Tips/Suggestions Needed for Passing 70-297

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  • Last Post 03 December 2009
chaselton posted this 22 November 2009

Next Monday I'm sitting for the 70-297 for the third time this year, as I failed the first two times. Before the first two attempts I used practice tests (which I passed), the Microsoft Press Kit book, a test network and I briefly skimmed the TechNet documentation.



It's been about six plus months since the last time I took the test. I've spent that time reading and taking notes on TechNet's Designing and Deploying Directory Services, Designing and Deploying Network Services, and Designing and Deploying Security Services. I'm also still working with the test network, and I've asked every Microsoft trainer/specialist I've encountered a) if they took the exam and b) if they have any suggestions for passing it. The answers weren't encouraging.



I've taken the week off from work to finish reading the TechNet documentation (still finishing up Design and Deployment of Directory Services, Network Services and most of Security Services), review my notes, work with the test network I've set up and ask everyone who may have taken this exam for suggestions on how to pass. Hence this email.



Once I pass this, I have one more test before obtaining 2003 MCSE status. I'd really like to pass this time so I can move on to the next (and start prepping for the 2008 upgrade exams), so if you've taken the exam and have suggestions, tips, to-dos or to-don'ts, please chime in?



Thanks in advance,





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bdesmond posted this 22 November 2009

The printouts you get from the exam place show relative percentages in different categories. Was there a particular area you needed to focus on?

I took this probably 5 years ago so I don't really remember anything about it, but, looking at the objectives, it looks like there's little hands-on content, all paper stuff. One thing that might help as a strategy is when you get the questions with the exhibits, tables, and other piles of information, take some notes on the little whiteboard they give you so you can refer back and also think it through as you sketch it out.

Thanks,
Brian Desmond
brian@briandesmond.com<mailto:brian@briandesmond.com>

c - 312.731.3132

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chaselton posted this 22 November 2009

Unfortunately I left those at work. I think that one of the areas that I needed improvement was in determining the directory structure, but I can't be sure.

I do remember feeling that when I tried to jot notes using the whiteboard, the time seemed to run out faster. And the notes I took didn't help to answer the question...I was always flipping back to the case study to find the answers to the questions....particularly the ones that started "based on the administrative/business/organizational requirements..."

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tonyszko posted this 22 November 2009

My advice I'm giving to every person who is approaching MS exam is ...
read the question carefully. In most cases key to correct answer is in a
question. So if You know the stuff and you are not sure what to answer
just go back to scenario description (if it is scenario based exam) or
just question and read it once again with this question in mind. In most
cases you will find a hint to good answer there (which sometimes is not
aligned with what I would do in real life :) ).

--
Tomasz Onyszko
http://www.w2k.pl/ - (PL)
http://blogs.dirteam.com/blogs/tomek/ - (EN)

chaselton posted this 22 November 2009

I understand how this would work with the standard 55 question, 2.5 hour exam, and I've used this approach for those exams.

Unfortunately, the format of this exam is different. There are case studies with questions, and a fixed amount of time (15-25 min) to answer the questions for the case study. Once time is up, you can't go back. And the case studies are extremely long; it is not possible to go back and re-read the entire case study with a question in mind.

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davewade posted this 23 November 2009


In order to pass this examination you need to be able to pick out the design criteria from the scenarios as recommended by Microsoft. If you are familiar with the design criteria these should leap off the paper as you read through the scenarios. Know how to decide on how many Forests, Domains, OUs and SITES you need. You should be able to almost sketch the design as you read the scenario.

In order to learn the criteria I recommend that read the Microsoft Active Directory design guides and learn the criteria for deciding how many Forests, Domains, OU's and Sites you need. Unfortunately from what I can see the documentation is now disparate. The basic design guide at :-

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb727085.aspx

is still for windows/2000, however the basic information hasn't change for 2003. I can't find an updated guide for 2003 only descriptions of the extra features which you will also need to learn. Remember that you will be examined on the basis of these recommendations, not on the opinions of MPVs or folks on lists like this.

Dave

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ken posted this 23 November 2009

Hi,

My strategy for passing that exam was to read the questions first, then skim through the scenario looking for items that will answer the questions.

If you read the scenarios first, trying to memorise every detail (and most of the details will end up being irrelevant to the questions) you'll just run out of time.

As Tomasz has pointed out, half the time (or maybe that might be an exaggeration) the answers are there. If you can knock off 3/4 of the questions straight away, that gives you time to hunt for the best answers to the remaining questions for that scenario.

Cheers
Ken

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chaselton posted this 23 November 2009

Hey,
Thanks for the tip...that's one I'm seeing more than others when Googling for tips and suggestions.
Do you read all of the questions first or do you read them and refer back one at a time?

Thanks,

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chaselton posted this 23 November 2009

Dave,
I've been studying this: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc787010%28WS.10%29.aspx
When I was working with the Transcender exams, the study recommendations referenced this link, among others.

>From what I remember of the last exam, there were also a number of network design and security design questions...on WINS and DHCP server placement and remote client access. I've been reading the Network design and deployment TechNet guides...are you saying I should forget those and focus on the Directory design and deployment guides?

Cynthia Haselton
University of Chicago
NSIT/DCS
w: 773.702.2963
p: 773.652.0065
txt: 7736520065@page.metrocall.com<mailto:7736520065@page.metrocall.com>

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ken posted this 23 November 2009

I read all the questions first. I'm reasonably good at remembering a lot of data for short periods of time.

I wouldn't read one question and then hunt for the answer. Then read the second, and hunt for the answer.

Read all the questions, then skim through the scenario. Hopefully you can knock off several of the questions easily. Then you have the rest of the time for that scenario to knock off a few more of the not-so-obvious answers, and hopefully that will add up to 70-80% for that scenario, which is all you need to pass.

Cheers
Ken

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ken posted this 23 November 2009

You will have to have a grasp of those other bits-n-pieces as well. You need to have a grasp (but not necessarily an in-depth knowledge) of all the stuff listed on this page: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-297&locale=en-us#tab2

Cheers
Ken

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pbbergs posted this 23 November 2009

This is exactly the same way I look at this type of a test. Find out the questions and then read scenario. Otherwise too much info in too short a period of time.

I always prep with Transender, the flashcards do a good of specific details as well. I get all answers correct and understand them before I attempt a test.


Thanks
 
Paul

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davewade posted this 23 November 2009

Cynthia,

Unfiortunatly you can't forget anything!. That's the problem with this
exam! The exam covers both. Just look at :-

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=70-297#tab2

and see who much is covered under the sub-heading:-

"Creating the Logical Design for an Active Directory Infrastructure"

So I would be looking both in great detail, sorry :-(

Dave Wade

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daemonr00t posted this 23 November 2009

Try out http://www.examcollection.com/70-297.html



~D~

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kevinbrunson posted this 23 November 2009

Lots of the design questions are not necessarily based on best technical answer, but priorities. If you read the question and then answer based on the first place in the case study that seems to relate to the question, you will probably end up wrong. They intentionally place different priorities at different places in the case study. The CEO may have one set of priorities and the IT Managers a different set of priorities. If the CEO's top priority conflicts with that of the IT Managers, you need to remember who is in charge. You may find that two priorities are in direct conflict with each other. If the CEO wants to use BIND DNS because he heard that is the best, and that is the only thing in the whole project he cares about regardless of cost, but the IT Dept would like to play some with AD Integrated zones if that is an option, then you should probably forget about the fact that the IT dept wants AD integ, and go with BIND.

In light of that, I don't think you can just skim the case study. But it definitely makes sense to read the questions first, then as you read through the case study make notes on what you find that seems to answer the questions. Once you are done you can reconcile the different priorities and try to find an answer that matches.

Kevin

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chaselton posted this 23 November 2009

Okay, so one "have a grasp of" and one "know everything". I feel better now. Wait....

Maybe this would be a better question:
I've got a week off to finish preparing for this exam. If you were in my shoes, what would you focus on?

Here's what I've covered in detail (read, taken notes, done in VM Environment):
Designing a TCP/IP Network
Deploying DHCP
Deploying DNS
Deploying WINS
Planning an Active Directory Deployment Project
Designing the Active Directory Logical Structure
Designing the Site Topology
Planning Domain Controller Capacity
Enabling Advanced Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Features
Deploying the Windows Server 2003 Forest Root Domain
Deploying Windows Server 2003 Regional Domains
Upgrading Windows NT 4.0 Domains to Windows Server 2003 AD (first part)

The above are sections in the following links:
Designing and Deploying Directory and Security Services<http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc787010%28WS.10%29.aspx&gt;
Deploying Network Services<http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc775745%28WS.10%29.aspx&gt;

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chaselton posted this 23 November 2009

Thanks for bringing this up (about the priorities) as I'm sure this is one of those things that tripped me up when I first took the test...and the part that isn't covered well in the practice exams. I can handle clear cut technical requirements, but I get confused when one section says "I'm the CEO and I am the final word on this project" and another says, "I'm the IT Head, and while I know the CEO is the final word on this project, I don't feel he understands the needs of our department. We must implement x in order for y to be maintained". Especially when the IT department head's choice is technically correct and the CEO's choice is not.

That last example seems subjective to me, and the cases on the exam are more complicated than that. How do I determine the right answer? Especially when there is a timer ticking down in the background?

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kevinbrunson posted this 23 November 2009

I think sometimes you have to distinguish between "technically correct" and "technically possible". Let's say the CEO only has one priority, but it is a little out there. For example, "datacenter cooling is expensive, but the dark side of the moon is always cold, so we need our mainframes on the dark side of the moon." If the CIO lists his priorities as "go with whatever the CEO says" and "high-speed network access between sites", it is safe to say that you don't have any real requirement to find a good ISP with lunar support. However, if the CEO has a high-priority request, it probably overrules other requests from other people farther down the line, as long as they are not illegal and are technically possible.

Most other MS exams test your ability to take hard facts and make objective decisions. The design exams test your ability to take an overwhelming quantity of soft facts (mixed with a few hard facts) and make subjective decisions based on your experience. To be able to pass this test you have to understand which requirements are actually requirements and which requirements are just a wish list. When requirements conflict you have to decide which requirements override the rest. Most questions on these tests require you to resolve those conflicts. It is easy to resolve a conflict when a business requirement is not technically possible; it is much more difficult when given 2 or more technically possible requirements that contradict each other. Remember that there are almost sure to be some design goals that cannot be achieved because some other goal precludes it.

Hope that helps
Kevin

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davewade posted this 23 November 2009

Oddly , after reading your list of things you had studied I would have said if you know all that stuff, then its time to look at examination technique. The answer will (usually) be in the question!. Re-Read the question and try to see which answer fits the question. If I remember properly there often hints in the question about which part of the scenario they wanted you to consider.

Dave Wade
0161 474 5456

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chaselton posted this 23 November 2009

Wow. In your second paragraph, you've pretty much nailed my stumbling block in this exam. The key phrases: "overwhelming quantity of soft facts" and "subjective decisions". I don't have much of a problem quickly determining answers given hard facts and definite decisions, but soft facts and subjective decisions slows me down because the answers aren't as clear. And it seems as though they aren't clear by design. Plus, on top of all that, they limit the time you have to determine the answers.

No wonder I failed the first two times.

It's cruelly ironic that an exam evaluating your skill at a process that, by Microsoft's definition, takes weeks to complete, asks you to do the same...with similar information...in a matter of minutes. Designing an Active Directory environment takes careful planning, thought and consideration. Why then, does the exam force you to do the opposite? How does this test design skills?

I'm headed back to studying after sending this but to be honest, now I'm not sure how much value any additional studying will have. Thoughts?

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kevinbrunson posted this 23 November 2009

I agree with what Dave Wade just said. I think you have covered just about everything there is to cover in terms of technical study materials. It doesn't sound like there is much more you could study.
Does the MS Press book have sample case studies in it? If so, practice looking through the case studies and pulling info about requirements and priorities. Try to prioritize the requirements listed in the case study, scratch out any that can't possibly be included, and then move on to the questions.
It may have changed since I took any of the design tests, but they usually do a pretty good job of identifying priorities and telling which were primary (needs) and which were secondary (wants). They also do a pretty good job of laying out the reporting structure (I'm the boss so shut up and do it my way). If everyone agrees on the primary priority for a project, then put that at the very top of your list. As the different parties disagree, use the reporting structure and technical feasibility as filters. In the end you should have a very short list showing what you have to do and what would be nice, and hopefully a little info that will help you find where in the case study you found it (2Para3 might mean 2nd paragraph 3rd line, for example, try to use shorthand to save yourself some time). Answer the questions based on that list and refer back when necessary to find details.

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