Microsoft offers a large selection of professional certifications and exams focused on their core technologies. Often I have encountered developers who hold the opinion that these exams are not useful since they learn a lot more by using the technologies at work. In my experience, this is simply not true!
When you take an exam you are investing time in the following;
- Learning the scope of the technology. In doing so you will gain a complete understanding of the technology and this is not typically possible at work since you will likely be focused on a smaller scope.
- Learning appropriate usage scenarios. You will understand when it is, and is not, appropriate to use a given technology or a specific aspect of that technology.
Once you understand the scope and usage scenarios you will be more than capable of implementing the technology and will be able to make informed decisions around solution architecture and design.
When preparing for any Microsoft exam I take the following approach:
- Study the skills being measured. This ensures a complete understanding of the scope. Always keep this in mind so you will know where to focus your attention when reviewing study materials.
- Study the available material. Typically an exam textbook is available and these books can be useful as they are closely aligned with the skills measured, but this is not always the case – so check the reviews first! Be sure to try all examples and to complete the available practical exercises as this experience clarifies and reinforces the concepts being studied.
- Take practice exams. When you have finished studying, use the practice exams to identify areas which require additional attention. I have found practice exams from Measure Up and SelfTest to be most useful since they provide detailed explanations of the answers and links to additional resources when you need to know more. When you can achieve 100% for each practice exam you are ready for the real exam.
- Book the exam. When you book the exam is a matter of personal preference. You might like to book 2 – 4 weeks in advance, as this provides motivation to study. Alternatively, you might prefer 1 or 2 weeks in advance, once you have finished studying and are ready to take the practice exams. Keep in mind that the first available timeslot may not be for a couple of weeks.
- Take the exam. Taking the exam will be a breeze. In the past I would typically use all of the time available by carefully reading, answering, and reviewing each question. Presently I simply read each question carefully twice, answer it, and move on. I do not look back or review any answers. I go home and enjoy the rest of my day!
This is the process I have used for many years now, and so far, I have not failed a single exam. I am hopeful that you will find this useful, and that your next exam might be a little easier, and just a little less painful.