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Finding Reputable Study Materials

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Do a Google search on any Microsoft certification exam title, and you are sure to find hundreds of potential study resources. So how do you know which resource is right for you? This article discusses techniques that you can use for finding helpful and accurate study materials, while avoiding websites that are less than reputable.

If you do a quick Google search on any of the Microsoft exams, you are sure to be bombarded with listings for websites claiming to be able to help you pass the exam. Since it is nearly impossible to pass a Microsoft certification exam without some study aides, I think that it makes a lot of sense to examine the question of how you can go about finding something reputable.

Brain Dumps

There are countless so-called “Brain Dump” sites which claim to contain actual questions and answers from certification exams. Even though it may be tempting to take the easy way out and download a few brain dumps, I recommend avoiding brain dump sites like the plague. There are at least four good reasons why using brain dumps is a bad idea.

1. Exams Do Not Contain Every Possible Question

Microsoft exams are designed to pull questions from a pool of possible test questions. When you take an exam, you will only see a subset of the possible test questions. In fact, if you have ever had to retake a failed exam then you probably noticed that only a few of the questions were repeats from your first attempt.

Because of way that Microsoft pulls exam questions from a pool of questions, a brain dump will probably only have some of the questions that you are likely to encounter on the actual exam. If you only memorize brain dump answers then your odds of passing the exam go way down.

2. Brain Dump Sites Can Be Malicious

Although some of the brain dump sites are exactly what they appear to be, there are numerous malicious brain dump sites on the Internet. A few months ago, I was researching an article that I was writing for this site and went to what I thought was a brain dump site. To make a long story short, the site tried to infect my PC with malware.

As if the malware threat wasn’t enough of a reason to avoid brain dump sites, there are stories in various Internet message boards from people claiming to have had their credit card numbers stolen after they tried to purchase brain dumps.

3. There May Be Other Types of Bait Sites

For several years now I have been hearing rumors that Microsoft operates their own brain dump sites. While I do not claim to know whether or not these rumors are true, I have heard that Microsoft allegedly catches would-be cheaters when they register on a bait site.

4. The Accuracy is Dubious

One of the big problems with brain dump sites is that it is difficult to tell how accurate the information is. Often such sites simply contain a list of questions that were supposedly encountered on a Microsoft exam and the answers to those questions. The problem is that you never really know if the test questions are real or not, or if the person who posted the questions got the answers right.

The only brain dump site that I have ever seen that I feel comfortable saying was authentic was one that I stumbled onto while researching this article. Someone apparently smuggled a camera into the testing facility because the brain dumps had photographs of the test questions.

Even in a case like this, however, it is difficult to tell whether or not the answers are accurate, and it is possible that missing the same questions as the person who posted the brain dumps could send up a red flag. To give you a more concrete example, consider something that happened during my junior year in high school.

Someone who had English class early in the day would always write down all of questions and answers every time that there was a test. They would hide the list behind one of the radiators in the hallway so that friends who had the class later in the day could get the answers prior to going into the test.

This little scheme worked really well for several months. One day, however, the person who was supplying all the answers missed a question. The teacher became suspicious when almost everybody in all of the classes for the rest of the day missed exactly the same question. As luck would have it the person who had been supplying everyone with the answers was the only person in their class to get that question wrong, so the teacher had no trouble figuring out who had cheated on the exam. It is possible that Microsoft could theoretically use a similar technique to look for certain patterns of incorrect answers as evidence of cheating.

Legitimate Study Resources

Even though brain dump sites should be avoided, there are plenty of legitimate study resources available to anyone who is preparing to take a Microsoft certification exam. The remainder of this article will outline some of the better resources that are available.

Pearson IT Certification

At the risk of this sounding like a shameless self-plug, the first place that I recommend looking for study resources is this site. It contains numerous articles pertaining to various Microsoft certification-related topics. There are also a number of exam profiles that provide information such as how many questions you can expect to see, what the trouble spots are, and what types of questions to expect.

In addition to all of the great articles, the site also contains an online store in which you can order various types of study guides for the exams.

YouTube

Believe it or not, YouTube can actually be an invaluable study resource for those who are about to take a Microsoft certification exam. Don't bother looking to YouTube for pointers about tricky exam questions or about what types of questions you might expect to see on a specific exam. Occasionally you might find YouTube videos containing such information, but it is tough to tell whether or not the information presented in such videos is accurate.

YouTube is better suited for getting a handle on tricky exam topics. There are a couple of different ways to do this. One thing that you can do is to search YouTube for the exam number. For example, in preparing to write this article I did a YouTube search on the phrase “Exam 70-662.” What I found was that someone had posted nine different screencasts that demonstrated some of the material being tested. For example, there were videos on creating dynamic distribution groups and on ActiveSync policies.

Of course you can find relevant YouTube content in other ways as well. If there is a particular subject that you are having a hard time with, try searching for that topic on YouTube. Odds are that you will find several YouTube videos either explaining the topic, or demonstrating how it is used. Such videos can be extremely valuable, especially to those who do not have the time or the financial resources to attend a Microsoft authorized training class.

Online Forums

Another unconventional resource that can go a long way toward helping you prepare is online forums that are not specifically exam-related. Microsoft hosts forums dedicated to nearly all of their products, and there are also countless similar forums on third-party websites as well. Such forums are dedicated to providing help with various issues that may come up when working with Microsoft products. If there is a particular topic that you are having trouble understanding when preparing for an exam, you might consider posting a question within such a forum asking if someone will point you to a good resource that will help you to better understand the topic.

As a general rule of etiquette, you should avoid asking questions about whether or not a particular topic is covered on an exam (unless the forum is exams-specific). Moderators and those who frequent forums tend to not like it when people post exam related questions within non-exams specific threads.

Amazon

One of the best resources on the entire Internet for finding reputable study materials is Amazon. Sure, there are lots of websites that you can use to purchase study materials, but there is one thing that sets Amazon apart from the others.

Amazon is an extremely high volume sales site. This is important for two reasons. First, if you search based on the title of an exam you are sure to find numerous study resources. More importantly though, you will typically find dozens of different reviews for each product. You can use these reviews to find out which study resources are going to be the most beneficial to you.

One thing to keep in mind as you read the reviews however is that not all reviews can be trusted. I have seen instances in which a review looks as though it has been posted by the person who is doing PR for the product. Likewise, I have also seen reviews posted by someone who simply has a score to settle with the author or with the publisher. As such, I think it is important to look at the reviews as a whole rather than basing your purchasing decision on a single review.

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