Microsoft Certified Master of SQL Server is the highest Microsoft techinal certification in the world. People getting certified by passing both written and lab exams are proven to possess deepest technical knowledge of SQL Server and be able to deal with complex scenarios, provide better solutions, and toubleshoot effectively. Borrow the words from Rober Davis’ slide deck

No matter what the situation, no matter what the customer, I can send a Master and everything will be ok.

How to pass those 2 exams? Who can passed the exam? Few areas have to be considered.

Maintain good relationship
It’s important to keep good relationship from your managers, colleages, your employees if you are a manager, other related business parties even they are not expert in SQL, and your friends. It seems like I am talking about something not on the earth. Your manager is importan to you. Getting support from him can make things easier. Your cost of the exams and trainings can get paid off. You can also ask your manager to give you more time on learning since both parties will be beneficial mutually. The cost of exams now is way lower than before which can be approved easily. Back to 2009, when I talked to my manager about fees, 18k US$$ plus treval, accommodation, and 3 weeks off, feed back is NO because entire company only have X dollar amount training budget for few hundred people a year, they just can’t allocate half of them to you regardless since it’s not fair to others.

People working with you are important. Beleive me, eveyone is a master in different scope of different areas. Directly acquiring their knowledge is the quickest way to learn things. Index is not a hard thing to learn, but when I think I already fully understand it, I have been in the industry for more than 5 years. (You can see, a lot of people are smarter than I am since they might get that knowledge less than 5 years. You are one of them.) When I talk to anyone who is eager to know index, it becomes few hours of work. If you can find someone who likes to explain your technologies in detail, you are lucky than others and you definitely find one of the shortcuts to success. People sometime may defensive about their knowledge. That’s understandable. It’s not easy to them to obtain the knowledge so they might not tell others easily. Keep your mind open, help people as much as you can, and expose knowledge to others. Then you will have chance to get little bit here and little bit there, finally you will get more than what you thought.

To be active
Most of people who pursuing MCM are working in an organization. Don’t focus too much about training sessios from outside. None of the training orginaztions can guarantee you to pass the MCM exams. Working environment is the best training environment.

Try to finish your assignment as soon as possible. It’s very common that teams setup weekly goals at work. Whatever is assigned to you or intended to assign to you or anything you may not like, take it! You may get unexpected scenarios you don’t like to face in the lab exam as wel. One of my experience I can share is that when I worked for a company as a DBA, during a small period fo time, job market was very hot, people left for various reasons. Finally, I am the only one left in our DB team. But company could not find right people to fill up the positions in 3 months. There were about 1000 SQL Server instances aross North America. I dealt with all escalations from help desk, monitoring tens main production servers, jobs, and performance of replication, etc. But during that period, there were also scheduled system expansion, I was asked to setup almost 100 merge subscribers ( every subscriber needs to subscribe data from about 10 subscriptions, close to 1000 subscriptions in total). Within those 3 months, I spent whatever time I can use to develop automation tools to improve working efficiencies and optimize my work flows. Finally, I survived. Automation tools are doen. People who hired later did not need to work like me getting stressed. This added a lot of value to my life. When I take the lab exam, I have no fear and panic. Do as much as you can, embrace the work and finally you will have yourself prepared in advance almost for everything.

If you always complete your assignments or projects just on time, you will FAIL the exams

I am not kidding. The time estimate of tasks usually includes some time for unforseen events. I doubt the exams will take that into account. So you will have to reserve some time in case you really have troubles on finishing questions and operations on time. The lab exam takes 5 hours and 25 minutes which includes 25 minutes lunch and break time. Let’s say you need to deliver 25 ~ 30 items. Some of them may not be the final deliverables(They are just intermediate steps). You are asked to finish one item every 10 minutes. Done forget, the case study will take you 30 minutes too and also if you have gone to a wrong direction, getting back it not easy. You may also want to review it to ensure your understanding is correct. So it’s important to get used to do such kind of things.

When you have a project assigned at work, you collecte the requirements and ensure the final deliverables like reading cases in the lab exam. You think hard on going right path to the end. During the implementation, you may also need to do some Prove Of Concept work….finally get project done. Try to use as less time as possible doing every steps in the project. Constantly try and finish your tasks in half of the given time. After it’s done, re-think it and see whether you can find a better way to save more time. Then try the new way in the next project. In addition to that, review number of wrong paths have been chosen during the implementation, why, and get sense how long time has been wasted for wrong decision. This is a required exercise refore the exam – better keeping this habit. I am currently an independent consultant. I try to finish projects for my customers as earlier as possible although they won’t pay me back for the time I save for them as bonuses. I knew I have to maintain that altitude for my current MCM renewal and other MCM exams.

Nothing in the world is perfect. Try to perfect the systems your are maintaining even though it’s already work well. Initiate works to yourself, get approval form your manager – possibly tune all the sub-optimal queries and automate all manual works(I knew it’s impossible).

Anyways, practice makes perfect. I will continue this topic in the future posts.

Prepare Your Microsoft Certified Master – SQL Server Exam

2 thoughts on “Prepare Your Microsoft Certified Master – SQL Server Exam

  1. Hi John,

    Today only I read this post and it’s very motivating. Infact it was really good to work with you for a while.

    Thanks & Regards

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