Lightning deal: Microsoft offers FREE upgrades for 2016 MCSA in June

June 16, 2016 at 8:35 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | Leave a comment
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Microsoft recently announced an incentive for IT pros working toward their MCSA in Windows Server 2012 or their MCSA in SQL Server 2012/2014: finish your certification by June 30, 2016, and earn a free voucher for the 2016 upgrade exam.

Upgrade path for Windows Server 2016

The MCSA in Windows Server 2012 requires three exams:

  • 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012
  • 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012
  • 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services

If you have all three under your belt by June 30, you’ll qualify for a free voucher to sit exam 70-743: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA: Windows Server 2016. No exam details are available at this time.

Upgrade path for SQL Server 2016

The MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014 also requires three exams:

  • 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • 70-462: Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • 70-463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014

Interestingly, although only one upgrade exam number is shown for SQL Server 2016 (70-762), it looks like there are actually three separate upgrade options:

  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Database Development) by taking 70-762: Developing SQL Databases
  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Database Administration) by taking 70-762: Provisioning SQL Databases
  • Earn an MCSA: SQL Server 2016 (Business Intelligence Dev) by taking 70-762: Developing SQL Data Models

Again, Microsoft hasn’t released any exam objectives or details at the time of this post.

Do I have time to study?

Absolutely. Transcender has a full range of practice tests, e-learning, and virtual labs for each track, including a 30-day online access version of the practice tests:

What if I already have an MCSA in 2012 / 2014?

The wording was “between now [June 2] and June 30, 2016,” so this offer is probably limited to people who haven’t yet passed all the required tests. You can see Microsoft’s original post at the Born To Learn blog, and ask whether the offer extends to those who already have their certification in hand. However, as a certified professional, you should already be receiving emails from Microsoft each time a free beta exam is released (like the recent offer for the 70-698), so if you don’t qualify for this deal, odds are that a similar one will come your way.

Happy certifying!

~ The Transcender Team

Announcing Microsoft’s FREE upgrade exam for Win 8 MCSAs

March 30, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Are you a Windows 8 MCSA? If you are, and you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 certification between February 15, 2015, and May 31, 2015, you can take Exam 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices for free. Doing so will earn you the MCSA: Windows 10 certification.

To take advantage of this offer, you MUST sign up using the link on the Microsoft site, and you MUST take (and pass) the exam no later than May 31, 2016.

Because you are limited to one free exam attempt, you may want to take advantage of Transcender’s full range of prep materials. We offer the Microsoft Practice Exam for 70-697 MSCert: Configuring Windows 10 Devices, an online Practice Lab with virutalized machines, and professional e-learning courses with 18.5 hours of instruction.

If you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 after the cutoff date, you can still register to take exam 70-697 and earn the MCSA: Windows 10 – which is still a solid move for your certification career.

FREE webinar on November 18: Best prep tips for your Office 365 exam

November 11, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints, study tips | Leave a comment
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Join Transcender’s subject matter expert and Microsoft practice test author, George Monsalvatge, for a free webinar that will prepare you for your Office 365 exam. This live, interactive webinar will walk you through the preparation process and cover such topics as:

  • What exactly are they going to test me on?
  • Have the technologies changed since Microsoft first released the exams? If so, which versions should I study?
  • How in-depth are the questions?
  • What’s the format of the question – multiple answer, fill-in-the-blank, interactive – and what’s the best approach for each question type?

To register for the webinar, click this link.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 18, from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST (Show in My Time Zone).

Passing the Microsoft 70-410 exam: one trainer’s perspective (Part 1)

August 22, 2014 at 10:48 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints, study tips | 11 Comments
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Editor’s note: today’s guest post was written by IT instructor Scott Winger. Scott is a computing technologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a technical editor for VMware Press. He also teaches continuing education classes in IT for Madison College.

You did the labs, looked at countless flash cards, and sat almost two dozen mock exams. You read: tons. You paid your hundred and fifty bucks. Now you’ve just clicked End Exam on the real deal, the Microsoft 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 exam.

So, in the second or two that Microsoft takes to grade your work, there’s a moment of confidence and pride because you know you nailed it. And then the confirmation appears: “Congratulations! You’ve passed.”

The above was my experience.

But how will you achieve that End-Exam moment of confidence and pride?

What do you need to buy?

What are the steps?

This set of posts, “Passing the Microsoft 70-410 exam,” will help you answer those questions.  I’ll provide closely focused examples from each of the official objective areas to help you know, how, where, when, and on what to focus your three required types of effort: lab work, research, and drilling.

What to Buy

The serious student who lacks reasonable access to a server will need to pay for labs, textbooks, or even training at some point. However, the good news is that there are many professional-level resources available for free.

For the price of a simple login, the Microsoft Virtual Academy allows you to customize a course of targeted videos and some basic self-assessment materials. The following link will deliver over 20 mini-courses for you to explore:

On the TechNet Video channel, you can access a series of screencasts and technologies geared for IT pros:

These overviews can be a great way to gain confidence in the material. However, for serious study and practice assessment, you’ll probably want to investigate the following resources, all of which I can recommend from personal use.

Craig Zacker wrote the Microsoft Official Academic Curriculum, Installing and Configuring Server 2012 R2. This course is available as both a textbook and a lab manual, and they are superbly constructed. And, not only did Craig team up with Microsoft’s Server 2012 team to write this book, but if you don’t have access to a machine with at least 12GB of RAM and an i5 class or better processor, you can buy a MOAC edition that comes with the Microsoft Official Academic Curriculum Labs Online space, which provides all the horsepower you’ll need for doing the labs.

(Note: the “Server 1” course I taught at my local Technical College came right out of Craig’s book. So check out the course catalog of your nearest Technical or Community College. You may be surprised how pertinent, affordable, and enriching these institutions can be.)

The next vital acquisition is one of the Server 2012 R2 tomes, which are designed to cover every role and feature and provide the valuable insights of their highly qualified authors. I used Mark Minasi’s Mastering Windows Server 2012 R2, and found it to be excellent.

When you’re ready to test your knowledge,’s 70-410 Exam Engine is not an option: it’s essential. The only question is when to buy it. (Read on for my recommendations for timing your purchase.) However, at this early stage, it’s worth joining the Transcender Club (a free login) so that you’ll be notified of any flash sales and possibly score yourself a discount.

Finally, of course, you’ll have to register and pay for the exam. Microsoft frequently rolls out a Second Shot program, which allows a free exam retake in case you don’t pass the first time. It’s worth checking their Special Offers page on a regular basis while you’re still in learning mode. And as of this writing, I see you can download a free e-book by Mitch Tulloch, Introducing Windows Server 2012 RTM Edition (PDF, Mobi, EPub).

That’s it. Buy the above things at the right times as described below, and work with them as they were designed to be used, and you can pass the difficult 70-410 with confidence.

What to Do (and when to do it)

To get started, buy Craig’s book and lab manual. And if you don’t have access to the computing power you’ll need, buy them with the online lab space. And buy one of the Server 2012 tomes.

Next, spend about a hundred hours reading Craig’s book cover to cover, doing the labs as you go. (If you didn’t purchase the edition with online labs, refer to the free Microsoft Virtual Academy and TechNet video training.) During this lab/research phase, you should supplement your reading with TechNet’s Server 2012 collection and by skimming the related sections in your tome.

There are also quite a few excellent resources on the web. Microsoft’s TechNet Library should live in your bookmarks bar. (See )

When you’ve finished the research/lab phase, it’ll be time to buy the Transcender 70-410 test engine and drill with the flash cards and the mock exams. Your goal in this phase is to score in the mid-80 percentages each day for the entire week leading up to your exam. Remember, to be eligible for Transcender’s Pass Guarantee, you’ll need to take your exam within six months of the purchase date. (Also remember that if you buy the Exam Voucher with your test engine, that cost is not covered by the guarantee.)

In my next post I’ll describe how you can create a personalized Server 2012 study guide while doing your labs, research, flash cards, and mock exams. I’ll also focus in on questions from each of the 70-410 objective areas.

If you’ve got comments, I’d like to hear them.

Thanks in advance and good luck.

–Scott Winger

Better than a blockbuster movie: Free Windows Server 2012 videos

July 16, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints | 1 Comment
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What is truly free in this world? Well, there’s the air we breathe, but not the water we  drink (it costs $1 in the vending machine), or a summer blockbuster (it costs $12, and they do not take free passes).

The sad truth is that most things in this world are not free. However, you can get actual free training on Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Last month, Microsoft delivered a FREE Windows Server 2012 Jump Start virtual class that was presented by Microsoft Evangelist Rick Claus and President & Lead Architect for holSystems, Cory Hynes. The class covered an array of topics, and Rick and Cory did a great job of explaining each of them. If you missed this class, you can still watch the HD-quality video recordings on  TechNet (links below).

If you do not have several straight hours to devote to watching these videos, don’t worry about it. Each module is broken down by topic and lasts for about an hour per module:

• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (01): Core Hyper-V
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02a): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02b): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03a): Storage Architecture, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03b): Storage Architecture, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (04): Continuous Availability
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05a): Multi-Server Management, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05b): Multi-Server Management, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06a): Security and Access, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06b): Security and Access, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (07): Remote Connectivity and Networking
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (08): IIS, DHCP and IPAM

Each module is informative and does contain demonstrations of the topics. Most importantly, each module is engaging and not at all boring. Rick and Cory relate these topics to the real world environment. They also made a few jokes along the way which I very much appreciated. While Rick and Cory probably will not get their own special on Comedy Central, they did help make the time pass quickly.

If you’re curious about Windows Server 2012, if you plan to get certified in Windows Server 2012, or if you foresee having to install Windows Server 2012 at your office in the near future, I recommend that you check out these videos.  I had the opportunity to take the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exam in early June, and I sincerely wish that I had watched these videos before attempting the exam.

Along with the 70-410 exam, Microsoft plans to release the 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 exam and the 70-412 Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services exams in the Fall. Before attempting any of these exams, I strongly recommend you take a few hours to check out the modules from this class. I’ll say it again: It’s FREE.

What’s better than free training? Okay, you could be watching  “Live and Let Die” for the 25th time on the James Bond marathon. But you know how this one ends, James Bond gets the girl and defeats the bad guy. You can’t say you know how each of the Windows Server 2012 modules will end, so why not enjoy a marathon of Microsoft Jump Start virtual videos instead? 

Until next time,

George Monsalvatge

We want YOU – Our search for CertifyThisGuy Candidate is On

August 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Study hints, Transcender news | 3 Comments

Are you an unconventional IT certification candidate? Web 2.0 savvy? Engaging? Active on social networking forums? If the answer to any or all of these is YES, you may be the perfect candidate for us!

We are looking to sponsor an atypical IT certification wannabe that can commit to a self study regimen (we provide all materials), complete a certification exam (we reimburse your exam fee), all while chronicling your certification journey in the social media matrix (sites and access provided).

We get e-mails every month from IT newbies asking what the best approach to cracking the IT world is? What certification is worth most to employers? And the most popular (and sensitive) question these days, how much will it cost me to get certified? While we do our best to be objective and honest with our advice, we’re also aware that it’s been a long time since our first exam. We’re somewhat immune to the nerves, commitment, stress and anxiety involved in taking that first IT certification exam. So in order to give you the most honest, useful, and legit advice before making the leap into the IT world we’re looking to follow the chronicles of our very own Cert Guy/Gal.

Here’s our win-win solution:

One (or two) lucky guys/gals walk the road to certification and share with their peers the experience of preparing, learning, sweating and succeeding. All the while the Transcender Team follows you on your journey to see what your road blocks are, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and hopefully provide some useful tools and guidance along the way. As with every fun idea, we’ve been asked to impose some parameters in the fine print, so for the details and info on how to apply go here: IT Certification Candidate and Social Media User.

We encourage anyone & everyone who’s been on the fence about IT certification to send us your info and help us help you start this new adventure!

All About the New Windows 7 Exams, Certifications, and Free Resources

October 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Microsoft | 1 Comment
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Eric Clapton had a song on his Money & Cigarettes album many years ago called “Everybody oughta make a change.” Microsoft recently made some changes by releasing the new Windows 7 operating system and some corresponding new exams:

  • 70-680 TS: Windows 7, Configuring
  • 70-685 Pro: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
  • 70-686 Pro: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator

The 70-685 and the 70-686 exams just recently ended their beta period. I expect these exams will be released in a couple of weeks, while 70-680 is already available.

Exams Overview

I had the opportunity to take all three of the beta exams.

  • The 70-680 test covers a wide cross-section of topics: migrating your computer to Windows 7 and other deployment issues, configuring applications and Internet Explorer, understanding IPv4 and IPv6, configuring network settings, configuring BranchCache, configuring Mobile Computing, understanding backup and recovery options, and monitoring Windows 7.
  • Look for much more in-depth coverage of deploying Windows 7 on the 70-686 exam, from migration to clean installations and the attendant hardware requirements. The 70-686 exam objectives cover deploying images, deploying application packages, designing client configurations, and overall troubleshooting.
  • The 70-685 exam covers troubleshooting desktop application issues, networking issues, security issues, supporting mobile clients and maintaining Windows 7 clients. This test was pretty straightforward, in my experience. You had to be very familiar with the new GPO policy settings that affect Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Since I troubleshoot more than I deploy Windows 7, I found the 70-685 beta exam to be easier than the 70-686 exam. The 70-686 exam was the hardest one of the three, in my humble opinion. You really need a lot of experience deploying images and experience with the System Center suite of products.

Study Resources

Unfortunately, when I was prepping for these exams, there were not a lot of resources available. However, more resources on Windows 7 are being released every day.

Deploying Windows 7 free e-book – download the Deploying Windows® 7 Essential Guidance from the Windows 7 Resource Kit and TechNet Magazine for free via download (thanks, Born To Learn). This is a great resource for prepping for the 70-686 exam when it is eventually released.

Free Windows 7 book chapters PDF – Safari Books Online is offering a combo pack of several chapters from four new Windows 7 texts – download it at

Transcender’s 70-680 practice exam (written by yours truly) has 160 multiple-choice and interactive test items, plus 226 flash card items. Check it out here:

Global Knowledge released a series of free whitepapers and blog posts on Windows 7. Here are a few to start you off:

Here are Free Windows 7 Training Videos — 5 introductory training videos on Windows 7.

Don’t forget Microsoft’s free Microsoft Learning Snacks on Windows 7 and free Microsoft E-Learning courses.

If anyone has a favorite Windows 7 study resource, let me know and I’ll add it to this list.


Here’s a rundown on the certifications for Windows 7. If you pass the 70-680 exam, you can achieve the following:

  • MCTS: Windows 7, Configuration

If you pass both the 70-680 exam and 70-685 exam, you can achieve the following:

  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7

If you pass both the 70-680 exam and 70-686 exam, you can achieve the following:

  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator

A lot of people say that a lot of companies are not adopting Windows Server 2008 as fast as Microsoft thought they were going to. This is probably true. The economy has not been good over the last two years. However, there is strong evidence that Windows 7 will be widely adopted in a short period of time. New desktops, laptops, and netbook computers will have it installed (and I haven’t heard a rumor of a downgrade license option). The U.S. government has the 8570.1 directive to require certification for all government personnel involved in Information Assurance. There will be a high demand for Windows 7 skills. You should take Eric Clapton’s lead and make a change. Get certified in Windows 7 before everyone else does.

–George Monsalvatge

Only 10 days left to enter our Cert Idol video contest!

October 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Transcender news | Leave a comment
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Don’t let this chance pass you by. You have ten days left to cut a short (30 seconds to 2 and a half mintues) video explaining why you deserve to be voted Transcender’s Cert Idol.

If Transcender’s study guides and practice tests helped YOU land the certification of your dreams, tell us all about it. Click the logo to be taken directly to the contest’s entry site:

CertIdol Contest by Transcender

Shout Out to Our Fellow Bloggers, and a Freebie!

June 9, 2009 at 10:09 am | Posted in Transcender news | 8 Comments
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If you are writing an IT blog, we want to visit. Not to worry.  This isn’t the “sleep on your couch until you throw us out” kind of visit. We just want to check out your blog. Leave us a comment with a link and we’ll come check it out.

If you would like to receive a FREE Transcender practice test to review on your blog or give away to a reader, leave us a comment. Nothing says love to your readers more than giveaways!

–Jennifer W.

Top Tech·Ed Swag Tips from Troy (plus some official stuff too)

May 7, 2009 at 11:12 am | Posted in Microsoft, Transcender news | Leave a comment
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The big week is fast approaching and we would like to invite those of you lucky enough to be going to Tech·Ed in LA to come and see us at the Transcender booth (#737).

Troy’s Swag Checklist
Here’s a list of swag to watch for while you are at Tech·Ed. I call this Troy’s Swag Checklist.
• You will receive a voucher worth 50% off your next exam. Score!
• If you locate an MCT (like me in the Hands On Lab – nudge, nudge) you can have the voucher UPGRADED to one that lets you purchase an exam for USD 25.00 (that’s such a deal, they’re usually $125.00!!)
• You can combine either of these vouchers with the Second Shot program, so you could potentially get two shots at an exam for $25.00 instead of $250.00!!!
• If you are an MCP, you get a baseball cap simply by showing your ID card or transcript (you can print that on the spot).

We’ll have some nice stuff for you at our booth in the Exhibit area as well (#737). You can enter a drawing to win any of the following great giveaways: 
• A brand new iPod Nano. Score!
• A free copy of our new 83-640 Practice Exam with Virtual Lab-Based Testing. Score!
• A free download of one of our other practice tests.

You will probably see Josh there as well as other nice folks who are not on the development team, but play important roles in helping us to be the premier certification test prep company.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I will be working for Microsoft as a Technical Learning Guide (as well as representing Transcender) in the Hands On Lab area. Even if you have attended Tech·Ed in the past, you may not have experienced this particular track. I highly recommend the Hands On Lab as a way to either try out a new technology or hone your skills for an exam attempt. This year’s setup offers some new features. All of these tasks can be done in the same VMs that host the labs:

• You can create a personalized Learning Plan to help identify resources and tasks to achieve certification or learn a new technology.
• You can use a practice test to help prepare for a certification exam.
• Although actual certification testing will not be done at TechEd, as in years past, you can still register at an off-site center in LA and take your exam while you’re out there.
• You can identify the exams that are required for a certification.
• You can register for a free Second Shot at the exam of your choice.
• You can access what Microsoft is calling Learning Snacks, small and easily digestible concepts about new technology

Speaking of labs, there will be 400 computers set up in Pods, organized by technology type, that host about 200 different Hands On Labs. This is the area that I will be working in, so come by and look for the short, wiry guy with a ponytail and glasses. That will be me.

For those of you playing along at home (i.e. not attending the conference), you can still get access to many of these labs through Tech·Ed Online:

There will also be prep sessions for some of the more popular exams (listed below). These are included in the schedule when you use the schedule builder. Here’s a sampler:
Certification 101
MCITP is the new MCSE
SQL Server 2008 – 70-433
.NET Framework – 70-536 and 70-502
SharePoint Services – 70-631
Active Directory – 70-640/642
Windows Server 2008 – 70-646/647
Exchange 2007 – 70-236/237/238

Come to the Jam session
As in the past, Microsoft will be holding a jam session for all frustrated amateur and former professional musicians (like me). Here’s the information:

Jam on IT
Date: Thursday, May 14
Time: 6 pm-11pm
Location: Los Angeles Convention Center (West bldg)

You’ve asked for an evening to socialize and have some fun, so we’re taking over the west side of the convention center, providing plenty of great food and drinks, and networking opportunities like Birds-of-a-Feather sessions and the Women in Technology program — WomenBuild. You can also rock the house at the famous (or infamous) Tech•Ed Jam Session, hosted by Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin of .NET Rocks! We hope you’ll grab an instrument, jump on stage, and raise the roof.

Hope to see you there!

–Troy McMillan

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