Today I took and passed my first Microsoft exam, 70-432, MCTS SQL Server 2008 DBA etc. I’m going to be harsh on my success and say while it’s great to pass an exam someone with my level of experience should be focussing on the next harder exam rather than how great is was to pass an MCTS level exam.
Having written about my preparation for the exam I thought it would be good to share my experiences during the exam.
Before I start in depth I’ll make three key points:
- No exam is easy, unless you could get 100% every time you took it its not easy.
- Even if what I learned from my revision wasn’t needed in the exam I’m still glad I learnt the new areas I did.
- What I find easy, you might find hard, and vice versa.
My first observation of the exam was that I over-prepared. That’s not say I knew every answer, but the depth to which I was studying now feels far too deep if I was just out to pass the exam. The exam focussed as much on what would you use to do requirement x as much as it did how would would use feature y. On the way to the test centre I was reading web pages trying to remember how to enable snapshot isolation at a database level vs. read committed snapshot isolation at a transaction level using T-SQL. Forgotten details like that were worrying me, they were in my text book and in my practice tests.
My second observation was that the practice tests which came with my MS Press book were far more detailed, difficult and complicated than the exam I took. I still learnt lots from them but they certainly mislead me about the type of knowledge I needed to take into the exam with me.
Now I’m not going to share any details in public that aren’t on the Microsoft web site about the exam, but at a high level my third observation is about time. The exam is billed as 3 hours, to say I was in and out in 30 minutes is probably wrong, it was probably more like 35. When you see the questions you either know the answer, can work out the answer or take an educated guess. My score wouldn’t have increased had I taken more time. I was often sat in front of the screen thinking I should be taking more time over this but you reach a point where you’ve done all you can and still have time leftover.
My final point is about the subject content of the exam. Some subject areas were covered by multiple questions, some by a couple of questions, most by none. What’s good though is that the amount of subject areas I revised has broadened my knowledge of SQL Server.