury of spending hours every night of the week for months on end preparing like I have been and I worry about how I'm going to achieve more certifications when that time comes if I don't find an easier yet ethical way to prepare for these tests. I'm also planning on taking Sec+ after this one to finish my MCSE and I hear it's a real doozy too and I doubt my tradional methods are going to work with it either. So I'm just curious as to how you guys would rate the importance of these practice exams in passing the real exams? They're really the only thing I haven't seriously tried yet. How would you guys rate MeasureUp tests in particular?


  • eurotrasheurotrash Member Posts: 817
    without reading that block of text (sorry), i'll say that i woudn't want to go into an exam without first using the transcenders.
    simply because they are difficult like the real thing, and constructed similarly, so it gets my mind away from book structure and into question-aware format.

    can't say anything about measure up, but transcenders are (one of) the best.
    witty comment
  • keenonkeenon Member Posts: 1,922 ■■■■□□□□□□
    practice exams icon_silent.gif we never use those

    seriously a BIG VERY NECESSARY step in preparing for any test your seriously wanting a cert in...
    Become the stainless steel sharp knife in a drawer full of rusty spoons
  • jescabjescab Inactive Imported Users Posts: 1,321
    practice exams are very important - i would say wait until you get in the high 80's to 90's to try the real thing........
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for your reply. Do you mean that I should retake the same practice exam over and over until I get in the high 80's or 90's or do I need to buy another exam each time I don't reach that goal on the first try? It seems like memorizing the same test wouldn't be that helpful. Sorry, if that sounds like a stupid question. I just want to be sure.

    Also, does anyone have any experience with the MeasureUp exams in particular for the Microsoft and Security+ exams?
  • WebmasterWebmaster Admin Posts: 10,292 Admin
    Practice exams are invaluable when preparing for cert exams. Even if I don't get a book (just read product docs/experience/google) I'd still get at least one good set of practice questions.
    Do you mean that I should retake the same practice exam over and over until I get in the high 80's or 90's or do I need to buy another exam each time I don't reach that goal on the first try? It seems like memorizing the same test wouldn't be that helpful.
    Yes, keep taking the same practice exam over and over again. You will eventually memorize answers, maybe even the first time, but as long as you actually study the topics of the practice questions you answered incorrectly, and read the explanation and the references, you will keep learning. Also for any cert exam there's a limited amount of knowledge/facts they can ask, so if you memorize hundreds of practice questions, 'and' understand why the correct answer is correct, it will definitely help you prepare.

    Also, MeasureUp provides some pretty good stuff, so I don't see the need for a second set of practice exams.
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thank you Johan,
    That's a big help and a big relief. :D Now, I have another question. What methods of study that I currently employ do you think are the biggest time wasters?
    So far, my strategy consists of reading my text books front to back, taking tedious notes on them, making and studying flash cards based on my notes, doing the exercises in my text book and working through the questions

    In my opinion the most tedious and monotonous parts of my current preparation technique are taking the detailed notes from the book, converting those notes to flash cards, then studying the flash cards. I usually have on the order of 450 flash cards by the time I'm done.
  • WebmasterWebmaster Admin Posts: 10,292 Admin
    Well, I think that's an excellent way to prepare for an exam and even though I realize it takes time, I encourage you to go on as you're doing. You can probably do without the notes (i.e. read my TechNotes if available for that exam) and still pass the exam and rightfully earn the cert, but I for one know writing it down makes the information stick much longer, which I certainly wouldn't call a 'waste of time'. "tedious and monotonous" sounds good to me :)
  • toddvbtoddvb Member Posts: 12 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Back to original topic... Practice Exams are an invaluable tool to assess your readiness and for general study!
    The latter, however, requires that you RESEARCH and UNDERSTAND the REASONS for your wrong answers. If you're just going to keep taking the same exams hoping to learn specific answers to specific questions (and no theory), you may as well use BrainDumps.
    I'd also like to go on record as saying that I believe there is nothing intrinsically wrong with BDs, as long as you follow the above rules (please don't shoot me). I know that they are illegal/immoral on the suppliers end, but to the user they CAN BE just another source of practice questions.
    That being said, I'm not too fond of them anyway. I looked through a friends 70-290 test from TK and saw awful grammar and way too many mistakes!
    OK - let the beatings begin! ouch...ouch...
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Well, I will admit, that although I feel my notes (at least the level of detail I take them at) does seem excessive for the exams I have taken, I think that the knowledge of little details I retained from past exams really helped me convince my last interviewers (all 3 of them) and my current employer, that I knew my stuff and I wasn't just a paper tech. Although I declined the offer from the other company, before doing so, I was able to use it to angle for a $13,000 / year raise, better benefits for me and my wife, and I was given about $7000 to upgrade our network to XP workstations and Windows 2003 domain controller to hone my skills with from my current employer. :D
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for your input too toddvb.

    I always knew that practice tests were a good way to test your exam readiness but I wasn't sure how useful they were for general study. I always do terrible the first time I take the basic practice tests provided with my textbooks. The questions provided with the text books never seem to reflect the format, difficulty, or knowledge being tested by the actual exam and the answers given are very brief. So I felt that they were pretty much useless for general study. I'm hoping that the stand-alone exam I purchased from MeasureUp is better than the sketchy practice tests provided with my text books.
  • 12thlevelwarrior12thlevelwarrior Member Posts: 302
    flashcards work very well for me, and the practice tests with the MS books have been awesome. both tools are great ways to prepare. who cares if it takes time, you have the rest of your life to learn, enjoy it! :D
    Every man dies, not every man really lives.
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□

    Don't you find the practice tests provided with your text book a little lax when compared to the real exam?
  • 12thlevelwarrior12thlevelwarrior Member Posts: 302
    no way, the ms book practice test in my opinion are more difficult than the exams atleast with the 270/290.

    to me using practice tests are a no brainer. i mean, it is the only way to actually practice taking the test without paying for it.

    the ms books come with tests i think that are made by measureup and there are like 450 questions!

    Every man dies, not every man really lives.
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Cool. I've never used the Microsoft books. They looked pretty long and from what I hear, they are pretty dry too. I've mainly used QUE and the Mike Myers Passport books. They sum up the important stuff really well, give good tips for the exams, but their practice tests really stink.
  • toddvbtoddvb Member Posts: 12 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Have to agree with chuchuchu. Currently using MS, MM, and EC2 books for 290 study and the MS practices are the only ones worth a darn. are also pretty tough, but the site is often down.
  • 12thlevelwarrior12thlevelwarrior Member Posts: 302
    also, make sure the MS book has a discount test coupon!! just getting through halfway on the 291 book. i just have the pdf file on my laptop and read in bed :)
    Every man dies, not every man really lives.
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Okay guys. I'm taking your advice and I'm going to delve into this practice test I bought, hardcore. I've taken it in certification mode twice and I failed it both times with under 30% and I barely made it halfway through the test before my time ran out! Not good, I know. icon_mad.gif So now I'm getting a little concerned. Out of the questions I had time to answer I'm getting about half of them correct. I know that Webmaster said I should keep going over this same test, reviewing the references and the explanations and I intend to do that but I'm just curious if this experience is typical the first few times most people attempt any decent practice test. I'd think it must be because they only give you 90 minutes and there are 50 difficult, long-winded questions; 26 of which are inline questions and answers and the rest are case study style. Considering that the actual test is only 40 questions with 4 case studies, 3 hours and 40 minutes long, and the questions I've encountered on the actual test the last 3 times I took it, didn't seem to be nearly as confusing or crammed with "filler" information as these questions are, I can't see how anyone who wasn't actually involved with the writing of the practice test itself could possibly come close to passing it on the first few attempts. So I'm just curious, does anyone out there ever really pass these practice tests within the first few tries? Should I maybe just give up on this exam and try a different one?
  • risingtechierisingtechie Member Posts: 19 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Just posting again to make this topic visible under the "Recent Discussion" section. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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