Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Microsoft Certifications

I have been asked by many people about Microsoft certifications. After I moved back to the city where I went to college, my boss asked me if I wanted to go back to school to get a pHd, or to go for certifications. I picked certifications since they seemed more relevent to my job and where I wanted to go with my career. The first choice that I had was on electives for the certification. I was goingg to pick FrontPage as an elective, but my boss wanted me to go for a SQL Server exam instead. This changed alot of how I viewed databases and how I continued my career.

Enough of my past. Right now I have six Microsoft Certifications. This are both .NET and non-.NET based. Here is the list of the certifications that I have earned in the order that I earned them.

  • MCP

  • MCSD (VC6)

  • MCAD

  • MCTS: SQL Server 2005

  • MCSD (.NET)

  • MCITP: Database Developer

Getting an MCP is pretty easy since you get it automatically when you pass a single exam. Other certifications that I have are not offered anymore. The older VC6 and .NET 1.1 based exams are no longer offered. They have been retired in favor of the newer .NET 2.0 based exams. And Microsoft is now testing newer .NET 3.5 exams (more on this in a later post).

One of the best things that I suggest when getting ready for an exam is to get a couple training books for the exam that you are about to take. I have found that a single book usually does not go over everything that is needed for the exams. That is why I typically use 2 books. Then USE the technology. Make small sample programs, make installers, test things, catch exceptions, USE the technology. There is no good shortcut to this. Microsoft wants to see how well you know the information in the test. Using it helps alot. Did I mention that you should USE the technology?

Now I also have a few suggestions while you take the exams. There are a few formats that the test are in. The first is a typical multiple choice with 4-5 questions and you have to pick one. The second type is a multiple choice where you have to pick 2 or 3 answers. Another type of question is a drag-and-drop type where you organize the answers in the order that you would use them. One last type of question that I have encountered is the case study. This has a large case study to read and then a few questions based on that case study.

For the simple question with 1 or more answers to pick you can usually pull out a few answers that are wrong. For many of these questions you will see that out of the 4 answers they are all similar. Two will have one part of the answer the same and the other answers will have a different answer for them. Then the second part of the answers will be 2 or more other options that are split up a different way. Here is an example of what I mean.

The item is red, and a fruit.
The item is red and a vegetable.
The item is orange and a fruit.
The item is green and a vegetable.

Each of these answers might be valid for something, but if we are looking for an apple, or a bell pepper, then the answer should be obvious. This is just an example on how some answers can be organized. There are no fruit and/or vegetable questions on the exams ;-)

For the questions where you have to organize things in a certain order you might not have to use all of the possible answers. Make sure to read the question to make sure that you know what is being asked. If asked how to create a blog post, some of the possible answers for this type of question could be like this.

Spell-check your post
Pick a topic
Publish the post
Log onto your blog
Write the post
Submit your post to Google to get indexed

For this question, submitting the post to Google to get indexed, might be a good thing, but it is not needed for creating a blog post.

One last tip for the case study questions to round out this long post. The case study is divided into multiple tabs and one tab that includes all of the information. Then for each case study you can get from 1 to 5 questions for the case study. When you finish the questions for the case study you cannot go back to any previous case study. When you are finished with a case study you are finished with it. First and foremost, skip reading the case study. Read the questions first and write down what the questions are on the paper/erase board that they give you. Then go back and read the case study (the tab with everything) with the questions in front of you. This way you can see the question and the info at the same time. This makes doing case study questions alot easier.

Ok, I lied. I have a couple more tips. As you are going, you have the chance to mark the questions for review. Ones that are hard for you, mark them to go over it later. I also tend to write down on the supplied paper, what the question is about for each question. So if you know that question 10 was about apples and then later on question 23 you get another question you can always go back to question 10 to see if it helps. It does sometimes. I have also gone back over every question before and reviewed what I thought was the right answer. If you have time, I suggest this.

Take your time, relax, and did I suggest to make sure that you USE the technology?

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