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Conversation with Don Poulton about the Microsoft 70-680 Windows 7 Certification Exam

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Pearson IT Certification author Don Poulton discusses the Microsoft 70-680 certification and how candidates can use his new book to prepare to pass the exam.

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 70-680 certification and his related Pearson IT Certification title.

Can you please describe the purpose and content of the Microsoft 70-680 (TS: Windows 7, Configuring) exam for our readers?

This exam is designed to validate the individual's competence in the general configuration of a computer running Windows 7. I would not think of it as entry-level, but perhaps as "next-to-entry level." In other words, before thinking of taking this exam you should be reasonably experienced at working with computers running Windows 7, including their installation, deployment, and upgrading, as well as configuration of the most common features and troubleshooting issues such as networking and performance. Attaining entry-level competence by passing the CompTIA A+ and Network+ exams is also a plus.

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

I guess you'd say it's at the intermediate level (but to a highly experienced person such as a systems architect, they might think of it as a beginner level.)

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:

  • Installing, Upgrading, and Migrating to Windows 7 (14 percent)
  • Deploying Windows 7 (13 percent)
  • Configuring Hardware and Applications (14 percent)
  • Configuring Network Connectivity (14 percent)
  • Configuring Access to Resources (13 percent)
  • Configuring Mobile Computing (10 percent)
  • Monitoring and Maintaining Systems that Run Windows 7 (11 percent)
  • Configuring Backup and Recovery Options (11 percent)

Consult the Microsoft exam objectives Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-680#tab2 for the latest version of the objectives including all subtopics that are covered within each objective.

How does your new book, MCTS-70-680 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 70-680 test?

All the objectives as set out on the Microsoft web page are stressed. I cannot say which are more emphasized— they are pretty close to the stated percentages. However, you should note that Microsoft likes to emphasize new and improved technologies introduced with Windows 7 over technologies previously present in older Windows operating systems such as Windows 2000 and XP. But don’t overlook the latter!

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 have not worked for a corporation where you would be deploying large numbers of Windows 7 computers, ensure that you become thoroughly familiar with deployment methods such as Windows Deployment Services (WDS), system images (Sysprep), and Windows System Image Manager (SIM). Also make sure that you are familiar with version 6 of the TCP/IP networking protocol and the various types of addressing schemes it uses. But at the same time, don't overlook tried and true items like shared folder and security permissions— a topic that Microsoft brought back after de-emphasizing it on the Vista exam.

What can someone who uses your book to study and earns the 70-680 able to do in industry? What is his or her next step professionally?

Someone who has passed this exam can be a tech support person for a company or work for a support team that provides services to individuals experiencing various types of computer problems. The next step would be to begin working with servers and progress towards attaining one of the MCTS certifications in Windows Server 2008. Further, the 70-680 exam is a required component of several MCITP tracks including Enterprise Desktop Support Technician, Enterprise Administrator, and Enterprise Desktop Administrator.

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