Consider the "Paper MCSE" a disease. Consider us your doctor.

What is a paper MCSE, you ask? An example of a Paper MCSE is somebody who could tell you word for word what the 23rd question on the second Networking Essentials Transcender Exam is, but couldn't tell you how to map a drive from a command prompt. We could go on, but we think most of you know exactly what a Paper MCSE is.

This article will tell you how NOT to become one.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid the dangerous Paper MCSE disease:

1. Recognize that the path to the MCSE should be tough.
People often expect the MCSE to be easier than it is or even should be. They hear stories of friends getting their MCSE in a week or two and start to think that there's nothing to it. Well, here's some news for you: The MCSE should be tough.

Plan on putting in a lot of time and effort getting ready for your certification exams. The reward will be worth it and trying to shortcut the process won't benefit you in the long run, anyway. Study the right way and you'll be building a strong foundation for a promising future.

2. Set up a home practice network.
If Microsoft let us come up with one prerequisite for certification, we’d say that every person has to have a home network in place to practice on before they can take a Microsoft exam. With a home network, you'll be able to work through labs and test out theories as you study. In addition, merely setting up the network itself will be a tremendous learning opportunity.

For a helpful article about setting up a home network, check out "Required Resources for Self Study for Windows 2000 and .NET Exams" at http://www.certtutor.net/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=23613. Look forward to more on CertTutor.net in the future to help you even further.

3. Plan to pick up some real-world knowledge along the way.
The MCSE Study Guides often don't tell you everything you need to know to administer an NT network in the "real world." That's why we've put together some resources for you to help fill in the gaps. Start with the real-world forums at CertTutor Live!: http://www.certtutor.net/Forums/ (look for The Real World category).

4. Learn about other OSs and the way that they integrate with Windows NT and Windows 2000.
A sure symptom of Paper MCSE disease is an unbalanced knowledge of computers. Paper MCSEs might have a fair amount of book knowledge about Windows NT, but when it comes to being able to talk about UNIX or about how NT and NetWare work together, they usually don't have a clue.

Learning an OS such as Linux or NetWare can help you see the bigger picture and increase your chances of grabbing a great job in the IT industry. To help you learn these other systems, try to integrate them into your home practice lab that you set up. (You did set that up, right?)

5. Don't use braindumps and don't over-rely on practice exams to get you through.
Braindumps are a violation of Microsoft's Non-Disclosure Agreement. In addition, there are other reasons for avoiding them, which we have outlined here: http://www.certtutor.net/Registration/Index.cfm?Action=BrainDump. But braindumps aren't the only thing that can make Paper MCSE Disease worse. Trying to learn NT by just using practice exams or other cram material can also hurt. Use practice exams or cram material only when you've achieved a good deal of familiarity with the product and only to measure your level of mastery.

Our goal here is to help you help yourself. A whole generation of people have become disillusioned by certification. They studied braindumps instead of learning the product, only to realize that when it came to finding a job, their prospects were dim. We don't want you to end up there, and we’ll continue to inform you of ways that you can get ready for a very bright future in technology.