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IT Certification Puts Teacher in New Class

For Texas-based writer and trainer Joli Ballew, drugs certification was a ladder to freedom from a career that was crushing her.

"When I went in to take the test, I was hoping for some sort of adaptive thing, you know, 28 to 30 questions, in and out in less than the time it takes to get to the post office and back. No such luck! The test was 50 questions, two hours, and was akin to reading Tolstoys War and Peace. Every question was a menagerie of many concepts, and for those of you that arent already MCPs or MCSEs, you may find this all a little overwhelming. I honestly believe that all of the concepts were covered, unlike the old tests where you may not see questions on even half of the material."

How tough was it? Consider a question similar to the old Required/Not Required format with the Required Results consisting of about seven items and a Proposed Solution. According to Ballew, "this is where the answer format changes from the familiar Required/One Optional/Both Optional/Not Required to a list of all seven items in the answer. To get the answer correct, you have to check the box by each of the results that were met by the Proposed Solution. Perhaps the Proposed Solution met four of the seven, and you check five of them. Thats going to be counted wrong. As far as anyone can tell, theres no partial credit!"

Ballew's favorite study preparation is to read, read, read. She says, "For every class and every test, I began by reading the Microsoft Press books, then a Sybex (Alameda, Calif.) or Syngress or New Riders (Indianapolis, Ind.) book, and then a test prep book. I used the software, of course, and studied all the time."

Ballew admits that certification didnt bring the instant success she had hoped for. "I was making $31,000 a year as a veteran teacher and I wanted to make more. Even with an MCSE, I had no experience, and the offers I first received for a network administrator were right around $35,000. The titles were Junior Network Administrator, Trainee, and so on. I was disappointed. I thought they'd be knocking down my door since I had an MCSE, and that I'd get to choose between many companies, and that they'd be offering me at least twice what I was making as a teacher. Not so. That's when I began looking at becoming a trainer. I was hired at a start-up company in February of 2000 making good money, and my boss even paid for me to become an MCT!" The moral of this story is, if your expectations aren't met, do something to make them happen.

When asked for some words of advice for anyone considering joining her on the certification path, Ballew is very direct: "You have to start. You have to begin. Do it today." Excellent advice for any endeavor, but especially so for the rigorous journey toward becoming certified.