Free resources to help you learn, master, and get certified on SQL Server 2012

November 1, 2012 at 10:27 am | Posted in Microsoft | 6 Comments
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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.

Virtual Labs

I highly recommend the SQL Server 2012 virtual labs (http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/en/us/learning-center/virtual-labs.aspx).  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 http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms130214.aspx. If you are in a firewall or proxy-restricted environment, you can download the information directly from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=347. 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 http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462.  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, http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?id=70-462#tab2.

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.

Happy studying!
–George Monsalvatge

6 Comments »

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  1. Hello, i would like to ask that what is the benefits of sql training, what all topics should be covered and it is kinda bothering me … and has anyone studies from this course online?? or tell me any other guidance…
    would really appreciate help… and Also i would like to thank for all the information you are providing on sql training.

    • The course that you linked to is a generic SQL instruction course. It would teach you the basics, but it would not prepare you for certification or for a specific edition of Microsoft SQL Serer. What is your purpose in getting training? Are you trying to learn SQL for your job role, or are you trying to pass a certification exam? These are very important questions to ask yourself before deciding to pay for training. I suggest you start by looking at the complete list of Microsoft-approved courses here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/training/sql-server.aspx

  2. Hello,
    I wanna training on SQL server for the purpose of passing the certification exam as well as developing my career skill for database administration with SQL. I really appreciate anyone assist me in achieving my purpose. I see a lot of free online stuff but would like to be specific for effectiveness.

    Thank you in advance!

    • The best way to prep is to work through the objectives on the prep guide with SQL Server. This requires that you have HANDS-ON access to SQL Server 2012. If you do not have access to a running copy of SQL Server 2012, I strongly suggest that you use the FREE virtual labs to gets some hands-on experience. Microsoft live exams questions hit strongly on hands-on knowledge over book knowledge.

      There are lots of books in the $40 to $100 range that cover the objectives. These books are great, but do not give you hands-on knowledge. I have always been partial to the MS-Press books. You can find all the information that is in a MS-Press book or other book on Microsoft Technet, but the MS-Press book does a great job of organizing it. If you plan on taking the live exam, you want to run through a practice exam. I recommend a Transcender practice exam. Shameless Plug!

      Seriously, whatever resource that you are using to study and to pass the live exam, you will have to know how to perform each task under Skills Measured.

      Good Luck,

      George

  3. Where is the free ebook

    • Durga Prasad, the links to the free resources are in the blog post. If they’ve moved, you can do a search on the Microsoft web site. Good luck!


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