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Close, but no MCM Cigar

I failed.

There’s no other way to say it, but I’m not really disappointed or discouraged. I’m actually fairly upbeat about it. I went into the Microsoft Certified Master test thinking that I’d fail because it aims to be a high end certification. I felt like I had a huge knowledge gap going through the study resources on the SQLskills MCM page.

I plugged away, and learned a lot. I listened to content on long car trips and airplane rides. I read white papers at night and while waiting for kids at various events. I practiced working through some of the code examples, and came up with new ideas along the way. And I got a lot of notes, so many notes that I didn’t even review half of them as the test got closer.

And I was surprised. As I wrote about my test experience, I think I was well prepared, and I knew more than I thought. Every question made me think and made me deduce some solution, but very few of them had me throwing up my hands and feeling like a complete idiot.

My score was close to passing. It wasn’t the single digits I joked about on Twitter, nor was it the low 200-300 score I was thinking I might end up with. The passing score is 700, though it isn’t clear if that’s out of 1000 or 800 or 743. We don’t know how the exam is scored, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but that’s a separate blog.

In my case, I got a 620 with bar graphs that listed my relative strength in a few areas. I scored highest in Scalability and Availability, with my graphs about 8/10 of the way across. In Recoverability and Managability I had about 7/10 of the total distance. That’s not surprising since I think those administrative areas are my strongest skills.

In security I was about 6/10, which is a little surprising. I thought I knew SQL Server security very well, but I’ve always been a “practical” security guy, and not necessarily conforming to what the MCM might see as the best way to implement security. Definitely need to work on this area a little more. In Performance, I was about halfway, which is probably true. Without spending a lot of time on this in a practical sense in recent years, I’m relying on my memory in studying and not using field-skills.

Developer Support, which I assume means XML, Spatial, CLR, and other similar code oriented areas I was the lowest, about a 4/10. That’s not surprising since I don’t write a lot of code and really haven’t spent much time in those areas. They feel to be a little outside of the core of what I really enjoy in SQL Server, and I’m sure I didn’t focus here all that well. I know I listened to the SQL CLR prep four or five times and was still slightly confused as to what was covered.

There were no areas that were incredibly weak, but a few that need improvement, and I know that I have a few things in the manageability to work on after the test. I won’t go into specific areas, but suffice it to say that one particular topic had 3 or 4 questions and I struggled with them talking about a certain implementation of the technology that I hadn’t spent much time on.

Moving On

What do I do from here? I was thinking this was a one-shot deal for me and I’d get an assessment of where I stood. I definitely got that, and the results seem to mirror what I would have thought were my strengths and weaknesses. My higher-than-expected score has me wondering a little about which of these is true:

· I know more than I thought

· The exam doesn’t test real world skills as much as I thought

It’s hard to know which is true. I don’t do a lot of real world work, but I read a lot, and I talk with many people about what real world problems and solutions they use. So I have a wide set of knowledge, but not necessarily deep in places. The exam can only test me on the areas it tests me, and with a limited time, there is only so much it can test.

I have the chance to take the exam again as there are still vouchers available and I think I will. I’d like to try again to pass it since I have a little competitiveness left in me and I thought I was close after taking the exam. If I can improve in a few areas, I’d think I would do better, though I expect different questions and would need to review all the material again.

The lab? That’s a whole ‘nother story. The lack of practice in some areas might have me fumbling around more than I could afford in a limited time frame. I have less confidence I would pass that, though more than I would have had a few months ago. That’s if I could sit still for 6 hours and focus on SQL Server that long.

Filed under: Blog Tagged: mcm, syndicated

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Jason Brimhall on 12 April 2011

Well, that is a bit of good news - if you did better than you perceived.

Posted by Roy Ernest on 12 April 2011

I am not guy who is into certification. If you think that you know what it takes to get the job done, that is more than enough.

But since you are a competitive guy, I think you should go for it just to prove to yourself that it is no big deal. :-) Wish you the best.

Posted by SQLRockstar on 12 April 2011

Nice review Steve, and it reminds me a lot about how I felt after I had failed my exam last December.

Posted by Martin Catherall on 12 April 2011

Well, you were nearly there. Thanks for the write up, I found it pretty interesting.Good luck next time - I'm sure you'll make it - if I could offer you one piece of advice I'd say go in there next time with a real positive attitude :) - Then come out and tell us all how you passed :)

Posted by Dukagjin Maloku on 13 April 2011

Here it is the true story of the SQL experts how they try to prove their skills in SQL World, and from their experience of course we can learn many things! Steve, I wish you a lot of the success for the next time ...

Posted by Steve Jones on 13 April 2011

thanks for the comments and nice words. I was definitely intimidated going into the exam, but won't be again. We'll see how it goes in a few more months.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 13 April 2011

It's always tough to not pass, but getting the opportunity and being close it encouraging for something at that level.  Even for the MCT Dev exam I failed because I don't use 2008 at work and I don't do CLR, CML, and CDC.  I haven't had the need for it.

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