Monday, August 29, 2011

Product Review: uCertify Preparation Kits

Anyone that has worked in the IT world for even a short amount of time understands that certification exams are part of the game. Not unexpectedly, I too have had the need to familiarize myself with these exams in order to obtain my various certifications. 

Recently, the folks at uCertify contacted me in relation to their test preparation kits, and I agreed to give their product a look and offer my opinion. 

My past experience with certifications has seen me use a variety of study material, including instructor led classes, books (e.g. Microsoft Press) and other printed material, as well as electronic tools similar to those offered by uCertify. 

My personal preference is for printed materials, but am also sufficiently comfortable with electronic learning tools, so I did not foresee any problems with utilizing the uCertify products. 

The uCertify catalog includes a wide variety of test preparation kits for a number of popular certifications, including: MCSE, Cisco, Zend, Linux, etc. Given I am currently in the process of studying for my Red Hat certification, I selected the Linux track, which provided me access to the Red Hat Linux Essentials (RH033) preparation kit.

Installation of the related software was simple and quick, as was the activation process which unlocks it and permits access to all the related content. Fully enabled, the uCertify kit really shines as a comprehensive learning tool. 

To begin with, the kit includes a variety of tools reflecting differing learning techniques. Some of these include: flash cards, study notes, articles of interest and much more. In general, it seems to offer something for just about any type of personality and learning preference.

Each of those components is easy to use and follow, although the navigation confused me a bit at times. It could be enhanced by the use of some standard conventions such as Back versus Close. But beyond that, the approach is smooth and easy to follow.

The content itself seems accurate. Much of it appears to be snippets of relevant text from the official Linux man (manual) pages, with some text with a degree less of technical jargon to it to further explain the topic at hand. 

Once comfortable with the subject matter, the uCertify kit provides a variety of practice exams one can use to gauge one's level of preparation. I should stress that I have not taken the official Red Hat exam, thus do not have the ability to gauge how well the kit actually prepares one for it.

That aside, the practice tests themselves are quite good. They relate directly to the study material and are worded such that they are easy to comprehend. 

A couple of nice features that stood out from other tools I have used in the past include the ability to select different test modes and creating custom tests. In addition, within the test itself, the ability to add notes, print items and even provide feedback are all quite helpful. Of course, it also contains other expected features such as bookmarking of questions and a summary of answers for final review prior to submitting for results. The test experience itself was quite good and provided simple methods for reviewing the results and furthering one's understanding of the subject. 

Albeit the testing process was a good experience, I did take note that on at least one occasion, the answers for a given question were all capitalized. It may not be of relevance for other certification tests, but casing differences are significant in the Linux world as it is a case-sensitive operating system. One could easily be misled into thinking the correct answer is not available as a choice simply based on the fact that one expects the answer to be a command written in lowercase.

Without the benefit of having taken the official exam, it is also a bit difficult to gauge the usefulness of other features such as the Test Readiness Report and Objective Readiness Report, both of which are aimed at providing insight as to how well one might perform on the official test.

Overall, the uCertify tool is a comprehensive and flexible learning tool that is definitely worth considering, specially at the $80 - $100 price point (depends on selected kit). Those looking for self-paced preparation kits will find it easy to use, thorough and extremely helpful.

To summarize, here is my list of Pros and Cons:

Price point
Simple installation
Comprehensive set of tools
Relevant and accurate study material
Differing learning options for varying tastes/preferences
Flexible practice tests 
Test result review process is excellent
Relevant and varied study material

Update process failed on initial attempt
Navigation can be a bit confusing at times
Casing on answers can be misleading

uCertify test preparation kits are available at:

Additional details on the Red Hat Linux Essentials course can be found here:

Please contact uCertify directly regarding any further questions about their products. 

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