Over Christmas I decided to have a really good read so I got hold of MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-680): Configuring Microsoft Windows 7 by Ian McLean and Orin Thomas. Over the years I’ve read a ton of self paced study guides and I find them to be a really good way to learn, or in this case to consolidate knowledge, of a product. Having read lots of these books I can tell you that some really do suck. Sometimes they aren’t written in an engaging way. It’s not that they need to be a novel or have some kind of story line, really I just want the facts. But I do need the language to be accessible and a little bit conversational. Ian and Orin have delivered both the facts and the context.
The book’s structured in a very sensible way. It tells you what it’s going to tell you, tells you, then tells you what it’s told you. It’s a tried and tested technique that helps you revise as you go and beds the key points into your head. The summaries are written in a way that covers all the basics from the lesson and jogs your memory. There’s also constant questions that help you to make sure you understood what you just read. The companion DVD helps with practice exams and a few extra resources.
One of the best things though is that there are two scenario questions at the end of each chapter and they’re written in a way that really gets you thinking and applying what you’ve learnt.
So what’s bad? The answer is: not much. If I had one complaint about the book it would be about using it in ePub format. The issue is that it’s tricky to use the practice questions in the book using eBook because it means switching from, say, the middle of the book to the end of the book, finding the answers and then finding where you were again. Bookmarks help but it would be much better to have the answers just after the questions. It won’t stop me using eBooks from now on, but it would be a very welcome improvement.
One of my favourite features of the book is a the real world examples that Ian and Orin have thrown in. They give you some good examples of how what you’re about to learn is useful in the real world.
The proof however is in the pudding and this being an exam training kit the pudding is exam 70-680. So last Friday I went and did the exam, you can see how I found that here. The book though is really good preparation for the exam, but it’s not good enough on it’s own. There were questions that were not well covered in the book because they were quite tangential and that’s where an IT pros experience comes into play. If you haven’t deployed and administered Windows 7 yet you might struggle so I’d suggest grabbing another book like Troubleshooting Windows® 7 Inside Out by Mike Halsey to augment your experience. Or if you’re a book lover read the far too excellent for words Windows 7 Resource Kit (like I do when I need to sleep!).
To help you get through, you’ll need to get a free Windows 7 Enterprise trial.