There has been a lot of things happening in my life recently. For example, yesterday was my first wedding anniversary, I was speaking at SQL Saturday 122 (Louisville, KY) in the weekend, last Monday I finally took my road test and got my driving license in the USA, and tons of other stuff which you would be least interested in. And the week before last, I managed to pass my 70-462 exam, which makes me a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) in the BI track now; I thought at least some of you who are thinking of going through the certifications might be interested to know about my experience.
You must have already heard about the new certification structure from Microsoft and there are tons of blogs out there which talk about this change. For the SQL Server 2012 certification, you have the MCSA (similar to MCTS for SQL 2008) and MCSE (similar to MCITP for SQL 2008) now. The MCSE has two tracks – SQL Server and BI and I would be talking only about the BI track here. The MCSA is a pre-requisite for the MCSE, and the way to obtain MCSA is given below
After you have got your MCSA, you can follow the path below to get your MCSE in BI
As you can see from the above images, you just have to write three exams for the upgrade path to your MCSE BI compared to the five if you are new to certification. Even though I was eligible for it, I decided to go through the longer path as I had got the codes to write the beta exams. I decided to write 4 of the 5 exams required for my MCSE in BI. 3 of them (463, 466, 467) were completely BI related while the other one (461) was more testing the SQL coding skills. As I had already starting working with SQL Server 2012, I was not that worried about the three BI exams. I consider my SQL skills also to be good (even though my TSQL skills are not that great) and since all the exams were free (because they were still in beta), I decided to try it anyway (else it would cost me $150 per exam). The only exam I didn’t write was 462 and the reason is something that will strike with most if not all of the BI guys – I had no clue on how how to administer the SQL Server side. I am more of the guy who would keep the phone numbers of a couple of DBAs in my hotkeys, and call them the moment I hear something on migration strategies, replication, mirroring, security, etc. Anyways, I scheduled the 4 beta exams in 2 weeks (as seats & dates were limited), and managed to pass all four of them. Even though I can’t disclose the exam content, I would give a couple of advices:-
1) Make sure that you read this book – Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This book is free and is the easiest way to make sure that you at least get acquainted with all the new features of SQL 2012.
2) As long as you have experience and are familiar with the SSIS, SSAS (including multi-dimensional, tabular, MDX, DAX) and SSRS, you just need to do some general reading which is what I did. Else you might need to pick up a few books and start preparing for those topics. I know that the tabular side is something that is completely new and is a challenge for most BI professionals that I know. I would recommend Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: The BISM Tabular Model as a great guide to get you to that intermediate to expert level.
3) Make sure that you go to the Skills Measured tab of the exam page and at least read something on each point that is there. The internet has a lot of articles and you can find almost everything if you just search for them.
4) For me, the easiest way to remember things is by doing. If it is the same for you, make sure that you have installed the entire BI suite and do a couple of exercises. If that is not possible for you, try to hit the Virtual Labs.
Once I got to know that I passed for all four, I started preparing for my 70-462. I was really lax initially as I was more of the mentality that I don’t require to know all these in my daily job as a BI consultant. Once I got over that mind block, I started to appreciate the fact that at least now, I will have some basic understanding of what all these terms mean. My advice for this exam is
1) Get the official guide for the exam – Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases. After taking the exam, I feel that this is a great guide for the exam.
2) Make sure that you read and understand all that is written before you go forward. For example, there are different migration strategies and what you need to know is when to use which one. At the end, I was overwhelmed with all the information that I read and started to forget which one to use when. It might be a good idea to make small cards for each section, and put the different techniques in a tabular format.
3) Take all the practice tests in the CD accompanying the book. It is a great way to test your readiness for the exam.
4) Incase you are not buying the book, make sure that you go to the Skills Measured tab of the exam page and read as much as you can on each point that is there from the internet. Hopefully, this information would come in handy for those who are preparing for the exams. Meanwhile, let me start flaunting my new logo and certificate