Preparing for Citrix Certification Part 1 of 3

November 2, 2009

Blog, Certification

This article series will give you insight into preparing for and taking certification exams from someone who has successfully taken over 100 of them.  Specifically, this Part 1 article will cover preparing for and taking Citrix certification exams.  There is no such thing as just reading a book and passing a Citrix certification exam.  You need to have some practical experience with Citrix products to pass the certification exams.

There are five things you will need to help prepare for Citrix exams:

  1. Computer lab
  2. Citrix exam prep guide
  3. Citrix product documentation
  4. Study material
  5. Experience using the product

Computer Lab

A fancy computer lab is not necessary to study for most Citrix exams.  A basic laptop with 2GB of RAM will suffice for most of the Administrator level exams.  There are several free and commercial virtualization products that can be used:

There are many other virtualization products to select from.  Building a lab environment to help you learn the products should not be hard.

Microsoft and Citrix make products available for trial use.  Most Microsoft server products are available for 180-day evaluations.   Using the trial version of Server 2012 R2 is just fine for a basic lab setup.  Citrix also offers trial licenses for most products after you create a MyCitrix account.  Microsoft also offers the Action Pack Subscription plan to give you the use of software that is not limited to 180 days.

Bottom line: there is nothing to keep you from building a simple lab and obtaining the software you need to learn the products and prepare for the exams.

Citrix Exam Prep Guide

In order to understand what you need to know to take an exam, Citrix has available an Exam Prep Guide for every certification exam.  Go to http://www.citrixtraining.com/courses/exams/index.cfm and search by Product and or Certification to find the appropriate guide.  For example, search for the Product XenApp and click the link for Exam A05.  Towards the bottom of the screen under More Info: you will see the A05 Exam Prep Guide.  The Guide is a PDF file that contains all the information you need to know about the certification exam.  In each guide you will find information on:

  • Purpose of the exam (i.e. what skills are being tested)
  • The number of questions
  • Passing score
  • Time limit
  • Preparatory recommendations for the exam
  • Resources used to develop the exam
  • Exam objectives
  • Format of questions on the exam (i.e. multiple choice, drag and drop, simulations, etc)
  • Practice questions

My recommendation is to concentrate on these three sections:

  • Preparatory recommendations for the exam
  • Resources used to develop the exam
  • Exam objectives

By thoroughly reading and understanding these three sections, you should understand what you need to work on in your lab.  Using the A05 Exam Prep Guide as an example, let’s look at these three sections.

Section 3 — Preparatory Recommendations for the Exam

Look at subsection 3.2, Recommended Knowledge and Skills.

Candidates should have the following knowledge and skills prior to taking this exam:

  • Basic configuration of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008
  • Management of users’ permissions and rights in Microsoft Active Directory 2003
  • Intermediate administration skills, including:
    • An understanding of protocols (TCP)
    • An understanding of firewall concepts
    • An understanding of email administration and account creation
    • An understanding of Terminal Services policies and profiles
  • The ability to create shares and give access to shared folders/files
  • Knowledge of basic database concepts

This section gives you the minimum skills that Citrix believes you should have before taking this exam.

Section 5.3 — Resources Used to Develop the Exam

This section will give you a list of materials that Citrix used to come up with exam questions.  I recommend reading every resource listed.

Section 5.4 — Exam Objectives

This section gives you an idea of what areas the exam developers will test you on during the exam.  Using the resources from Section 5.3, look at the Objectives column and try to come up with your own exam questions as you are reading.

Citrix Product Documentation

Along with the resources list in Section 5.3 of the Exam Prep Guide, you should read all the related product documentation available in the various PDF files or now on eDocs.  When taking an exam for XenApp, you should understand the various components that are included with XenApp.  For example:

  • Publishing applications
  • Citrix Policies
  • Load Balancing
  • Installation Manager
  • Application Streaming
  • Client software
  • Edgesight
  • Licensing
  • Citrix Secure Gateway
  • Web Interface
  • Zones
  • Data Collectors
  • Data Store
  • Database types that can be used for the Data Store

All the various components of each Citrix product can be fair game for inclusion on a certification exam.  It is your job as an Administrator/Engineer/Architect to know how the various components are used and how they can fit together in an environment.  You should be familiar with the documentation for each product and component.

Study Material

There are four main types of study material available to you:

Citrix offers both Self-paced Online (SPO) and Instructor-led Training (ILT).  I have taken both and prefer ILT if the instructor has real-world experience to pass on in the classroom.  Not everyone can afford ILT from a cost or time perspective, so the same courseware is used for the SPO training.   The Citrix Education team puts a lot of pride and effort into the official courseware so you will be well served whichever training method you use.   If you take an official Citrix course, you can now purchase additional lab time for the course.  Citrix Practice Labs are ideal for you Citrix certification preparation.

Brian Madden has available an e-Learning DVD of his 5-day Citrix Presentation Server advanced class.  The cost has been reduced to $1,995 and is excellent material. (This material is no longer available)

Shawn Bass does a 5-day class.  While I have not been to the class, Shawn Bass is a premier Citrix Expert and a Citrix Technology Professional who is not afraid to tell it like it really is. (Shawn no longer offers this class)

The best book ever on any version of Citrix MetaFrame/Presentation Server/XenApp is Brian Madden’s Citrix MetaFrame XP, Advanced Technical Design Guide .  While the book may be outdated, the information on the internal workings of what is now XenApp is beyond compare.  I am sad to say but most books that cover Citrix products and certification are not worth spending your money on.  It would be better to spend your money printing out the product documentation and having it bound at your favorite office supply store.

Citrixxperience.com is the only legitimate web site I know of that offers legal study guides and exam preparation questions and answers.  The team at Citrixxperience.com puts a lot of effort into producing materials that can help you on the exam prep trail.  Every other web site is an illegal brain dump and using that material can get you in trouble with Citrix and you run the risk of losing your certifications.

Experience Using the Product

Once you have built your lab, know what will be covered on an exam, have the product documentation available and hopefully taken some product training, you are now ready to get the all important hands-on experience.

The best way to learn any product is to use it and try to use as many features as possible.  In your lab, learn to install the product, mess it up, fix it, delete files, recover from your accidents and stretch your knowledge of the product.  Go to the Citrix support forums, Brian Madden’s forums and or Experts Exchange and try to answer other people’s questions.  Even if you can’t answer a question, can you try to recreate the problem and learn something from the issue?

If you use the products from Citrixxperience.com, prove the answers to the questions.  Never take an answer as correct.  Prove the answer either from the product documentation or from your lab.

Conclusion.

You now have the resources necessary to get started on your Citrix certification journey.  In Part 2 of this series, I will give you some personal observations for your certification journey.

Best wishes.

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About Carl Webster

Webster is a Sr. Solutions Architect for Choice Solutions, LLC and specializes in Citrix, Active Directory and Technical Documentation. Webster has been working with Citrix products for many years starting with Multi-User OS/2 in 1990.

View all posts by Carl Webster

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