Data Thoughts – Microsoft Exams and Simulations


I’ve based my career around Microsoft products on the Data Platform.

The first product that I seriously learnt was Microsoft SQL Server back around 2000.

I was lucky enough to be employed as a database developer at the time and I decided to go for the MCDBA certification.

I remember that I felt ok with the development stuff, but there was an exam on administration – a topic that I was a little shaky on. I’d also opted to take an Exam on Windows 2000 as part of the Certification set, this was the one that I was most uncomfortable in.

So, I relied on advice from colleagues (I was in a team of network engineers at the time) – but that would only get me part of the way.

Reading books, Microsoft articles (books online was not as good as the equivalent Microsoft docs of today) – is ok, but I personally find that the information does not stick. I began working through scenarios from the docs, but I found these basic.

I discovered two Microsoft endorsed companies who produced practice tests – Self-Test Software (who unfortunately are no more) and measureup, who still provide a great deal of practice tests. These provided me with more than a few problems that I worked through and I found the knowledge stuck a lot more than it did when I simply read.

When it was time to take the test I wondered how quickly I would pick up how to navigate the exam – not the content and questions, but the user interface and question types – and if I’d waste time on the question types rather the question itself.

As it turned out this was quite straight forward.

If I was in the same position today, I could have used the new Microsoft Exam Simulator that can be found here. And I encourage anybody who has never taken a Microsoft exam – but intends too – to have a look and get familiar with the question types.

Even as a regular test taker, there’s a few parts of the exam engine that I’ve never explored – such as changing the contrast and such things.

Apart from getting to know the engine, there a few strategies that I normally take myself.

I always fully answer every question first time around, even if I don’t know, I attempt to work it out and give it my best shot – extreme worst case, I guess. However, I’ll always mark that question as for review. Occasionally I’ll also mark it as for feedback. Note that there is a section at the end of the exam (after you’ve completed) where you can separately go back to questions and give feedback, this helps Microsoft make questions better for others.

After you complete the last question you see a dashboard letting you know such things as questions you have not (fully) answered (it occasional happens) and questions that you have marked as for review – I always concentrate on those categories.

The main point of this post is to have an exam taking strategy, this might include

  • Visit the exam simulator
  • Answer every question first time around – never miss one.
  • Mark a question for review if you are not confident with the answer you gave.
  • Give feedback on questions at the end of the exam if appropriate.
  • don’t rush – plan your time carefully and use up the time to check answers.
  • Relax – have fun and pass.

and after you’ve successfully passed the exam, remember to claim your badge and let people know about your achievement.

Have a great day



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