MCTS Demystified: Server 2008 Active Directory (70-640) Exam Guide

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The MCTS Windows Server 2008 Active Directory: Configuration certification is one of the most popular Microsoft certifications and also a perfect starting point for any aspiring administrator.

Today I'm going to tell you everything you need to know about the Server 2008 AD certification and share some of my experiences and tips for taking, and passing the 70-640 exam so that you can frame your MCTS certificate and show it off to everyone.

MCTS Demystified: What you need to know about the Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring (70-640) Exam

mctslogoAs I mentioned before, the Active Directory certification (exam 70-640) is a perfect starting point for those just getting started in the IT industry.  Once you get your Network+ certification, learning Active Directory is a great way to expand your networking skills.

Does that mean that you have to have your Network+ before getting AD certification?  No, Network+ is not a prerequisite.  It is only my recommendation as it will definitely help you understand all of the technology used in Active Directory study materials.

What if you're an administrator already?  Well, this is a great start on your MCITP Certification

Whether your goal is to get the Server Administrator or the Enterprise Administrator certification, the Active Directory Configuration exam is required for both of them. If you're not sure which MCITP Certification is right for you, check out my last article that talks about the differences between these two certification paths.

70-640 Exam Details

At the time I took the 70-640 exam there were 42 questions.  I don't remember exactly how long it was but I had plenty of time to go through all the questions and then go back and review my marked ones.

Let me just mention real quick for those of you who never took a Microsoft exam, if you are not sure about your answer or you want to skip a question, you can mark it and then go back to it once you went through the entire exam. This was really helpful to me at least; I marked questions that were long and did them at the end to make sure I had enough time.

The passing score for the 70-640 exam is 700 and believe me, it's not that difficult to pass it.  I'm not saying it's an easy exam, but if I could do it, you can too.

70-640 Exam Topics

There are six main topics that are covered on this exam; you will need to learn how to:

  • Configure Domain Name System (DNS) for Active Directory (16%)
  • Configure the Active Directory infrastructure (25%)
  • Configure additional Active Directory server roles (9%)
  • Create and maintain Active Directory objects (24%)
  • Maintain the Active Directory environment (13%)
  • Configure Active Directory Certificate Services (13%)

Now keep in mind that every one of these major topics consists of many different subtopics. To find out more about them visit Microsoft.

Where Should You Start?

In my opinion a good way to start would be getting a certification book or a video, a machine on which you can install Server 2008 (yes, a virtual machine is totally fine too) and dedicating a little bit of time each day to study the material. 

Make sure that once you read a chapter or view a video, you practice the covered topic on your Server 2008. Microsoft provides a download trial for almost each of their products so you should not have to spend a lot of money getting the Server 2008 OS.

If you can't find a download of a particular Microsoft product consider getting a TechNet Plus subscription which will get you access to full version Microsoft software for your own training purposes. To learn more about this check out Dave's article: Why Should You Have a Microsoft TechNet Plus Subscription?.

Once you complete all your training, test your knowledge with practice exams.  It's always good to test your skills before spending money on the exam.

The way I prepared for this exam was by reviewing Coach's course a couple of times. (Actually, I didn't have a choice, since as his Product Manager I had to review it more than once, hehe, but it definitely helped a lot). 

I also used Transcender practice exam to test my knowledge. And with some previous knowledge of networking, I felt confident enough to decide to give it a try. I took the exam and passed on the first try.

What About Experience?

Microsoft recommends that you should have "a minimum of one year of experience implementing and administering a network operating system in an environment that has the following characteristics:

  • 250 to 5,000 or more users
  • Three or more physical locations
  • Three or more domain controllers
  • Network services and resources such as messaging, a database, file and print, a proxy server, a firewall, the Internet, an intranet, remote access, and client computer management
  • Connectivity requirements, such as connecting branch offices and individual users in remote locations to the corporate network and connecting corporate networks to the Internet"

This is where the practicing on your own server 2008 comes into play.  You can "create" your own company on your server and perform all the tasks that are required for this certification. The server is going to crash and things won't work the way you think they should, so you will also get some troubleshooting experience as well.

If you can't get real experience from a job, create your own scenarios and use them as practice.

What Are the Benefits of Passing This Certification?

Well, if you are new to IT, this certification will show that you are definitely on the right path to a new career.  For those of you who are already in the field -- just a few more certifications and you will be an MCITP Certified Professional.  This will open up doors for new job opportunities and/or promotions ...

And let's be honest, we all want those :)

So how did you do?  Post your scores guys -- let's have a competition! (Just don't make them up -- I might ask you to fax me your results, hehe)

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Gosia Grabowska

Gosia Grabowska is an experienced Network Support Specialist and an expert in Windows Server support. She graduated from DePaul University, Chicago with a Bachelor degree in Network Technologies with highest honors. Gosia has over 8 years of technical and support experience and has worked as Systems Administrator for a high profile law firm, where she managed the Backup and Disaster Recovery plan. Gosia has been a part of the Train Signal team since 2006 as the Product Manager and has written many articles on a variety of topics, including Exchange Server 2007, Windows Vista, Small Business Server, and more. (MCTS Active Directory, MCTS Vista, Network+, Linux+, Project+, PMP)