As with each Microsoft convention, much fun was enjoyed by all. Perhaps too much fun, if that’s possible. Besides the nightly siren call of Rue Bourbon and limitless litany of new product versions (Visual Studio 2013 AND SQL Server 2014 … really?), there were a few drumbeats that bear repeating.
Head in the Clouds
The conference kicked off with the keynote from Brad Anderson. Microsoft continues to improve and promote its cloud offering, known as Windows Azure. For the uninitiated, Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud-based deployment and management system for applications, services and raw virtual machines.
Although Microsoft announced a huge investment in its data centers, particularly in mainland China, for me the big news was the changes to its previous pricing model. Only running virtual machines will be charged, and billing is now per minute rather than per hour. MSDN server licenses can be used at no charge, and MSDN and MSDN subscriptions with Cloud Essentials or Accelerate will earn free monthly credits for Azure. (See more info at Visual Studio Magazine,
Tags: sales & specials, TechEd, tradeshow
The Transcender Team will be joined by a couple of friends from CBT Nuggets in New Orleans next week and they’d all love to meet you!
You can catch us at the Exhibition Hall, Booth #2412. Or stop by the Study Hall and test drive our practice test products – enjoy FREE online access to our Microsoft product library all week! You can meet Josh and George at one of the Hands on Labs, where they’ll be happy to answer all your questions, including where the best social events are held that evening :)
We love meeting our readers and hearing all about your TechEd sessions, so make some time to stop by, chat, and score some great swag. We’ll also be launching a super cool month-long promotion that I’ve had to promise Marketing not to spoil before Monday. But trust me when I tell you it’s something you’re going to DEFINITELY want to sign up for, and TechEd attendees get first dibs on registration starting Monday. This prize is actually so neat, my team is pretty bummed that we’re excluded from participating.
I look forward to meeting you guys at TechEd 2013 next week! For those of you I miss at the booth, I hope you learn a lot, see a lot & enjoy all that the great city of New Orleans has to offer!
–Aima Rotella & the Transcender Team
Tags: exam retakes, second shot
If you have purchased a single-exam voucher with Second Shot from Microsoft or a learning partner, be aware that the program expires May 31, 2013. Both your initial exam and, if necessary, your free retake should be completed before that date.
If you haven’t scheduled your exam already, consider this your warning bell. Last-minute seats may fill up fast at some of the larger Prometric testing centers. However, you only have to wait 24 hours between your first and second test retake.
Microsoft is offering a slightly different deal for those who bought three-exam packs instead of single exam vouchers. The three-pack deal gives you 15% off your certification, free exam retakes, and an extended deadline of December 31, 2013 to complete your initial exams and free retakes. You will be able to purchase these three-in-one vouchers until May 31.
For more information, here’s the Second Shot page:
Tags: MCITP, mcsa, MCTS
In response to a recent post, blog reader Raj asked,
Please tell me which certification is best for Windows 7 – MCSA or MCTS ?? And how many exams I need to give to pass that particular exam. Also, I would like to know the validity of that certification.
The good news is that until January 31, 2014, you don’t have to choose; the same exam counts towards both certifications. The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) credentials are one-test certifications: one exam, and you’ve earned it. These are the same exams that are being phased out by Microsoft in favor of the new MCSA/MCSE certification family. The MCSA/MCSE credentials will require that you pass a minimum of three exams.
During the overlap period, however, select MCTS exams will serve double duty and count toward both certification families. We love a 2-for-1!
What about the MCITP for desktop clients?
The MCITP desktop certifications (Windows Vista and Windows 7) are dependent on their underlying MCTS certifications, so these are being phased out as well. You only have three months left to take a Vista exam; all Vista-related exams are retiring on July 31, 2013.
The MCITP for Windows 7 is retiring on January 31, 2014. Please note that the actual exams are not being retired on that date; they’re being repurposed to the new certification paths of MCSA and MCSE. So after January 31, 2014, you won’t earn the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7 or the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7 certifications, but you can still take Exams 680, 685, and 686.
Also, any MCTS and MCITP certification will stay on your Microsoft transcript after the certification itself is retired, and you can mention it on your resume and to hiring managers for as long as it seems relevant to do so.
How does the MCITP relate to the MCSA?
Until January 31, 2014, the MCITP: EDST and the MCITP: EDA in Windows 7 are both functionally equivalent to the MCSA: Windows 7. To earn the MCSA: Windows 7, you have to pass this exams:
plus one of these two exams:
- 70-685: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
- 70-686: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator
If you have already passed these exams, you should have received a notice from Microsoft that you were retroactively granted the MCSA as well.
The MCITP: Enterprise Support Technician on Windows Vista and the MCITP: Consumer Support Technician on Windows Vista are not functionally equivalent to the MCSA for Windows 7, and Microsoft has not announced an upgrade path (as of the time of this post).
Why should I still care about MCTS?
The MCTS is the last of the one-test certifications. If you need a Microsoft certification under your belt today, the clock is ticking down to do so. Because the Windows 7 MCTS exams count towards the MCSA in Windows 7, you lose nothing by taking them.
There are only two MCTS level exams for Windows desktop operating systems:
- 70-680, Windows 7 Configuration: Earns the MCTS: Windows 7 – Configuration until January 31, 2014
- 70-620, Windows Vista Configuration: Earns the MCTS: Windows Vista – Configuration until July 31, 2013.
If you don’t have experience in Windows 7 desktop client, you can take the 70-620 for a few more months.
Okay, so what test do I take today?
Tags: exam retakes, exam retirement
Time is running out to take advantage of free retakes for failed Microsoft exams. Time is also running out to qualify for a whole host of retiring certifications and certification exams, as we’ve covered in previous posts:
Remember that you should register for your Second Shot voucher *before* you schedule and pay for your exam, because you’ll use the Second Shot voucher number during the exam registration process.
On a related note, it’s the last day to score 20% off your Transcender practice test with the code TRALUCKY13.
–the Transcender Team
(Editor’s note: This post belongs to our ongoing series about the new generation of Microsoft certifications. See also Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?, Don’t wait to finish your MCTS or MCITP: Microsoft retiring exam tracks, and Everything old is new again: the MCSE and MCSA are dead (long live the MCSE and MCSA).)
Having wandered the wilderness of Java and CIW certification for some years, I didn’t move into Microsoft developer certs until about 2002. At that time, the MCSD (known then as Microsoft Certified SolutioN Developer) was a catch-all certification, requiring a wide array of Visual Basic, DCOM, and ASP knowledge. Its prestige was based on the complexity and intensity of the exam objectives, and not whether these skills were required by a specific job role in the real world. Most Microsoft developers I knew focused on a type of application, whether it was Windows- or Web-based — not the entire gamut of Microsoft developer technology.
For that reason, few developers were surprised when Microsoft announced new developer certifications for .NET that focused on skill sets related to actual job roles. This change occured during Microsoft’s overall revamp of its certifications that resulted in the demise of the Windows NT and Server 2003-era MCSE. The “next generation” developer certifications were branded as the TS (Technology Specialist) level exams and the newly minted MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer). But in doing away with the old MCSD, Microsoft also lost the recognition the acronym had gained over the years.
So what could Microsoft do but find a way to join those job roles with their former reputation, like some cheesy romantic comedy?
In 2012. enter the Microsoft Certification SolutionS Developer (noticed the new s?). The acronym is also MCSD, but each certification is focused on an application type.* That way you can have your MCSD and eat it, too.
Continue Reading MSCD – A New Certification with an Old Heart of Gold…
Tags: certification, Certification Paths, what we're working on
Our partners at Global Knowledge recently sat down with several members of the Transcender practice test development team — specifically George, Aima, and Josh — and picked our brains about “how their practice exams are developed and how they have evolved to keep up with changes coming from Microsoft. In the end, we learned that there are major challenges in writing practice exams that accurately reflect and teach students important exam concepts, Microsoft is moving towards more open standards, and customer feedback is crucial to developing and evolving Transcender practice exams.”
You can read the entire article here on the Global Knowledge blog: The Evolution of Microsoft Certification Practice Exams.
Tags: Beta Exams
Curious to know how the beta exam process works behind the scenes at Microsoft? Eager to get your hands on a free invite code to a pre-released exam? Liberty Munson has posted a two-part series over in Born To Learn that’s titled Everything You Wanted to Know about Beta Exams: Part 1 (Beta Invites) and Everything You Wanted to Know about Beta Exams: Part 2 (Beta Availability).
Although I recommend you read both posts, the take-away points are:
- Free seats are still available, but very limited.
- Your best shot at a free seat is to keep your SME (subject matter expert) profile current with Microsoft.
- Paid (not free) beta exams are available to anyone.
- Paid (not free) beta exams will now stay in the market until the final exam is live.
This last point is a substantial policy change on the beta front, as these exams were typically only available for a few weeks before vanishing in a puff of psychometric smoke. With the extended availability of beta tests, anyone who needs to prove competency in a brand-new technology will be able to do so without having to wait for the final exam to come to market.
Tags: resource review, SQL Server 2012, study resources, study tips
I am always trying to gain more knowledge that will advance my career. However, I’m finding that keeping up with the leading edge of technology can be a bit pricey. I don’t want to find myself looking for loose change in parking lots or scuba diving at night for quarters in the wishing fountain at the mall to pay for training and materials on SQL Server 2012. Thankfully, Microsoft offers a lot of FREE resources to help you learn SQL Server 2012.
I highly recommend the SQL Server 2012 virtual labs (
). At the time of this post, there are 19 labs that are between 45 and 90 minutes each. They cover such topics as AlwaysOn Availability Groups and Upgrading to SQL Server 2012. Bang-for-the-buck-wise, this is the best way to gain experience with SQL Server 2012. With these virtual labs, you don’t have to invest money in SQL Server 2012 licenses or buy additional hardware to set up a multi-server configuration to prepare for certification; you just need a highspeed Internet connection and Internet Explorer. The labs consist of virtual machines running SQL Server 2012 with accompanying lab text in a sidebar. Not every feature of SQL Server 2012 is enabled in the VM, but there are enough features to play around with and get a feel for the controls.
The labs have step-by-step instructions. I actually recommend that you ignore them the first time around. The beauty of these VMs is that you do not have to perform the lab by the directions. You can use the lab to experiment with the software and test different features.
Free Books Online
The SQL Server 2012 Books Online resource contains everything that you wanted to know about SQL Server 2012 but were too clueless to ask. You can access it on the web at
. If you are in a firewall or proxy-restricted environment, you can download the information directly from
. The downloaded version is nice to have on your mobile device if you’re stuck in an airport with no Internet connection and the airline can’t locate the plane that is supposed to take you home…totally hypothetical situation of course.
Microsoft Books Online allows you to search on any topic. The search results are pulled from TechNet and other authoritative sources.
The information is FREE and is generally used by technical writers to put together materials for SQL Server.
Microsoft Prep Guides
These are the classic pre-certification resource: the objectives and sub-objectives that you must master to pass the test. For example, the prep guide for the 70-462 exam, Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases, can be located at
. Here’s a tip: you can change the last number in the URL to match, your specific Microsoft exam to find the prep guide for that exam.
The prep guide pages have four tabs: Overview, Skills Measured, Preparation Materials and Community. The Overview tab describes the audience profile for the exam and any certifications associated with the exam. The Skills Measured tab lists tasks that you must master to be successful on the exam. The tasks are broken down by objective and each objective’s weighting percentage for the exam. The Preparation Materials tab displays the officially Microsoft sanctioned training materials. By now you might be reading along and saying, “Gee, George, I already checked there, and it was a dead end!” I feel your pain. Generally, there is not a lot of preparation information listed for a relatively new exam, and what is listed usually isn’t free. So I encourage you to check out the Community tab which has links to newsgroups that can give you a better perspective on training and possible offer some reviews on just-released instructional materials, so I find them a better resource for new technologies.
The Skills Measured tab lists the tasks Microsoft recommends that you know for the exam. I would suggest that you don’t limit your knowledge or experience to the items on this list. In my recent experience with Microsoft exams, the Skills Measured tab contains about 95% of what you will be asked on the exam. The other 5% will be the kinds of questions you can only answer from experience (which is where the virtual labs come in handy). Remember, Microsoft is moving away from the standard fact-based multiple choice question types, and weighing their exams more heavily toward question types that emphasize hands-on knowledge — such as Build List and Reorder, Extended Matching, and Case Studies. This is why you need to have a lot of practical knowledge of SQL Server 2012 to pass the exam.
Despite what is listed, there probably is a Transcender practice test available or SOON TO BE AVAILABLE for most of these exams. Check the Transcender web site regularly over the next few months for the availability of the practice test.
Free e-book: Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012
You should definitely obtain the free e-book on Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This e-book is an overview of SQL Server 2012 and will introduce you to some new features in SQL Server 2012. You can download the e-book from the link for the 70-462 Microsoft Prep Guide,
Again, this is where those virtual labs come in handy. I guarantee that the certification exam will expect you to be familiar with the functionality changes between previous versions of SQL Server and SQL Server 2012. Go through the e-book chapter by chapter, and use the virtual lab to poke around every new feature introduced in the book.
To successfully pass a Microsoft exam and not spend a dime on additional training is possible, and I have done it, but you have to dedicate some time to it. You should go through each task in the prep guide for the exam. Learn all you can by searching for the task in the books online, and then perform the task in the virtual labs. This will enable you to update your existing knowledge of administering older versions of SQL Server and translate those concepts into 2012.
It is not hard or expensive to learn SQL Server 2012, but it is time consuming. Block out some time in your schedule and use the free resources that are available to master the skills required to gain your SQL Server 2012 certification.
Tags: certification lifecycle, exam expirations, exam retirement, MCITP, mcsa, mcse, MCTS, private cloud, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012
In response to a recent post, blog reader Zappy asked,
I am new to Windows Server certifications and I currently hold none. I am thinking of getting certified but I am not sure if I should begin with Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. I have a fair amount of experience in 2008. What would you suggest?
The knee-jerk response is “Forget 2008; study for the cert that will have the longest shelf life.” However, there are a few factors to consider before writing off a 2008 certification entirely. Those factors are:
- the number of exams required to earn a certification
- the desired time frame for earning a certification
- the user’s level of experience with 2008 versus 2012
- how soon the user can expect 2012 to be the standard in his or her particular industry
For the sake of demonstration, I’m going to look only at Windows Server certifications, and not specialties such as Lync, .NET, SharePoint, or Exchange. (You can find more information on those certification paths here.) I’m also going to stick with entry-level and mid-level certs, since you’d be earning those anyway as you blaze towards the MCSE or MCM.
(Remember: These recommendations are for someone who, as of late 2012, has not yet taken any Microsoft exam and needs to factor exam retirement dates into a certification strategy.)
Do it now: Be off like a shot
No matter which path you decide to pursue, do it now. The perfect time to buy your first Microsoft exam voucher is during the Second Shot promotion. That means that if you take an exam between now and May 30, 2013 and fail it, you can sit for a free retake. You can buy Second Shot assurance for a single exam or for a multi-exam voucher pack (which typically earns you a bulk discount on exam fees as well).
It only takes one
Remember that passing one certification exam, even if it’s part of a multi-exam certification track, earns you the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential. As a member of the Microsoft Certification Program, you have access to MCP Flash emails from Microsoft, and you can share your transcript with others to show your progress towards a specific certification.
Single-exam certs: testing the Microsoft waters
In the “need a cert now” category, you can obtain a Microsoft certification with just one test — and it will count toward a higher-level certification, should you choose to pursue one. However, one-test certs are only offered for Windows Server 2008. The three server specializations are:
- 70-640 – Earns the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuration
- 70-642 – Earns the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
- 70-643 – Earns the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuration (retires July 31, 2013)
Remember that these exams include Windows Server 2008 R2 material, so you absolutely must be familiar with R2 before sitting an exam.
Our recommendation: if you’ve never sat for any Microsoft test and don’t know what to expect, combining Second Shot with a one-test cert might be the perfect low-stress entrance strategy, even if it “only” earns you an MCTS Server 2008 credential. If you go this route, choose either the 70-640 or the 70-642, since these also count toward the newly fledged MCSA in Server 2008 (more on that in the next section).
70-643 alone is not relevant to the MCSA 2008, so look at the exam’s objectives, and only choose it if you need this certification in your current job (and your boss is paying).
Three to five exams: not all middle-tier certs are created equal
Things get a bit murky as you move up the Server 2008 certification ladder. Having divided Generation 2008 certifications into five MCTS (entry level) and three MCITP (mid level) exam tracks, all covering different job roles and skills, Microsoft recently collapsed the varied tracks back into a revised MCSA, and added the upper-tier MCSE options. However, the MCITP tracks are still active. Depending on the track, each MCITP will either be phased out in July 2013 or rolled into the new generation of certifications.
You can obtain an MCITP in a Windows client or in Server 2008 R2 by taking three to five exams. The three server paths are Enterprise, Server Admin, and Virtualization Admin.
- The MCITP: Server Administrator requires three exams. None of these exams is scheduled for retirement in 2013.
- The MCITP: Virtualization Administrator requires three exams. These exams retire July 31, 2013.
- The MCITP: Enterprise Administrator requires five exams. These exams retire July 31, 2013.
Earning the MCITP: Server OR the MCITP: Enterprise automatically snags you an equivalent MCSA: Windows Server 2008. However, Server can be earned in only three exams, while Enterprise takes five. A MCSA: Server 2008 plus the 70-417 upgrade exam can then earn you the MCSA: Server 2012.
The MCITP: Virtualization also allows you to upgrade to MCSA: Server 2012 — but, confusingly, you can’t upgrade it to an MCSA: Server 2008. Microsoft has dropped it from this list of current MCITP tracks; also see this blog post.