How I Studied For, and Passed, Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure

Two Sides of the Coin

I know there is a stigma about certifications. Pros and Cons.

Cons

  • Certifications are too costly
  • Easy to cheat
  • Does not mean much without real world experience
  • Does not reflect what really happens in the real production environments

Pros

  • It’s great to get your foot in the door (for someone starting out)
  • Validates what you already know (hopefully)
  • Can create advancement opportunities (imagine an MCSE vs someone who doesn’t have a cert)

I actually agree with both sides. It all comes down to your intentions. If you are okay with lying/cheating to get a certification, then that’s your prerogative. If you want to get a certification to move up in your career or just prove to yourself that you can get a certification…that’s cool.

My Goal

This year, I decided to pursue my MCSE 2016 : Data Platform and Analytics. I blogged about here.

A couple weeks ago I passed the first exam towards that goal, Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure.

How I Studied and Passed Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure

First, I read through this book by Victor Isakov (b | t)

(Note: If you read the Amazon (purchase the book) reviews on this book, they mention syntax errors, etc. I do agree. The book does have some errors in code examples, etc. but remember this: you should know a lot of these concepts before getting this book. This book isn’t intended to TEACH you. It’s intended to give you a “low-down” on what could possibly be on the exam. So regardless of the errors in the book, I thought it helped a lot.)

Second, I purchased the practice exam questions offered by Mindhub here. This gave me a 30 day access period to the exam questions. It provides 150 questions spread over 4 different tracks. You can do a single track at a time if you want. So if you want to focus on HA/DR then you pick those questions, then go over them. See below:

  • Configure data access and auditing – (30 questions)
  • Manage backup and restore of databases – (28 questions)
  • Manage and monitor SQL Server instances – (61 questions)
  • Manage high availability and disaster recovery – (31 questions)

One thing I will say is you need to understand the concepts and have working knowledge of the technologies listed in the simulation exam. You cannot just memorize the questions/answers.

The simulation exam has two options to choose from: practice or exam. The practice can be timed, not timed, choose 1 of 4 tracks, limit the questions it asks, see the answers before you submit, etc. The “exam” mode is timed just like you’re taking the real cert exam. The only difference is you need to pass with an 80% from 50 questions.

The real Microsoft exam is 50 questions with a passing score of 700.

The way Microsoft asks exam questions is different now. Their multiple choice questions have 8-10 options. They have mix/match/rearrange scenarios that have like 5-8 options. Not all the questions are like that, BUT, if you don’t know your stuff…you can fail this exam miserably. I understand why Microsoft is doing this: to prevent cheating.

Regardless, the exam simulation actually helped me a LOT. It helped getting my mind right and not to expect any surprises. See, the last certification exam I took was back in 2012 (MCITP 2008). Back then, Microsoft had fairly simple questions/answers. If I didn’t know that before taking the exam, I probably would have “freaked out” and failed out of nervousness.

Third, I schedule the exam 3 weeks out the same day I purchased the simulation exam. That gave me 3 weeks to study the questions, technologies, etc.

Exam Day

Test day is always nerve racking. I got to the testing center 15 minutes early. The exam questions were just like the simulation practice exam. None of the 150 questions in the practice exam were in the real exam. Like I said before, you need to know the material. There were 50 questions, and the passing score is 700. There were all types of questions with many multiple choice options, scenarios and a fair share of “regular” multiple choice questions.

I passed. :) Now I’m studying for Exam: 70-765 Provisioning SQL Databases.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I would have passed if it wasn’t for the combination of reading the book AND practicing the simulation exam questions. I highly recommend doing both if you want to give yourself a better shot at passing the exam.

I hope this helps you! Feel free to let share techniques you used to pass cert exams in the comments below.

Good luck!

31 Replies to “How I Studied For, and Passed, Exam: 70-764 Administering a Microsoft SQL Database Infrastructure”

  1. Hi Mohammad, Thanks for your feedback. I’m a Sys-admin and want to fill gaps with no experience previous experience in DB administration. Would this be a good exam to start with or would you suggest a different resource first as a warm-up? I feel like without the core concepts of DB administration, it’s a little difficult to get started with the exam-ref book.

    1. Hey Byron, you’re welcome! You are correct. I would not recommend diving into this book if you don’t have experience in SQL database administration. I recommend learning the basics like how SQL Server does backup/restores, indexing, etc., then move into the exam books. Let me know if you need any referrals to great course content and I’ll be more than glad to send them to you.

  2. Hey Mate,

    I pretty much followed your advice and just passed today.
    scored 780 .
    I got a practice exam too and like you said format is good but questions are a little ridiculous.
    One other thing i did was get the udemy course on 70-764.
    Great course but not much of the content is in the exam. Still good to get your head in the right space

          1. Yeah pretty chuffed, thanks for the blog Mohammad! Its really useful to hear of others experiences.

  3. My primary form of study was Lynda.com’s Administering a SQL Server Database Infrastructure video course. It covers all the topics you’ll see on the exam and breaks them down into small 3-8 minute videos. There are also exercise files you can download as well. I would highly recommend it. I’m going to use their course to study for 70-765 as well.

    1. Thanks Stephen. I checked out the Linda video called “SQL Server 2016: Provision a Database.” I was surprised that the trainer set the auto file growth to percent. Stopped watching after that. :)

      1. The videos aren’t perfect, but the format is excellent. It also covered everything I needed to know to pass 70-764 with a score well above 700 and this was literally the only study tool I used. I’m going to use the same approach for 70-765 and see how we go. :)

        1. The one thing about the 765 exam are the service tiers. I contacted the author of the book I am using and he said to learn the service tiers online. Not the book (since they are outdated). For example, Premium RS no longer exists. So keep an eye out for that in the video as well.

        2. Thanks Stephen, I think I’ll use these videos alongside the Victor Isakov book and practice Qs that Mohammad used.
          Cover all bases :-)

  4. Hi Mohammad, thanks for sharing this, I’m currently studying for the same exam and getting a little frustrated at the granularity of some of the practice Q’s
    e.g. which permission do I need to grant to a user\role to do x or y?
    I mean come on… there are sooo many permisson levels, I would just refer to a matrix in SQL BOL or technet. Its usefull to know the options exist but you’re never going to remember all of these permissions.
    Still its good to know we’re all gone or going through the same thing :-)

    1. Hey Will,

      Yes, I agree. The amount of “granular” questions they ask in the practice exam is ridiculous. No one knows all of them by heart. What I did was just learn/memorize the ones that easily came to me.

      Also, don’t forget…you just have to pass with a 700 :)

      1. Thanks Mohammad, I’ll remember that, it will prevent me from pulling, what little hair I have left, out!!
        :-)
        only joking, I’m quite enjoying the learning process.

  5. Hi Mohammad thanks for sharing your experience. I would like to know one thing :the passing score is 700 on a maximum of? 800?1000?

      1. Thank you! just a last question: you got a mindhub test. i ‘am planning to get a measureup test (because it’s available the download option) , i don’t understand if they are the same test or it’s better mindhub.

    1. Hey Nhan,

      It’s hard to tell. Every question is weighted differently. There are a total of 50 questions, and depending on how many questions you get from each of the 4 topics…can calculate the final passing score differently.

      Aim to get all the questions correct and you should be fine! :)

  6. Hi Mohammad, thanks for sharing your story! I’m planning to take the exam end of April and am approaching the exam same way as described, congrat on passing this way!

    Few questions I have:
    – Do u get a sense the focus of the question mainly went to functionality that was introduced in SQL Server 2016 (like query stores, etc) or not really?
    – I remember from the older version of this exam, that some questions have a large intro/scenario and u just had to decide if u agreed with the suggested approach (i.e.: Yes/No answers), do those still occur too? Or is it only multi-multiple answers throughout the exam this time around?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Peter,
      Thanks for the comment. To answer your first question; yes. You’ll have to know about distributed AGs, query store, etc. If you plan on getting the simulation software, you’ll see a lot of 2016 features on there.

      To answer your second question; No. They did have numerous scenarios…quite lengthy, then instead of a “yes/no” choice…they give you 4-6 choices. It makes it more intimidating (at least it did for me), but just remember to go over the simulation exam questions as much as you can until you start scoring 90%+ on every attempt.

      Hope that helps and good luck man!!

      Thanks,
      Mohammad

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