I’ve been using the 70-515-CSHARP – MCTS: Web Applications Development Training kit from uCertify for a week. A typical study-learn-practise guide to completing the Microsoft 70-515 exam. The software is installed and used as a desktop application. I’ll express my subjective views on what I liked and disliked. I have not done the exam as yet and will write another article on how well this training kit helped me in passing the exam.
I like the fact that they present you with a diagnostic test first. Each question is from a particular area and structured so you can know which area to focus on. They tested from basic ASP.NET configuration, deployment to even the now not so new MVC (13% of the exam). Upon finishing the test, you get the typical report system of how you did, what you got wrong etc. You can view correct answers and their explanations during the test or after the test from the report section. What I loved about this section is that they utilized pointing to MSDN documentation on the topic for further reading. A variety of question types are used, such as ordering elements multiple choice, so its not just the typical all multiple choice test suite.
Tests are given in sequence, from easy to hard. But there is a cool feature called an Adaptive test that pulls questions from the easy or hard pool depending on whether you got the previous one wrong. The harder questions you get correct, the harder they get.
So far, they try to simulate tests like the real world exam while trying to aid you in learning.
For me, the best way to study and learn something in the software engineering field is to read the documentation, write code, tweak, write some more code, tweak some more. In the kit, the about 70% of the content are definitions and examples, most of which already requires some knowledge of the content. Most of this section can be used as a reference guide to everyday development if they provided a search feature.
Another great way for me to learn is by watching screen-casts, and they also provide these although they are not packaged with the software. They are hosted on youtube, for eg. ASP.NET MVC Models, which are free for everyone so you can watch and judge the quality for yourself. Some labs contain a series of image to guide you through certain set-ups or files just in case you are lost.
The software provides you with most of the information required to not only know the answers to the questions but to also understand them and why they work that way.
Why 8? There is room for improvement with more video and image based content. Sample visual studio projects should be provided with this kit. Sample code and projects are a big help in the software engineering field. Lack of search functionality.
User Experience (6/10)
Their User Interface needs some more work. The home of the software is fine but when you drill down into the questions and study sections, the font size, colors and design is not really motivational. Functionalities or navigation controls does not look like items the user should be interacting with. They might have a list with 2 lines of text, both of which are click-able but are designed as plain text. It displays the content you need but does not give that new software/web 2.0 look and feel. Check out something like Khan Academy’s designs, for my computer science readers, he has stuff on calculus, linear algebra, etc. So be sure to check him out.
Another concern of mine is that it was not cloud based. I would love to sync up my reports and other test/study data to my other computers that I use.
uCertify’s Microsoft web developer training has their content and teaching methodologies well structured. The study guide alone is beneficial to people who do not even need to do the certification, somewhat similar to an ASP.NET Cook-book (I’ve even found features I’ve never used before but are useful in real world development). This kit and exam is not for the beginner. But as they stated, you should have 2-3 years of software engineering in the ASP.NET environment to really understand these concepts presented.