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.
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.