Three things struck me about this set as soon as I received it and started working through the material.
- First, these books can be used for both learning and preparing for the certification exams.
- Second, if you buy the set from Amazon and you intend to take the exams, your cost will be a fraction of the published cost. This is because of the four 15% off exam fee vouchers that are included in the set. In the end, you will get almost 75% off the published price! Be careful when you buy this set as a used set from someone as the vouchers have discount codes that can only be utilized once.
- Third, these same books can be used whether you are interested in the VB.NET track or VC#.NET track.
This set is best suited for basic and intermediate level users of the .NET technologies. The four books in the set are focused on helping you learn – windows based programming, web based programming, XML web services and server components, and solution architectures.
Each book takes a lesson style approach by splitting each chapter into multiple lessons. Each lesson focuses on teaching a unique skill and can be worked through individually. But I found that you need to stay with the sequence of lessons in order to get the maximum benefit. I am new to taking Microsoft certifications so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the way the material is presented.
Each lesson has an estimated time of completion which I found to be a bit too optimistic but not too far off. The relevant concepts are explained first and these are followed by step by step instructions on how to perform a specific task. Example code related to the task being described is included. At the end of each chapter (not lesson), there is a lab section that contains several exercises for the reader to perform to ensure proper learning.
The completed labs are on the CD-ROM that comes with the set. This is very helpful in identifying by comparison anything wrong that you might have done on these exercises. The CD-ROM that comes with the set has the entire set in electronic form, completed labs, practice files, and exam questions. The set also comes with a DVD that has a 60 day trial version of Visual Studio.NET 2003 Professional. The paper is very thin and these are paperbacks and not hardcover editions. I personally like the thinner paper as it is easier to carry the individual books around. The prerequisites for using this set are a knowledge of controls & events, SQL, and other basic programming concepts. I think this set is aimed at users that are at a beginner or intermediate level.
One advanced user I talked to wasn’t as impressed with this set as I was. The only downside to the set that I found was the intermingling of VB.NET and VC#.NET code throughout the books. I found this very annoying as I am interested in only the VB.NET portions. But I guess this could be a positive if you haven’t decided which path to take or are planning on mixing the exams that you take.
The best part about these books is that there are so many practice questions for each exam! After researching other preparatory material online, I found that most vendors are not including that many practice questions. So getting these many questions (550 total in the set) for such a low price made it really worthwhile for me. I would recommend getting the training guides by Mike Gunderloy (Que Certification series) that I am finding to be the best tools for exam preparation. But it doesn’t hurt to get this Microsoft set considering the exam fee discount reduces the price of the set and the number of questions included is great! Overall, don’t hesitate to get this set if you are sure that you are going to take the exams. But use the set as a secondary and not a primary preparation tool. Good luck learning .NET and passing the exams! Microsoft approaches certification exams the same way that the Educational Testing Service approaches SAT, GMAT and GRE college entrance exams. ETS discourages people from using SAT preparation classes and books and, rather, encourages people to just work on their verbal and quantitative skills. They suggest that doing so is enough to do well on the exams. We all know better. Microsoft takes the approach that, if you have a good mastery of the subject being tested then that is all you need to pass the certs.
The Microsoft Self-Paced Training Kits (known as the “redbooks”) do a reasonable job of teaching you the concepts of ASP.NET (and WinForms and the VB.NET/C# language and other tested topics), but they do a poor job of preparing you for the certs. It’s true that, if you review vocabulary words a lot and practice intermediate algebra and 10th grade geometry problems in the weeks preceding your SATs you may improve your score by 3 or 4%. But if you use that time to review sample test questions and analyze the structure and logic behind SAT questions using Princeton Review or Kaplan etc., then you will improve your score by considerably more than a few percentage points. The same goes for Microsoft certs. If you master the topic being tested (in this case, Web apps, ASP.NET), you may still pass the exam or, at least, slightly increase your score. But knowing the topic is not enough. You must know the exam, as well. This thinking goes against Microsoft’s view of their own certification exams. Microsoft’s thinking and point-of-view is reflected in their “redbooks.” Therefore, if all you want is to learn ASP.NET using either of the dialects of the VB.NET/C# language, then this book is OK (if a bit pricey compared to other “cert prep” books). But if you are looking for certification preparation (as opposed to just learning the topic), then a combination of one of the cert prep products such as TestKing or Transcender along with a book like Kalani (ISBN: 0789728222) is a much better approach. These tools will help you pass the exam.