Finally got my Microsoft MCITP Certification

19 Comments

Yes, the guy who wrote that certifications are icing, not cake finally got himself some icing.  I was an MCSE on Windows NT4 in 1999, but I let my certifications lapse over time because I just didn’t see the value in them.  I’m not saying I do now – I only got them because they were a prerequisite to apply for the Microsoft Certified Master program – but I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Blast From the Past

Blast From the Past

I used to despise Microsoft certifications because the questions didn’t match up with what IT professionals actually did for a living. I vaguely remember the NT4 tests asking what the resistance was, in ohms, for a 10base2 coax network terminator.  I had resistance alright.

If there’s such a thing as a “typical” production SQL Server DBA, their job duties include things like:

  • Backup & recovery
  • Security management
  • Troubleshooting service problems
  • Troubleshooting query problems
  • Designing new systems

All of these require different commands (and sometimes even different tools), all with wildly different syntax.  When I hire a DBA, I don’t want to know if he’s memorized the exact syntax for DBCC.  If he has to run DBCC with that many parameters that often, he’s got a bigger problem, and I want to see him recognize that, and solve that underlying problem.  I don’t give bonus points for being pretty sure about syntax – rather, I give bonus points for double-checking the manual every time you do something risky.

When I took the 70-432 exam and 70-450 exam, both targeted at production DBAs, I was expecting Trivial Pursuit: SQL Server Edition.  I was completely and totally wrong.  The test questions were meaningful, the answers required thought (not regurgitation), and the questions – for the most part – lined up with what production DBAs have to do for a living.

Readers, if you’ve been managing SQL Servers for 2-3 years, and if you need ammunition for your upcoming annual review, go take the 70-432 exam.  It’s about $125, and I bet a lot of you could probably pass it without studying. And that’s a good thing, because it measures things production DBAs actually need to know.

How I Prepared for the Exams

I bought the Kaplan 70-432 Self Test Software and I was completely disappointed.  They’re cheap – less than $50 for the test – and you still don’t get what you pay for.  I can say unequivocally that the self-test is no braindump; the questions didn’t even approximate what was on the exam.  Kaplan’s questions represented everything I used to hate about the old Microsoft tests, because they focused on obscure trivia.

Much more valuable, yet free, are Buck Woody’s blog posts about certification.  He gathered lots of links to resources covering the 70-432 subject matter.  My advice would be to read those whitepapers & docs, but don’t try to remember every little configuration option.  Focus on the big picture of why you would implement something or when to use a particular feature.

After I passed the 70-432, I decided not to study at all for the 70-450 and just go for it.  My logic was that if the test was anything like the 70-432 and tested “why” instead of “how,” then I was set.  That paid off – I passed with a 982, although I attribute at least a couple of those right answers to lucky guesses.  (Especially the CLR answers.)  Pay attention, read the questions carefully, and filter out the answers that you know aren’t right.  For example, there’s no such thing as muffler bearings in SQL Server 2008.  Everybody knows those were eliminated in 2005 when they added the second flux capacitor.

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19 Comments. Leave new

  • Brent – thanks! That’s good to know. When I got an MCDBA for SS2K, I was mildly traumatized and swore I’d never get certified again. Now you have me thinking…

  • Many congratulations on your certifications! Also glad to know you’ve got that NT4 certification! I may need to contact you for help one day — I still have one client on a NT4 server…in a remote galaxy…far far away. No joke! Yes, it is still in use…somewhere. 😉

  • Congratulations Brent. Are you also going to be pursuing the development certs?

  • Nice going.

    I didn’t open a book for any of my SQL 2008 certs. With the exception of some edge-areas (XML, entity framework) I didn’t have any troubles with any of the exams. They’re really not that hard if you think carefully and know the fundamentals.

    • Thanks! I agree – if you know the fundamental concepts, you can pull it off. It’s not a matter of memorizing stuff anymore, and it’s more of a matter of real-world experience. For example, I couldn’t possibly implement replication without hitting the books, but I can tell you which replication scenarios work best for a given business need.

  • Hmm… you made me thinking for a certi again….. BTW Congrats

  • Congratz BrentO, when you work with Microsoft Technology is better to have also the “papers” that represent you as Specialist or Professional or Master (your road to go) or Architect.

    I wish you success in Master Certifications…

  • I’m going to start collecting flux capacitor references in SQL Server blogs starting with…
    http://www.google.ca/search?q=site:sqlserverpedia.com+“flux+capacitor”

  • I am going for my MCITP as part of a job requirement. However, should I be going for the SQL Server 2005 or 2008 certification path? I’m not using 2008 in my environment so I figured it might be easier for me to certify for 2005 and take another exam down the road to “upgrade” to 2008. Is that the best way to go?

    • Nick – from what I saw, I’d actually recommend taking the 2008 exams. As long as you’re familiar with the basic concepts of what’s new in 2008, you should be fine.

      • Nick Bialaszewski
        December 21, 2009 11:58 am

        Thanks for the advice! I’m currently using the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 DBA Core Requirements Training Kit to help prepare for my exams. I guess I’ll just study these and pick up some SQL Server 2008 material to fill in the rest.

  • Brent,

    Good to see that MS has brought things up to date. I have put off my re-certs for 7 years because of the “Trivial Pursuit” factor you mentioned. I’ll probably start with 70-640 since I’m doing more work with Server 2008 then move towards some of the other tests.

    Just discovered your blog, good stuff!

    -James

  • Hoping to complete my MCITP this year since I was too slow to finish MCSE 2003 certification. I have been using MindLeaders training and saved about $800 at http://www.staffkit.com/offer2 Looks like someone forgot to turn off the link so you get about 3,000 hours of certification training for under $200.

  • hey dude..

    I have completed 70 620,70 640, 70 642,70 643,and 70 647 enterprize administration also befor 4 months.But still i Couldnt order my welcome kits becouse some error on the website.i Could not be able to pay or cant do any thing becouse of this.So please make some arrangement to sort out this matter as soon as posible.
    Thnk you..
    Udantha

  • Muffler bearings… that made me chuckle.

    Great blog! Keep up the good work.

  • I am in a class right now and want to write my certification as soon as possible.any help will be greatly appreciated

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