Monday, October 23, 2006

Mac OS X Support Essentials: The Test

Well, this last weekend I took the Apple Mac OS X Support Essentials exam, which gives the Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist (ACHDS) certification. I was rather apprehensive, as this was the first exam I had taken within 4 years. I also was completely unaware of the testing methods that the Apple certification uses. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck the whole day until the test was over.

Testing Methods
I had better preface this comment with an explanation of the testing methods commonly used in professional training evaluations. First, there is the performance test. This represents the most effective method of testing knowledge, as it requires the learner to perform as though in a real environment. For instance if you were working with servers for your job, it's logical to be tested within a server environment that allows you to perform the expected tasks as you would in the live environment.

Another testing method is to test the ability to reason through written exams. These exams require the learner to demonstrate their understanding of the material by explaining in an essay or short answer how it could be implemented. While not as effective as the performance exam this method tests the learner's ability to reason and evaluate, without the benefit of traditional test taking techniques.

The last common method that I will bring up will be the multiple choice/true-false exam. This exam is the easiest and quickest to score, as the questions generally have only one correct answer. But it doesn't test anything beyond memory and recal skills. This method is a favorite of teachers when it comes to quick quizes for a guestimate on the learner's abilities, but rarely is it used within higher educational environments for a skills assessment.

The Testing Method Used
The Mac OS X Support Essentials (and all other exams for Mac OS X) are evaluated through the multiple choice/true-false method. And, in order to avoid test taking skill benefits, trick questions abound. The idea is that it requires someone that is very conversant with the terminology. It also requires that one is very familiar with the Mac OS X tools and options that are only found on your Macintosh computer.

Overall Impression
The overall impression I had with the test was mixed. I hate trick questions, because it's so easy to mislead someone into the wrong answer. That being said, it was a fairly quick and painless method of testing. I liked the final scoring options that it gives, as certification levels are known immediately after the exam is complete. I also think that the 2 hours given for the exam is too long, particularly for a multiple choice exam. I finished the exam of 74 questions, 10 demographic questions, and 15 introduction questions within one hour. Perhaps that is because the Adrenaline was pumping.

Final Comments
If you are looking to take the Mac OS X Support Essentials exam anytime soon, it would be a good idea to be sure you are very familiar with the tools within Mac OS X. Know the names, know what is in each window, and know what exactly each tool is designed to do. Other than that, anyone with experience with UNIX and general troubleshooting steps will do well. This exam and certification is designed to prepare a support phone jockey to handle Macintosh Client systems on the network. It also would prepare someone for phone support for Apple.

Passing is 64% (probably low because of the trick questions). If you are looking to become a Certified Trainer, you need to score above that. Because the exact number is not available on the Apple website, I will not post it here. but you can contact Apple Training support at trainer at apple dot com for the Trainer passing level.

This certification is the prelude to the Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC) certification. That requires the passing of the Mac OS X Server Essentials exam. I am currently preparing for this exam, and will post an evaluation of that program as soon as I have a general overview.

And for those interested, I am currently ACHDS certified. ^_^

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