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John Sansom - SQL Server DBA in the UK

John Sansom (Blog | Twitter) is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) of SQL Server and publisher of the free SQL community ebook DBA JumpStart, an inspiring collection of advice for Data Professionals, written by 20 SQL Server experts. Awarded the Microsoft Community Contributor(MCC) award, John is a prolific blogger and can be found regularly writing about SQL Server and Professional Development over at www.johnsansom.com.

My Guide to Passing MCTS Exam 70-432

A reader wrote in to me last weekend regarding the MCTS Exam 70-432 (SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance).

Hi John,

I hope you are well. I am planning to take exam 70-432 and I could really use some guidance on how to go about my studies. I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you.

Certainly my good sir and thank you for your email.

Before going any further though, let’s clear one small matter up right away, why should you even bother to listen to what I have to say about it in the first place? I certainly do not consider myself to be an authority on the subject of how to study for the MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance but I have passed the exam, along with 5 other SQL Server exams all on the first attempt.  A respectable batting average if nothing else.

In this post I’m going to share with you my approach to studying for and passing this exam. It’s not a guaranteed strategy or formula to success but instead just a guide of what has worked for me and hopefully can work for you too.

Why Should You Take Exam 70-432?

When this subject is approached the infamous debate that always lingers around Certifications and their value is never too far behind. I’m not interested in digging all that up again here and imagine that neither are you. The fact that you are reading this now means that you’re already past all of that and are instead focused on learning and growing. Good for you!

Your own reasons for wanting to take the exam need not be the same as others. There’s no right or wrong answers here. It’s about what works for you, why do YOU want to take the exam? So long as you have your own personal reasons clear in your mind, you can be confident of your own decisions and have clear purpose. Enabling you to focus on the task at hand.

For interests sake only, here are some of my own reasons for taking Exam 70-432 way back when:

  • I’m always looking for ways to improve my knowledge of SQL Server.
  • Provides validation that what was studied has been retained and absorbed.
  • Studying material with a goal in mind, such as taking an exam towards a certification, helps me to focus my efforts and creates a sense of urgency.
  • I enjoy the challenge.Passing MCTS Exam 70-432

What Do You Need To Know?

This right here is arguably the most important piece of the learning puzzle and yet it is all too often overlooked.

In order to ensure that you are studying along the correct path you need a map! Having never been to your destination before, without a map of where you are headed, how can you expect to know when you have arrived?

Fortunately those helpful and clever folks over at Microsoft are here to lead the way. You can find the full details of the Skills Measured for Exam 70-432 on the Microsoft Learning site. I suggest that you make a note of this essential information and print a copy to have close to hand for reference whilst you study.

You’re also going to want to know what the exam format is and again this information is available on the Microsoft learning site. There’s also a previously recorded Microsoft Live Meeting Exam Coaching Session for Exam 70-432 that covers these details and is available to you to watch for free.

How To Study For MCTS Exam 70-432

This is the big one then. How to go about actually studying the material outlined in the syllabus and what could therefore potentially be in the exam you take.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Read through the Skills Measured, familiarise yourself with the requirements of the exam and establish how strong you feel in each of the subject areas.
  2. Get the official study guide: MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-432): Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Implementation And Maintenance.
  3. Skim read the training kit book in it’s entirety from start to finish, making a note of new or unfamiliar subject areas and those requiring more study (I had previously passed the SQL 2005 equivalent).
  4. Schedule the actual exam now, based on the amount of anticipated study effort, minus a few weeks. I like to create a sense of focus, commitment and maybe even a little urgency.
  5. Go through the training kit book a second time focusing solely on the material that I need to cover.
  6. Complete the exercises at the end of each and every chapter. (A trial edition of SQL Server comes with the training kit)
  7. Complete the entire question bank accompanying the training kit.
  8. Take a practice test under timed exam conditions.
  9. Take the real test and pass!

It’s certainly no secret from my blog that I like to read my subject. I find it to be one of the best ways to learn and absorb new material. From the study method I have outlined above it’s clear that the Training Kit played a key part in the success of my studies. Although I have to say it’s not the calibre that I have personally come to expect from a Microsoft endorsed book but it did get the job done for me. I valued the training kit because it:

  • Provided a concise learning structure/framework to follow.
  • Enabled me to focus my learning efforts specifically where more work was needed.
  • Practice what I had learned under exam conditions.

I’ll be the first to admit that that my study method may seem overly thorough but that’s just how I like to learn. I know plenty of folks who jumped straight into the exam and passed successfully without prior study (I’ve even done it myself in fact, albeit by accident :-) ask me at the next community event). Of course that’s fine too if it’s how you want to do things but for me the Certification process experience is about more just racing to the finish line. For those that share my own philosophy, I’m confident that you too can enjoy success with this study method.

Additional Resources

In addition to your core learning plan, it can often be beneficial to read and learn from the experiences of other bloggers.

Here are some excellent additional resource courtesy of the community:

There are also other practice tests available from a number of organisations however not having used these myself I’m reluctant to recommend them. Perhaps if readers have experience of these by all means please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Best of Luck With Your Exam!

There you have it then. That’s what worked for me and I see no reason why it should not work for you too. I obviously cannot guarantee that my approach will work for everyone but I honestly think that it will get you nearer to your certification goal if nothing else. So long as you take a planned and thorough approach to your learning you will achieve great results.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading My Guide To Passing MCTS Exam 70-432. Have fun with your studies and I wish the best of luck with your exam!

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Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 6 September 2011

Good advice and congrats on your passing the exams. Ultimately I think that people get a little too worried about passing, and not enough about learning the skills or making sure they know them.

If you know the skills on the list, you'll be fine.

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 6 September 2011

I'd have to agree with Steve.  Focus more on the skillset and you will be fine.  I like taking the cost-effective route to study and prepare, which correlates to #1 in the list.  Find the skills being measured, research them and put them into practice.

Posted by Dukagjin Maloku on 6 September 2011

Good map for those who are planning to certify their self! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by John Sansom on 7 September 2011

Steve, absolutely I'm with you on that.

In my mind Certifications are the icing on the cake if you will. By the time you get around to actually taking the exams you should already have sufficient real world experience under your belt for the majority of the subject matter.

The MCM is then an extension, albeit much further, to this philosophy.

Posted by John Sansom on 7 September 2011

Jason, ah yes an excellent point. Costs can sometimes get overlooked when the focus is heavily on the prize.

Posted by John Sansom on 7 September 2011

Dukagjin, you're welcome. Thanks for your comments!

Posted by jophy0917 on 14 December 2011

Congrats and thanks for sharing your experience. That is really helpful. I am planning to take the exam as well and wondered if anyone could recommand couple of good practice tests? Thank you.

Posted by rogerio.scussel on 12 March 2012

Great for sharing your experience in this exam ...

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