More Thoughts on Certification

Jack Corbett, 2010-03-22

After a great response to my last post on Certification, I need to post my thoughts on 70-450 PRO: Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Administrative Solution Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008.

I scheduled the test for exactly 2 weeks after taking and passing 70-432 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Installation and Maintenance.  This might have been a little aggressive, but Jeremiah Peschka (@peschkaj) had a voucher for the exam if I could take it in 2 weeks, so I had nothing to lose.

Preparing

With the short time frame and the fact that there is not a Prep Kit like there is for 70-432, it was a bit more difficult to prepare for the exam.  I did 3 thing to prepare:

  1. I went through the Learning Plan which really wasn’t that helpful.
  2. I printed out the skills measured and read Books On Line for the areas I was least confident in.
  3. I asked some questions on Twitter using the #sqlhelp tag.

As I said, the first one wasn’t that helpful as it really just gave an overview of new features.  If I were taking the test just after the product release it would have been more helpful.

Number 2 was very helpful, except that there is so much information that COULD be on the test and, in my limited time frame, there was no way to study ALL the areas I wanted to study.

Number 3 is always helpful especially if you know what question(s) to ask.  There are many high level SQL Server people on twitter like Paul Randal (@PaulRandal), Jonathan Kehayias (@SQLSarg), and Gail Shaw (@SQLintheWild), just to a name a few. 

Testing

As in my first certification post, I arrived about 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled test time and it took about 10 minutes to get into the test.  The format of the test was the same, but in this instance I took all but about 10 minutes of the allotted time.  There were six more questions on this test than on 70-432 and the questions definitely dealt with more enterprise-level topics than 70-432.  There were at least 3 questions that  I guessed on.  I had narrowed them down to 2 possible answers and just had to pick one based on experience and common sense.  Having said that I did pass the test and with a higher score than the easier 70-432.

Final Thoughts

This test was what I thought 70-432 would be.  There are many thoughts on what certification should be, see this SQLServerCentral thread for few opinions.  I think Microsoft, and other technology companies, are in a tough spot.  In order to show that you can really do the job, you need to be presented with some problems and then solve them.  I’m not sure how you do this, in an automated way without more resources, which will drive up the cost.  From what I understand of the MCDBA certification tests, I never took one, there was a lot of syntax and configuration setting memorization required, things that most practicing DBA’s look up.  I think Microsoft has addressed these issues by making the tests more practical and based on problem-solving than memorization.

So now I’m an MCITP: Database Administration and plan on taking the SQL developer tests sometime later this year.

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