How to Become an OS/2 Certified Engineer - by Martin Ross

-Or- How to spend $400 bucks really fast

A few months ago, I had never heard of the term "OS/2 Certified Engineer" until one day, while browsing through the Byzantine collection of links at IBM's web server, I came across a page labeled Professional Certification. Ignoring my homework and having nothing better to do I clicked on one of the links and entered the world of professional certification for IBM.

After reading through the HTML documents, I discovered a few things. First, this was very cool. Second, it was very expensive. Third, it could be very useful. Basically the process of becoming an OS/2 Certified Engineer is simple. You call up Drake Prometric, which has testing centers all over North America and request a particular test number. You must take four tests. Three of them are mandatory tests: Installing OS/2 (#109), Using OS/2 (#110), and Supporting OS/2 (#112).

The fourth test you are required to take is an elective and there are six choices, I chose the "TCP/IP 2.0 for Workstations" test as my particular elective. An added bonus is that "TCP/IP for Workstations" also counts towards the Lan Server certification program. You can get a complete list of the electives and more details on the requirements on-line.

A quick description of these tests is in order. The "Using OS/2" test was by far the easiest out of all of them. It covers thinks like, "Which mouse button and keyboard combination is used to create a shadow of an object". "Installing OS/2" is somewhat harder, as it requires you to memorize numerical quantities, like the total installation space required for OS/2, etc. Learn to love FDISK. "Supporting OS/2" is harder still because some of the questions are not really covered that well in the OS/2 docs. Many of the questions list a CONFIG.SYS and ask you to correct flaws or to fix problems in the customer's systems by tweaking the file. In order to score well on the tests you must know OS/2 inside and out. Read all the hard copy documents and the INF files. Make sure you get 100% on all the sample tests and if you are rich, order the additional documentation available from IBM.

Speaking of being rich, one draw back to the program is the cost. Each test costs US$100. As you know, $100 x 4 = $400, which is somewhat expensive. Since I live in the Great White North, also known as Canada, this translates to about $500 Canadian. Important, if you fail a test you will not be allowed to rewrite it for free.

After ordering the tests, Drake will send you a confirmation letter with the date of the tests. You can cancel or change the tests up to 24 hours in advance of the time you will write them. You should bring two pieces of identification and one must have a photo on it. People under 16 (like myself) may have problems if the test administrator is unkind because you do not have a driver's licence, so try to bring something else. I used my school ID card with a slick photo of myself.

So, how do you know if you are up to taking the exams? Simple, go to the IBM web site and download the testing documents. This contains the objectives of each test, each section in them and some sample questions (some of which may be on the test you get!). Unfortunately, when I was preparing I couldn't download these documents properly from the web site. Never fear though! IBM has a faxback service to save the day at 1-800-IBM-4FAX. After wading through the maze of prompts, you will be able to request the appropriate documents. Get the IBM education list (0007) and you will see the document numbers for each of the tests, including the desired elective. Then, simply call back and request the other documents. There are also other test preparation materials available from IBM if you really need to study.

Each of these tests are approximately one to two hours in length and are administered on a computer workstation (ironically, these workstations run Windows 3.1). The questions are mostly multiple choice, with a few short answer. They are taken from a database of questions and there doesn't seem to be any real order, although maybe there is and I just didn't notice it. You are allowed to mark certain questions and come back to them later. I went quickly through all the questions, answered the easy ones, marked the hard ones, and then returned to them later. At the end of the test, the computer shows two bar graphs, one showing your score and the other showing the passing score. This is your only indication about what percent you received on the test because the computer does not tell you what the test was out of. Then you are given a printout containing a break down of each section's scores. Important note: the scores on each section are not indicative of their weight on the test. It is quite possible to get 35% on one section and 98% on another and have an overall average of 87%.

Okay, so you have passed four tests. Now what? Simple, IBM will send you a certification agreement stating you are qualified to support OS/2. After you sign and return that in the thoughtfully provided envelope you will have your welcome kit sent to you. What's in the welcome kit? Well, I haven't received it since I only completed the tests a month ago but according to IBM, "All certified professionals receive subscriptions to technical newsletters and magazines as part of their induction into the Professional Certification Program from IBM and many receive discounts on IBM sponsored technical support." They also get an ID card and a lapel pin. I'll keep you posted.

Martin Ross is a 15 year old high school student, OS/2 CE, War Hammer 40 000 lover, Paintball novice, and a rower.

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