Two Sides of the Coin
I know there is a stigma about certifications. Pros and 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
- 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.
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
(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.
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.
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.