Last month, I took the Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS) exam. This is issued by CWNP, who are similar to CompTIA, i.e. it’s a vendor-neutral exam rather than being based around specific technology (e.g. Cisco access points).

The CWNP website says: “The CWTS certification validates the knowledge of enterprise WLAN sales and support professionals who must be familiar and confident with the terminology and basic functionality of enterprise 802.11 wireless networks.” Similarly, when I booked the exam on the Pearson Vue website, they list it as: “PW0-071: Certified Wireless Technology Specialist – Sales (CWTS)”. This exam isn’t a pre-requisite for any of the higher qualifications, so you could start with the CWNA instead (“the foundation level enterprise Wi-Fi certification for the CWNP Program”). As I understand it, the main difference between the CWTS and the CWNA is “what vs. how”, although I don’t really know enough about the CWNA yet to comment in detail.

Having said that, I learnt a lot by preparing for this exam, and I think there is quite a bit of technical detail in here. For instance, here’s section 3.6 of the exam objectives:

Understand and apply basic RF antenna concepts

  • Passive Gain
  • Beamwidth
  • Simple diversity
  • Polarization

I think there are a lot of IT professionals who would struggle to define all of those terms. Similarly, here’s one of the sample questions from the start of the textbook:

What can contribute to voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) in an IEEE 802.11g wireless LAN circuit?

  1. Output power of the access point
  2. Impedance mismatch
  3. Gain of an antenna
  4. Attenuation value of cable

So, this is a bit more involved than just saying “Buy a wireless router and plug it in at home”!

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CompTIA exams

Back in 2007, I passed the CompTIA A+ exams. Since then, there have been a few changes to the way these exams work. Unfortunately, CompTIA haven’t done a very good job of explaining it all; it makes volume licensing seem clear and simple by comparison!

In brief, if you currently have the A+, Network+, or Security+ qualification, you should enroll in the CE program. The deadline for enrollment is 31st December, so there’s not much time left. (If this applies to anyone you know, please pass this info on to them.)

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Microsoft exams

Last August, I did a beta exam for Microsoft. I didn’t pay for it, but I didn’t get a score either; the idea was just to test out their new software for doing simulations in the exam (rather than multiple choice questions). As a “thank you”, Microsoft then sent me three vouchers, each one corresponding to a free exam. These expire at the end of June, so I’ve finally had to stop procrastinating and start studying.

Today I did two exams: 70-236 (MCTS: Configuring Exchange Server 2007) and 70-431 (MCTS: SQL Server 2005 – Implementation and Maintenance). According to the booking website, the Exchange exam lasts 4½ hours, and the SQL exam lasts 4 hours, so this looked like quite a long day! Fortunately, I didn’t need all the time that was allocated, so I ended both exams early, and I was at the test centre for about 3 hours altogether.

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On Monday morning I took the Vista upgrade exam (70-621). I passed it with a healthy margin (pass mark was 700/900 and I scored 820/900), so I’m happy with that, and it gives me two extra certifications:

  • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (Microsoft Windows Vista: Configuration)
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (Enterprise Support Technician)

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Windows Vista: first impressions

Two weeks ago I went off to a Microsoft event in Reading: “Ready for a New Day: Microsoft’s Launch of Exchange, Office and Vista”. That was quite interesting, and I came away thinking that there are enough useful features to justify an upgrade. They gave me a freebie copy of Windows Vista and Office 2007 for attending; that’s quite a nice touch, especially since the event itself was free. Now that I’ve been doing some presenting myself, I could sympathise with the people at the front when their demos didn’t quite work properly, and I particularly liked the heartfelt cry of “Thank you, demo gods!” when something went smoothly.

Speaking of Vista, I recently received an email from Microsoft, offering me a place on a beta certification exam. I passed the MCDST exams for Windows XP a couple of years ago and Microsoft are now preparing the equivalent MCITP qualification for Windows Vista. The idea of the beta exam is that they can get an idea of whether the questions are too easy/difficult by trying them out on people with a (roughly) known skill level. Anyway, I’m flattered to be invited, and it’s a free exam, so I’ve signed up for that on 5th January. The only snag is that there aren’t any study guides etc. available yet (the people who write them will probably be doing the beta exams too), so I’ll need to prepare for it on my own. Still, I’ve passed all my previous Microsoft exams on my first attempt (8 so far), so I’m quietly confident about this one.

Vista won’t be available as a retail product until January 27th, and Microsoft haven’t sent out any DVDs to business customers yet, but companies with volume licencing deals can download it. I’ve been playing with it on my home machine, so that I can get a feel for it before I do any big deployments at work; here are my thoughts so far.

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70-165: Microsoft Visual Basic 5.0 Programming


I recently decided to become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), starting with the VB 5 exam. I passed it with a score of 898/1000, which I’m pleased about. I can tell you what I did to prepare for this exam, although I can’t guarantee that the same thing will work for you. I should mention that I’ve been using VB since August 1994 (I taught myself version 3 by reading the supplied manuals), so I wasn’t starting from scratch here. Essentially, I already knew how to use VB (it’s what I do for a living), so I just wanted to know how to pass the exam.

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