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Conversation with Don Poulton about the Microsoft 70-640 Windows Server 2008 Certification Exam

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Pearson IT Certification author Don Poulton discusses the Microsoft 70-640 certification and how candidates can use his new book to prepare to pass the exam.
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Don Poulton (A+, Network+, Security+, MCSA, MCSE) is an independent consultant who has been involved with computers since the days of 80-column punch cards. After a career of more than 20 years in environmental science, Don switched careers and trained as a Windows NT 4.0 MCSE. He consulted with a couple of small training providers as a technical writer, during which time he wrote training and exam prep materials for Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Don has written or contributed to several titles, including MCTS 70-620 Exam Prep: Microsoft Windows Vista, Configuring (Que, 2008), and MCTS 70-680 Cert Guide: Microsoft Windows 7 Configuring (Que, 2010). In this interview, Don discusses the Microsoft 70-640 certification and his related Pearson IT Certification title.

Can you please describe the purpose and content of the Microsoft 70-680 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring) exam for our readers?

This exam validates the candidate's proficiency in working with Active Directory on both the original and R2 versions of Windows Server 2008 in companies of varying sizes, including multiple-domain forests and multiple-site geographical layouts.

Would you say that the skill set that is defined in this exam is at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level?

I would consider the skill set to be intermediate.

What can you share about the specifics of the exam? Number of questions? Types of questions? Time limit? Passing score?

Microsoft does not like to divulge these specifics, but typically there are about 65 questions to be done in 80 or 90 minutes with a passing score of 700. Although the questions are typically multiple-choice (either one or several correct answers), some might be hot-spot or drag-and-drop type.

The required skills, as stated by Microsoft, include the following:

  • [lb] Configuring Domain Name System (DNS) for Active Directory (17 percent)
  • [lb] Configuring the Active Directory infrastructure (17 percent)
  • [lb] Configuring Active Directory Roles and Services (14 percent)
  • [lb] Creating and maintaining Active Directory objects (18 percent)
  • [lb] Maintaining the Active Directory environment (18 percent)
  • [lb] Configuring Active Directory Certificate Services (15 percent)

Consult the Microsoft exam objectives Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-640#tab2 for the latest version of the objectives including all subtopics that are covered within each objective.

How does your new book, MCTS-70-640 Cert Guide, help the candidate to prepare and pass this exam?

The book provides information on all the topics that the candidate is likely to encounter on the exam. Notes, tips, and web links provide helpful information and leads for helpful insights, and detailed step-by-step procedures provide practice in performing the configuration tasks he or she must master for passing the exam.

What would you say are the most heavily emphasized areas on the 70-640 test?

All the objectives as set out on the Microsoft web page are stressed. I cannot say which are more emphasized[md]they are pretty close to the stated percentages. However, you should note that Microsoft likes to emphasize new and improved technologies introduced with Active Directory in Windows Server 2008 over technologies previously present in older versions of Active Directory. Further, Microsoft is known to seed in exam items that test the newest technologies including Windows Server 2008 R2.

What are potential “trouble spots” on the exam for candidates (stuff that is particularly confusing or difficult), and how does your book address these issues?

I really cannot answer this question well because what might come easy to one candidate could be very confusing to the next one. I've attempted to deal with potential trouble spots in the book by providing notes and tips that provide additional insight, as well as plenty of web-based references that readers can go to for further information.

If you've only worked in a small, single-domain Active Directory environment, make sure that you practice and obtain experience in configuring multi-domain and multi-site Active Directory environments including the various types of trust relationships. Ensure that you are familiar with additional Active Directory services such as Active Directory Lightweight Directory Service (AD LDS), Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS), and Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS). Work with the various types of Active Directory replication, and test your troubleshooting skills in discerning why replication might not be working. And take a hard look at Group Policy; in particular, look at how various policies interact with each other and the tools Microsoft has provided to analyze application of Group Policy across multiple sites, domains, and organizational units (OUs). Make sure you understand the factors that might cause Group Policy to not apply in the expected way.

What can someone who uses your book to study and earns the 70-640 able to do in industry? What is his or her next step professionally?

This individual would be able to configure, manage, and troubleshoot an Active Directory installation of one or more domains. He or she would likely begin as a junior administrative assistant and progress towards a more senior level. The next step beyond that would be to pass additional exams that lead to one of the MCITP certifications for Server Administrator or Enterprise Administrator. Beyond that, earn additional qualifications in a field such as directory services design (I do regret that Microsoft did not continue the design exams that they had in the Windows Server 2000/2003 curriculum) or security administration.

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