As most of you know, I am a bit of a Microsoft certification junkie. All in all I have passed 10 different exams and hold a whole bunch of credentials including MCP, MCSD.Net, MCAD, MCPD-EA, MCTS and the MCDBA for SQL Server 2000. The first exam I ever took was on configuring Windows 2000 Professional, back in 2001 before I made the decision to pursue development opportunities over systems administration.
After passing so many exams, I think I have been able to figure out a good formula for preparing for exams. I usually take the following approach:
- Cram, Cram, Cram – Buy a detailed exam book and read it front to back. I usually don’t pause to do any of the hands on labs unless it is dealing with something I am really not familiar with. I usually am able to blow through these books in a week or two.
- Test, Review and Test again – Besides the detailed exam book, I also typically try to get some practice tests to help reinforce the material. I avoid taking any practice exams until I at least have some familiarity with all the material. This is so I get the full benefit of researching the errors that I make and learning from my mistakes. I have tried many resources for this part including Exam Cram books, MSFT review books, Transcenders (paid for by my company, Avanade) and various sources on the .Net.
All in all this process has lead to me passing every exam I ever took on the first try. I did fail beta versions of exam 70-553 and 70-554, but only because there were absolutely no study materials available at the time I took the tests. That was the main reason I started this blog and posted all the notes I created for myself while studying for those betas.
Having completed the MCPD-EA, the next credential I wanted to update was my SQL Server certification. As I mentioned earlier, I already have a MCDBA in SQL Server 2000, but it is probably time for me to upgrade that to the MCTS or MCITP for SQL Server (Especially since 2008 exams are almost in beta). This goal has been on the back burner for a while since I have had my attention split between SharePoint, Silverlight and Snip-It Pro. (Snip-It Pro is a snippet productivity tool I built)
Recently, Roger Stuart from uCertify contacted me about reviewing their certification prep kits. I thought this was the perfect excuse to move that goal to the front burner and kill two birds with one stone, reviewing their materials and preparing for one of the SQL Server 2005 exams.
As far as I can tell, a uCertify prepkit is more than just a bank of test questions. It includes a collection of articles, flash cards and study notes as well as diagnostic, practice and adaptive tests. To really test the effectiveness of their materials and I am going to forgo my typical preparation approach and try to use the uCertify prep kit exclusively to prepare for exam 70-431 – Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Implementation and Maintenance.
This is the first in a series of posts on what my impressions and experience is with the prep kit and it should culminate with me passing my 11th exam.