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Review Review of Boson Exam Environment and 220-701, 220-702 and SY0-201 Exams

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by GSteer, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. GSteer

    GSteer Megabyte Poster

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    Disclosure: The products reviewed below were provided to me by Boson, free of charge, for the purposes of question and environment testing.

    Advisory: Grab a cuppa tea first, Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint, Lapsang Souchong, whatever takes yer fancy - oh and a couple of biscuits while you're at it.

    Review
    Over the past six months I have been testing some of the Boson.com practice exams for, well, Boson, and it is high time that I report on my experiences. The three exam suites I have tested are the 220-701 CompTIA A+, 220-702 CompTIA A+ and the SY0-201 CompTIA Security+.

    For all of these exams the interface is the same, the custom Boson Exam Environment, which installs locally on your system allowing offline exam taking and therefore has no specific web browser requirements, I still have some older Transcendor exam tests to take that force me to fire up IE to use. The installation was straight forward, although concerning when it decided to install the .Net framework version 1.1, on my Win7 x64 box, which Microsoft state has known compatibility; activating the exam codes afterwards was not a problem. In the name of testing I loaded up the interface with as many of Bosons test products as possible, mine is currently showing 20 exam products (demo versions) and I must admit it would be nice to be able to resize the screen to show them all at once, but this is an exceedingly small niggle as I cannot imaging that most users would have that many. The advanced options are tucked away under a set of buttons on the left and it's pleasing to see a clean-up function built in to clear of user info/profiles from your system.

    Firing up an exam is easy and you are presented with either one of three pre-built exams or the ability to create a custom exam based on specific areas of the topic field. You have full control over when the answers are shown, if you can see your current score as you progress, setting a time limit and for the custom exams which areas you want to test. The usual smart-mode is available for removing questions you have answered correctly a set number of times, initially I found that this was flawed and was not working correctly but the development team have jumped on this and it's now working as intended (to quote a famous games house's CMs :evil:).

    The actual question taking environment is clear and concise, there are no un-needed bells and whistles (see the Notes exclusion). The are only two comments I would make here; one that the "Mark for Review" is a small toggle box at the top of the screen whereas a larger more obvious button along the bottom row with the others would fit with the real world environments more; the second is that there is a Notes option for each question, I must admit to only using this to test that it functions and in all honesty can't see myself using this, I'm not sure how much others would either. I use an old fashioned fountain pen and lined paper for notes when I'm revising as I find it helps me retain knowledge better. Why no other comments? Because it works. Once you have finished the questions it is nice to not only see an estimated pass/fail result for the entire exam but to see the category breakdowns so you know where to brush up.

    Rocking on to the questions themselves you'll want to know how they square up. They are edifying, elucidatory and enormously verbose (breathe), or in plainer speak they are superior to the other questions/answers I have came across so far for the topics listed.

    Across the 900 questions I have tested I found only 7 technical errors, of which only 4 were full blown errors, the other 3 were simply missing fully accurate explanations, ie the explanation was correct but could have done with an additional section to clarify a point or two. This is a fantastic ratio, an error rate of 0.44% if we ignore the clarity answers. Compare this to the exam questions supplied in the Syngress Security+ Book (which I highly recommend as a training volume but ignore 80% of the end of chapter questions as they could not have been written by the author) in which the answers for some questions were talking about entirely different questions or were blatantly incorrect - I gave up on them in the end.

    The target level of the questions is aimed just right in my mind, preparation exams should be harder than the main test to challenge you to know and understand more than required whilst also providing a realistic result. The Boson exams seem to have this balance correct as my practice exam results were lower than the real world results by approximately 5-8% (mental number dredging here).

    I did note a few duplications of questions throughout my testing and noted this at the time. After sitting the real exams I've re-evaluated my initial impression and can see that the range is indicative of what you can expect - you will come across the same question twice, with slightly different wording for the questions/answers but with the actual knowledge tested being identical. This is a good thing to learn and understand about the exam taking process.

    The last part I will touch on is the clarity and clearness of the questions and presentation of the explanations. I had no issue with 896/900 of the questions. There were only four I noted that required reporting for clarity issues. That is a truly small amount and in fact would vary from person to person as to how they would interpret the wording.

    Conclusion
    All in all - I would, without a doubt, recommend picking up the Boson exams for any of the above topics, and have good faith in any of the other topics they cover, to prepare for your exams. I can't give a higher recommendation than that Boson should be writing questions for the proper exams (unfortunately this is not possible) as they are more clearly written and better researched than the actual real exam questions. A polished series of products that need some very minor tweaking.

    I'll leave you with a short Pros/Cons list:

    Pros
    • Complete explanation of why the answers are what the are and why they are not the other answers, extended information available for each answer in the form of links / references.

    • Excellent technical content, surpassing the actual exam questions. Good links to further reading on subjects.

    • Program layout and question/answer clarity.

    • Less duplication of questions than other sources.

    • Smart Mode now works! When I initially wrote this review it was broken but the development team appear to have jumped on the issue and resolved it.

    Cons
    • Couple of program bugs that have been reported but nothing that affects the programs normal usability.

    • One very annoying bug for me on a mid-resolution laptop screen (1440x900) is that whenever you click on a further reading link and click back to the exam software it resets to the top of question, not staying at the bottom where further links maybe.

    • The exam explanation book references do feel like a bit of a promotional tool for the All-In-One books as this is these are the only ones referenced in the answers, adding another major book for each exam would be good, such as the Sybex Study Guide which is also on the CompTIA Authorized Quality Curriculum (CAQC) program for the A+ Exams and the Syngress CompTIA Security+ Study Guide for the Sec+ exam.

    • Installation of .Net Framework 1.1 on a Windows 7 machine where Microsoft actually warn you of an incompatibility - the programs backend should be updated to function correctly on a newer framework.

    Exam Specific Notes

    • 220-702 + SY0-201 - lots of additional links in the question explanations were broken, due to pages moving, and need updating but as there is likely to be an updated set of questions for the next exam appearing this year I expect this will be fixed then.
     
    Certifications: BSc. (Comp. Sci.), MBCS, MCP [70-290], Specialist [74-324], Security+, Network+, A+, Tea Lord: Beverage Brewmaster | Courses: LFS101x Introduction to Linux (edX)
    WIP: CCNA Routing & Switching
  2. BosonMichael
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Thanks for the review - we appreciate it!

    I can answer your concern regarding the choice of study guide. When we wrote this product, there were only two books available: the Security+ All-in-One and the Sybex Security+ guide; the Syngress guide was not available. So we decided to go with those two references. However, we quickly found that the Sybex Security+ book wasn't very good. There were many technical inaccuracies - and there were enough errors that we couldn't use it as a reference (after all, if we say something opposite to the book, who should you believe, the exam or the book?). So we chose to go solely with the All-in-One - there was nothing else we could use at the time.

    For what it's worth, they don't pay us, give us free books, or any other reciprocal compensation in exchange for citing them as a reference. We simply cite a reference to provide proof that our answer is correct. :)

    Hope this helps!
     
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  3. BosonJosh

    BosonJosh Gigabyte Poster

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    Thanks for the review! I'm glad that you found our products useful.
     
  4. GSteer

    GSteer Megabyte Poster

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    For readers reference is there an updated version of the Security+ version in the pipeline?
     
    Certifications: BSc. (Comp. Sci.), MBCS, MCP [70-290], Specialist [74-324], Security+, Network+, A+, Tea Lord: Beverage Brewmaster | Courses: LFS101x Introduction to Linux (edX)
    WIP: CCNA Routing & Switching
  5. BosonMichael
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    CompTIA is going to update Security+ in May of 2011. I am not sure when we will update ours, but it will likely happen soon after the exam is released.
     
    Certifications: CISSP, MCSE+I, MCSE: Security, MCSE: Messaging, MCDST, MCDBA, MCTS, OCP, CCNP, CCDP, CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, CNE, SCSA, Security+, Linux+, Server+, Network+, A+
    WIP: Just about everything!
  6. supag33k

    supag33k Kilobyte Poster

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    I would agree with this assessment whole-heartedly as I have nine of the bosun test series exams.

    The depth of detail and accuracy of the exams are second to none, I reviewed these products over two years back when they first where released and I was very impressed.

    The product is defintely a market leader for excellent reasons.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011
    Certifications: MCSE (NT4/2000/2003/Messaging), MCDBA
    WIP: CCNA, MCTS SQL, Exchange & Security stuff
  7. BosonJosh

    BosonJosh Gigabyte Poster

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    Thanks, supa!
     

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