Certification Rumors and Tips

  • I think as far as companies go, having a certification keeps the HR droids and other management happy - it gives them a quick indication of who might be suitable for the job (tech-wise). For outsourcers, it also means they can boast to their [potential] customers that they have x number of MS certified people, so the systems are in good hands.

    Of course, _we_ all know that a cert doesn't necessarily mean a thing and that the only way to really tell is to ask a few questions when interviewing prospective job seekers.

    Case in point - at a previous job, one of our helpdesk drones got his MCSE so he could move up in the IT world. But he did it purely through book reading. Not long after that, he rang up my team leader one day to ask him how to take the cover off a Compaq small form factor PC (one of those ones with a clip at the front, both sides, that you pressed in then lifted the cover). He had motivation at least, just not much experience or the inquisitive mindset that is needed for troubleshooting (even at its most basic). Don't know what became of him, but hopefully he has the experience to back up the qualification now.

    Experience counts for more than a bit of paper, and I think MS are going along with that in revising their exam content, basing it more on using the product rather than what's in the book.

    Scott Duncan

    MARCUS. Why dost thou laugh? It fits not with this hour.
    TITUS. Why, I have not another tear to shed;
    --Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare

  • I always recommend half.com as a source for used books. I've gotten some great deals from them. They're generally comparable to Amazon's used sellers. I've only been burned once by a vendor who confirmed the order but then never shipped and never replied to email. I did get my money back, but it certainly screwed me up at the start of the semester.

    I would also recommend doing a mental health self-eval the day before the test. If something bad has happened, don't be afraid to call the testing center and reschedule the exam. I was scheduled for my CCNA exam and two days before it a friend of mine died unexpectedly. As he was younger than me and pretty close, this really rattled me. I failed the test by 3 points IIRC, it could have been as little as one question. I sailed through it on the retest, but don't be afraid to push it back if you have something nasty happen just before the test.

    I think that overall a degree in an IT field is more useful than a cert, but having the cert plus the degree is definitely good. It's all a matter of getting through HR's filters. I had to do a technical eval on a PC because I didn't have the degree, and I got the job, so I guess I did OK. THE FOOLS! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    [font="Arial"]Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson[/font]

  • Mr. Gates dropped out of college & never got the degree either. Look where he wound up

  • If there's one person whom I wouldn't want as a role model, it would be Bill Gates! I don't know of any computer industry tycoons that I'd like to pattern myself after. I'd probably go for Chris Date or EF Codd if I could make such a choice.

    Undeniably Bill has done good for himself and he's given pretty much everyone on this site a good living with some cool toys. But how much of that is business acumen vs geek skill? I'd say more of the former than the latter. Bill Vaughn ("Hitchhiker's Guide to SQL Server" books) would also be another one. I've had a bit of correspondence with him, he seems like a pretty cool dude with a good sense of humor.

    I do have a degree now and I'm working towards improving it. I don't know if I'll ever bother with the PhD level, though I'm sure my wife would love having two in the family. She calls me the smartest uneducated man that she knows.

    [font="Arial"]Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson[/font]

  • Certs are really an "eye of the beholder" thing. Some people will swear by them, and others will consider them nothing more than a money making gimmick.

    Recently my company interviewed a whole swag of candidates. About half had a cert of some sort, though the worse result on our standard test was an MCDBA: 2 out of 24.

    At a previous company, a manager had told me that having a degree is useless skills-wise, it's only purpose is to open doors. Certs are perhaps the same.

    For myself, I'll probably get one one day simply because every second person already has one, and if you get that interviewer who *requires* that piece of paper above all else....


  • They demonstrate that someone has passed the exam, and that they actually bothered to do it. That's worth something to some people.

    I think it's valuable when I'm looking through CVs - but I would rather find out how regularly they attend a local user group, whether they're active in the community, things like that. If they're really into professional development, then they're probably doing this stuff too. Let's face it, the 'ultimate' Microsoft award is the MVP, which is given to people who take professional development to the extreme, to the point of actually being helpful and valuable to Microsoft.

    Rob Farley
    LobsterPot Solutions & Adelaide SQL Server User Group
    Company: http://www.lobsterpot.com.au
    Blog: http://blogs.lobsterpot.com.au

  • I've interviewed a bunch of people for DBA role. For me, cert or no cert comes in a package. I'm willing to pay good money for good skill. Ask me if I'll hire a person because of MCDBA, etc? NO WAY!! I've met people with great certs (heaps of them!) but couldnt answer my simple question of "Explain clustered index and what its good for". She instead talk to me about programming, ended up knowing she's from a programmer background.

    For me, a degree, masters, phd, etc shows a person has gone through some pain and therefore would be a bit more responsible than a person without. Cert shows his skills should beat a beginner in the field. But there are tons of way I could easily test his/her knowledge in SQL. I've asked some interview questions which i got back "It depends". To be fair, i always try to paint a more complete picture to make sure i've got an exact (possible) answer.

    Pay more just because of cert = its nut.

    Pay a lot for skill = yes

    Pay a lot for skill + cert = yes

    Pay a lot for skill + cert + interpersonal skill = definitely (will only know after sometime working in the environment)

    Not to say all degree, masters, cert, etc all are too important (nonetheless it does matter to some level), but you'll know someone after working with them for sometime..

    Simon Liew
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008

  • Hi all,

    I would like to raise what I believe is a major issue with the certification exams.  This is, the fact that there is no way to find out which questions you got wrong and why.

    I went into my certification exam (MCTS: SQL Server 2005) fully expecting to be able to answer every question correctly.  I passed well but was frustrated by the fact that I could not find out where I went wrong.  All they show you is general 'areas' where you could improve.

    I understand that Microsoft is concerned that people will sell off the questions and answers, but I still think that not providing a list of questions which were answered incorrectly is unfair to the candidate.  You have already seen the question, so where is the harm in showing it to you again, along with the incorrect answer that you chose.  They don't have to show you the correct answer, it should be up to you to go back and see why you got it wrong.

    I did raise this concern in my feedback for the exam, but would be interested in what others thought about this.  This was my first experience with a Microsoft Certification Exam.




  • I think a good balance is what CompTIA did on the Security+ exam. They'll show you the focus areas you missed questions. For instance, I believe the language is, "You missed one or more questions in the following areas: " which while they don't you the specific question, can point you to where you had issues on the test. If you have a weakness it may not be a particular question but a weakness in that general topic. It's a good balance between giving a test taker some knowledge of weak areas and protecting the exam.

    K. Brian Kelley

  • I think taking the exams is the most valuable to someone that is new(er) to the profession, because it drives learning. If you've been a DBA for a while it's harder choice to make, but one thing MS does do on the exams is push 'new' features so again it drives you to learn in specific directions that you might not go otherwise. Unfortuneately as is stands they are what you choose to make of them. Some study for a 100 hours, some just take the test, and a few cheat. You'd think that the cheating would slow down since clearly having a cert no longer guarantees a job!

  • can't we get someone from MS to explain why they don't show us the wrong answered questions?

    Everything you can imagine is real.

  • I've taken certification examinations from Microsoft, CompTIA, ISACA, and SANS. None of them show the questions answered wrongly. From a testing perspective, you are unlikely to get the same question again, so if you've failed the exam, the question might do you some good, but of more use is the category to which you scored poorly on.

    K. Brian Kelley

  • All,

    Sorry it took so long for me to respond.  Just got back from Rhode Island yesterday.  I'm glad you all enjoyed the article.

    Several people bring up some good points.  I'll definitely have to include the "Rescheduling in case of life events" comment in a future edition of the article.

    Microsoft actually did used to (in some exams) tell you what your exact score was and, I believe, the questions you got wrong.  However, it led to people memorizing the answers to those specific questions and passing the test on that merit instead of studying the whole topic and passing the test based on true understanding of the subject.  I believe that's why so few certification programs use that format anymore.  Yes, it is annoying, but I can understand the underlying situation.  Who wants to hire someone who memorized specific answers?


    Interviewer: "How do you do a point in time restore for a database in Simple recovery mode"

    Memorizing Employee Canidate: "Open up SSMS, right-click Database and choose 'Restore Database'. "

    Well, the answer is half correct, anyway. @=)

    There are a few good indicators of questions you might have gotten wrong during the exam.  1) You changed your answer more than once, 2) You didn't actually understand the entire question, 3) You didn't recognize some of the acronyms or names in the question.  I specifically say question here because MS is famous for making up weird answers (T-SQL commands, object labels) that don't truly exist in SQL Server just to throw people off track. 

    While you are not allowed to take paper out of the testing environment, I do recommend writing down a word or two about the topic you're having trouble with during the exam.  Then after the exam, but before you leave the room, refresh your memory with the subject areas you were uncertain about.  Once you leave the exam, with those subject areas in mind, you can go back and study them if you didn't pass.  Your hand written note of "indexed views" will surely be a little more specific than the auto-generated topics list.

    Does that help?

    Brandie Tarvin, MCITP Database AdministratorLiveJournal Blog: http://brandietarvin.livejournal.com/[/url]On LinkedIn!, Google+, and Twitter.Freelance Writer: ShadowrunLatchkeys: Nevermore, Latchkeys: The Bootleg War, and Latchkeys: Roscoes in the Night are now available on Nook and Kindle.

  • Oh, and I did mean to post a reply to one of the first questions on this thread.  As others have said, unless you have the actual MCDBA certification, you can't take the "upgrade" route to MCITP. 

    Now, there's nothing actually stopping you from taking the actual upgrade exam (70-447) and the implementation exam (70-431).  Prometric and the other testing centers don't know what certs you do and don't have.  The problem comes when you actually send off to Microsoft for a copy of your certification.  MS will simply send you a note back saying "Sorry, but you have several more exams you have to take before you can be an MCITP".

    So, if you don't have your MCDBA, don't waste the money on 70-447.  Unless you enjoy spending money on useless exams. @=)

    Also, something I should have noted in my article.  Microsoft no longer automatically sends out your actual certification package once you've passed your exams.  You have to create an account on their site (if you don't already have one) and request it yourself once you've passed all your relevant exams.  This cuts down on some of their administrative overhead and leaves the burden of certification proof squarely on your shoulders instead of theirs.

    Hope that answers a few other questions.

    Brandie Tarvin, MCITP Database AdministratorLiveJournal Blog: http://brandietarvin.livejournal.com/[/url]On LinkedIn!, Google+, and Twitter.Freelance Writer: ShadowrunLatchkeys: Nevermore, Latchkeys: The Bootleg War, and Latchkeys: Roscoes in the Night are now available on Nook and Kindle.

  • Thankyou to those that responded to my earlier post.

    I have to say that I still disagree with the idea of providing 'subject areas' that you need to improve on rather than the actual question(s) that you got wrong in the exam.  Subject Areas in SQL Server can be very broad.  For example, Replication or Security.  I disagree that this is a good balance between showing no information at all and showing the incorrect questions in full.

    I believe that learning from mistakes is one of the most effective ways to learn.  Surely it's better to make a mistake on an exam, and learn exactly what you did wrong and why, rather than making this same mistake in a production environment where the repercussions are much more severe, and could even cost you your job.

    As I said, I understand Microsoft's concerns but the current situation is unfair to exam takers.  I believe most people's intention in taking these exam's is to improve their knowledge and to have something to show employers as evidence of their existing knowledge.



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