Exam Time! Crack the Books

It’s that time again when we gather with loved ones and prepare to sit Microsoft exams to gain and update our certifications.  For me it’s upgrade time, I have 70-417 on the menu for this year while others on my team are looking at the whole slate of Windows Server 2012 R2 exams.

We’re using an assortment of resources to get this done.  I prefer Microsoft Press study guides, I always have, and recommend them.  Another excellent source for study materials is the voluminous Microsoft Virtual Academy which provides tonnes of material to learn and review all of the stuff you need to bust a move on those exams.  Do a search with your favourite internet search engine using the exam code of your choice to see who out there has written the exam and get some input on how they found the exam.

There are all sorts of lists of suggestions on how to approach actually writing the exams.  This is how I like to approach them.  I’ve written more than a few and the method to my madness has changed over the years but in a nutshell I like to follow a couple of rules:

  • Book your exam.  That seems like the obvious thing to do but I have known a lot of people who want to write an exam, express interest in writing an exam, but never get around to it.  So, decide which one you want to do, give yourself what you think you’ll need to for prep time and book it.  If you’re not ready when the date approaches you can always reschedule or just go ahead and confront the beast.  Microsoft is going to do you a solid this spring by offering you a Second Shot so if you miss it on the first go you can come around and give it another try.
  • Prepare.  Take advantage of the many free resources out there to allow you to set up a lab and test and play.  Most computers these days run nothing less than 8GB of RAM and I’ll hazard a guess that most of us have a gaming machine that has more.  Load up your favourite hypervisor and practice installing and configuring and learning.  I like to pair this with reading then rereading the study guides for the exam I’ve chosen to write.  I find I almost always come across something new, there’s a lot to learn.
  • Adding to the “book it” note above I prefer to write first thing in the morning.  I find that at some point in the study process your brain is full and you know you’re ready to go.  I’ll put the books down the night before the exam and relax.  The morning of the exam I like to get up early, have my usual breakfast and make my way to the exam center with time to spare.  Being first allows one to get in and get it done without the distractions or delays of a later appointment and doing it first thing in the morning means you’re focused on the exam.

What do you think?  What would you add or remove from the tidbits above?  I’ve always found the Microsoft exams challenging which makes that feeling of successfully completely the exam just that much more satisfying.  Good luck exam takers!

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