Certification

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Not that long ago I posted an item showing off my third Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certificate on SQL Server 2008.  With the MTCS certificates all in my pocket, the time had come to start on the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification track.

Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), Database Developer 2008Yes, I’m happy to announce that I have passed the 70-451 exam.  For those who are not familiar with the numbers, it’s the exam to get the MCITP Database Developer 2008 certificate.

Obviously I can’t say anything about the content of the exam, but what I can do is explain the questioning style with a fictitious example.

Fictitious MCTS Question

If you’ve done one of the MCTS exams, you know that there’s quite some focus on syntax stuff.  Here’s an example.

Question Example

Select the answer that completes the following sentence:

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 is a …

A. floppy drive system

B. Beta Ace Service

C. Database Server

D. Operating System

(Correct answer is C.)

Obviously this is fairly simple.  Now, imagine that the question mentions an incomplete query and you need to select the right answer to complete it.  And there are two (or more) similar answers that seem plausible to you.  Until you start thinking, sometimes thinking hard.  And then it hits you: three out of the four answers contain something to invalidate the query because of a syntax issue.

That’s the MCTS style.  I don’t really like it to be honest.  In real-life, when I’m not sure of the syntax, first of all the Management Studio will tell me .  If that’s not enough, I do a quick search in the Books Online and I’m good to go.  Obviously you won’t be able to answer these questions if you’re not familiar with the statements.  But then again, if you read about the syntax an hour before the exam, you’ll probably still remember it, and you will be able to answer the question.  What does that prove then?  I’ll leave the conclusion to you.  To be fair I need to mention that not all questions are like this.

Fictitious MCITP Question

The questioning style for the MCITP exam is a bit different.  There’s less focus on syntax details, or just one single detail, and more on the broader picture.  Again I’ll demonstrate with an example.

Question ExampleYearling T-bone steak

You’re hungry and you need to do something about it by method of eating.

What answer will solve your problem, taking into account that:

  • you need to be able to do sports in an hour time
  • you don’t have a microwave oven
  • you’re allergic to certain types of fruit

A. a T-Bone steak (500 grams) with a creamy pepper sauce accompanied by French Fries

B. cold pasta that you really don’t want to eat unheated

C. hot pasta with meat and zucchini

D. cold pasta with onion, apple and tomato

(Correct answer is C.)

Do you notice the difference?  You need a much broader knowledge to be able to solve these types of question.  For our example, you need to know that a microwave oven can be used to heat up food and you need to know that zucchini is not fruit.  Furthermore you need to be aware that answer A would be in conflict with the ability to do sports an hour after eating.

I prefer these types of question over the MCTS style.  I believe these require more knowledge of and on-the-job experience with the product.  And after all, proving that you have some knowledge about it is the whole point of the exams, right?

For another great story related to the 70-433 and 70-451 exams – that’s the MCTS and MCITP for the Database Developer 2008 credential – check out Brent Ozar’s blog post: MCM Prep Week: Microsoft Exams 70-433 and 70-451.  He wrote it while preparing for the MCM certification track.

That’s it for now, have fun!

Valentino.

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MCTS++

imageThe regular readers among you may have noticed that my posting frequency went down a little these last few weeks.  One reason for that is the excellent weather in Belgium, combined with the two-months long holiday of our kids.

Another reason is that I enrolled myself for a Microsoft certification exam, so I needed my spare time to prepare for that.

So last Friday I went to the Prometric test center and completed the exam.

What exam did I do?  Well, a couple of years ago I participated in two beta exams for SQL Server 2008 and achieved the MCTS DBA (71-432) and the MCTS BI (71-448) certificates.  Which means I was still missing the MCTS Developer (70-433) title.

Indeed, the exam in which I participated is the one leading to the MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Database Development certificate.  And I passed with success!! :-)

At the end of the exam you’re given the opportunity to comment on the experience.  One of my comments was that test takers should be allowed to take a drink with them inside the room.  The current temperatures here in Belgium are over 35°C (95°F) and I was inside for more than two hours.  Even though the temperature inside wasn’t as hot as outside, my throat was dry by the end of the exam.  If Microsoft is worried that people cheat by hiding notes inside the container, just add “unopened” and “see-through” to the requirements of the drink bottle.  I don’t see why that shouldn’t be possible.

So, I can now update my About page with the following logo:

The full SQL Server 2008 MCTS stack

Okay, time to enjoy a mojito now!

Have fun!

Valentino.

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Since I participated in the SQL Server 2008 MCTS beta exams last year I wondered how many people would actually do this.  Now I have found part of the answer.

Microsoft keeps a count of all MCPs, grouped by certificate.  This page is was called Number of Microsoft Certified Professionals Worldwide and is located on the Microsoft Learning site. Update: with a layout update to the Learning site it has been relocated to the By the Numbers tab on the Certification Overview.

Obviously, the certificates that I achieved are mentioned on the page and I must say that I’m quite surprised.  These numbers do not reflect how many people took part of the beta exams but at least everyone that passed them since they became available (either beta or regular) is counted here.  I thought that the counts would be in the thousands range but apparently not.

At this moment (numbers are current as of January 2009) there are 2,381,907 MCPs in the whole wide world.  Out of these, 464 people hold the SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance (70-432) certificate and only 188 passed the SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance (70-448) exam!

Here are some more SQL Server-related certificate counts:

Microsoft credential Certification Worldwide achievers
MCTS SQL Server 2005: Business Intelligence Development 3,119
MCTS SQL Server 2005 47,245
MCTS SQL Server 2008, Database Development 286
MCITP Business Intelligence Developer 1,194
MCITP Business Intelligence Developer 2008 80
MCITP Database Administrator 7,200
MCITP Database Administrator 2008 161
MCITP Database Developer 3,121
MCITP Database Developer 2008 143
MCM Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 2
MCA Database 18

To be allowed to participate in the MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) exams you need to hold the MCTS degree on the same subject.

When you have succeeded in both MCITP Database Developer AND MCITP Database Administrator the next step is MCM (Microsoft Certified Master).

And finally, if you still have not satisfied your hunger for certification, you can go for MCA (Microsoft Certified Architect).

Have a look at the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Certification site if you’re wanting to invest in your future!

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Some months ago I decided to start helping people on Experts Exchange by subscribing myself as an Expert and answering questions when I have some spare time.  I have several motives for this, such as:

  • it helps me to think about technology
  • it’s interesting to read other people’s opinion on a topic of interest
  • I like looking for a solution to a specific problem, to learn and at the same time help someone else
  • it gives a good idea of what technology other people are working with nowadays
  • Free shirts!

Subscribing as an Expert is free and gives you a Limited Member account.

Answering questions gives you Expert Points.  The maximum amount of Expert Points that one can score on a question is 2,000.

Earning a total of 10,000 Expert Points and maintaining a monthly score of 3,000 Expert Points gives you access to Premium Services, for free.  Your account status gets upgraded from Limited Member to Qualified Expert.  One of the interesting parts of Premium Services is that you get Unlimited Question Points (i.e. the points that you need to ask a question yourself).

Expert Points are scored in the zone where the question was asked (max. 3 zones per question).  My focus is currently on all SQL Server related zones.  The first rank that can be earned is Master and you can get it by scoring 50,000 Expert Points in a zone.

About a week ago I earned my first rank, Master in MS SQL Server.

Profile of ValentinoV on Experts Exchange

Currently I have scored a total of 66,604 Expert Points and I have gained these by answering 53 questions.

Answer History

As the screenshot above shows, on Experts Exchange I am known as ValentinoV.  See my profile for up-to-date info.

Gaining a rank gives you the ability to generate an email signature:

Email Signature

Another feature is to generate a certificate with your ranks:

Certificate

Clicking the Create Certificate button will generate a PDF file such as this one.

And finally, you get a free shirt which specifies your rank on the sleeve.  Looking forward to receiving it.

Free shirt

As you see, it earns to be an Expert. :-)

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During this year’s summer holidays I was surfing around on the great wild web, looking for interesting articles to read, when I stumbled upon the blog of Gerry O’Brien, Technical Product Planner Developer Certifications at Microsoft.

And it so happened to be that in one of his last posts at that time he announced free beta exams for SQL Server 2008.  So I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a go!  Following that I spent some time installing the most recent SQL Server 2008 CTP (or was it RC0), reading books and articles and other interesting reference material such as SQL Server Books Online.  And I participated in the following two exams:

  • 71-432: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
  • 71-448: TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

Each exam consisted of 70 questions, some easy ones and some not that easy.  I needed about 2 – 2.5 hours to complete each exam.  I probably don’t need to mention that the BI exam was the most challenging of these two.

As it goes with beta exams, you need a lot of patience waiting for the results.  Earlier this week I finally received notice that I didn’t pass one but both of the exams!!  These were the first Microsoft exams that I ever took, so not only did I make it to Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), I can now call myself Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) as well! :-)

Some proof (no, this was not photoshopped):

MCTS SQL Server 2008

If you’re interested in getting certified yourself, have a look at the Microsoft Certifications website.

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