I’m delighted to say I just passed Exam MS-500: Microsoft 365 Security Administration in my first exam since Covid-19 lockdown in the UK and my first “online” exam that I sat at home. This was my 36th Microsoft Exam pass and all of the other 40odd attempts I’ve had (mostly passes) sitting exams have been in a variety of test centres around Edinburgh and the Central belt of Scotland.
I’m happy to say that I’ve passed AZ-900 as part of my employer’s initiative to have everyone go through the Azure Fundamentals exam. This is a recognition that cloud is a core part of their business.
My thoughts? I perhaps underestimated the exam and although I passed well I didn’t ace it. I’ve scored more in other “harder” exams so I’d recommend what I try to tell myself – look through the actual product being tested (Azure Portal Features) and if you want to score more you’ll have to remember some of the detail of features and charging structures. I think the classic learning tips of What? How? When? for each exam objective will serve you well.
I’m beginning to realise that all of the exams are treated seriously and a pass (even for fundamentals) actually means something. Respect to my non technical colleagues and a little nudge to myself to treat things seriously!
I’m really happy to say that I (finally) passed 70-339 Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016 on Friday after a couple of failed attempts. This was my 32nd exam pass and my first time pass percentage is quite high, mainly as I tend to be very careful about booking exams when I think I am well and ready for an exam. So what was different this time ?
1. I didn’t respect the exam
I think a run of first time passes on exams made me a little complacent and I relied too much on the good results I got with the official practice exam. I should have remembered how hard I found the breadth of the previous generation of SharePoint exams and though about the implications of a single exam for the whole product (there used to be two administrative exams for each version of SharePoint). I probably came short and should have thought harder about the implications of elements in the exam outline.
Having the product in front of you to try things out is also a proper lesson well remembered.
2. Study and exams don’t exist in a bubble
When I failed first time I took the standard approach and booked for a couple of weeks after, on the basis that my fail mark was just short of the required pass mark. Then some family stuff came up which meant that I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the exam and had a lot on my mind. This happens and there isn’t a lot that can be done; life is unpredictable and it’s important to work to live rather than get things the wrong way around. Reflecting on this made me think about my attitude during preparation and what techniques and methods might help with all of the aspects of my life.
3. Sit exams when you know stuff
This inelegant heading refers to my experience that sitting exams on subjects that directly relate to your day job is so much easier than others. I’ve not been working daily with SharePoint 2016 since my last job and I think that even that was focused on a narrow band of deployment. Both this exam and 70-532 Azure development were tough and that was because I didn’t have the day to day depth in a subject area like I have with Azure Architecture and Administration. Stretch targets are good but they need the work.
4. Sit exams when they are current
What I mean by this is that there is a natural curve to an exam lifetime. Some Microsoft exam areas are particularly current like the Azure Administration and Architecture exams and apart from tweaks to the platform will be active and up to date. I think the perfect set of circumstances is a year or so after an exam goes live in a technology that is in wide use. Contrast this to 70-339 which has been available since mid 2016 and relates to a product which has undergone a fundamental change in delivery – most users of SharePoint will now use the online product.
Like my car driving test (I love driving!) sometimes I have to work hard to achieve something and sticking at it is a test of personality. Unfortunately due to what must be a bit of a personality defect it can take a couple of fails for me to realise that I have to buckle down and examine my strategy. In the case of 70-339 I waited a month or two after my second fail to have a think, see how things were going and take a bit more time out. In something I think is like a classic retry pattern I introduced a delay. Of course in development the delay would be a bit more regular in nature but hopefully you get my point.
I failed a Microsoft Exam last Friday – yes it’s true, on occasion I fail an exam. One (amongst the many) fantastic attitude at my current employer is that a Microsoft exam fail is part of the journey of discovery. A couple of my new colleagues also remark that any significant score over the “pass” mark is a waste of study time and I can kind of see where that comes from.
If you’ve booked exams for the last few years you will have been informed of the latest on retake policy which has been tweaked and firmed up to an extent to give candidates a proper chance between resits and not to try to brute force the attempts. At the time of writing the Exam retake policy states:
If a candidate does not achieve a passing score on an exam the first time, the candidate must wait at least 24 hours before retaking the exam.
This time I was particularly keen to book my resit as soon as possible, the practicalities of availability in Edinburgh means that I was expecting to have to wait a couple of weeks at least for availability so I didn’t expect the 24 hours to be a problem. I went through the exam details page, clicked “Schedule Exam”, confirmed my details and the link accounts page and got redirected back to the same page with a light yellow banner “50055: This exam is not currently offered. Please select another exam.”
So I tried a few different ways without success; inprivate, different devices and all gave the same error. I tried telephoning to be told that I would have to wait 24 hours to book. So I waited 24 hours after the end of my exam and still couldn’t book.
I was finally able to rebook through the Pearson Vue site at 18:30 on the Monday after my exam on the Friday; the exam was scheduled to end at 12:30 (My times are BST). The half hour seems more than coincidental and the take away is that the systems will prevent the booking taking place until at least a number of hours have passed on business days.
I don’t fail exams often and I certainly don’t plan to, and hopefully you don’t either. So when the unthinkable happens don’t panic and take time to regroup and make plans. And wait a day and a bit before you try to rebook!
Where do I start? Migrating this blog over the weekend has led to a bit of a review and the realisation that a lot of the blog posts relate to my journey preparing for and sitting (and generally passing!) Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams.
The last exam related post on this blog is Passed 70-631 WSS Configuring Today which was posted just under 10 years ago – yikes. I’m delighted to see that posts in the meantime related to Motorcycling and Off Road Skills so that would indicate some wider interests other than work.
It is an interesting exam, partly because it covers such a broad base, and partly because it was a great reminder for me as to what is included in the “free” download.
The exam itself is a broad brush affair, with bits on dns setup, network load balancing, ISA Server, MOM, basically the stuff in the exam outline is covered – so go read it up.
I got a pretty good score, which I put down to project work earlier in the year. I had a couple of decent sized projects involving Network Load Balancing on an Intranet, and another for an extranet-only site. This got me hands on with ISA, NLB, Alternate Access Mappings and all that.
To prepare I used on the job experience, Transcender test exam preparation and I built a couple of networks with WSS 3.0 in Virtual PC at work and at home.
Microsoft have announced the retiral in 2008 of a batch of Microsoft Certified Professional exams. The retiral page features a list of exams to retire on 31st March 2008, mostly coming from the Windows 2000 Server MCSE and MCSA exam tracks, plus an NT4 exam for good measure.
Looking at the list pop up some old “favourites” or what I would call one-off anomalies like the rather strange Commerce Server 2000 exam (70-234) which didn’t even merit a simulation exam from Transcender, but was a credit to MCSD.
My pass of 70-215 went up on the prometric site on Thursday, but I’ve been watching the MCP Site to see when the pass would get through. Went up on the online transcript today, up there at the top is the “Legacy” cert for Microsoft Certified Database Administrator for SQL Server 2000. Yay 🙂
My 15th exam and I’ve been at this Malarky for over 10 years.
Passed 70-215 Administering Old Windows Servers this morning. Got 850, which was a pleasant surprise. A well broad spread of questions, including more on subnetting and routing than I expected. Expected stuff on UNIX was in there, and a total blinder on SNMP although I’d not covered much if at anything on it, the question looked simple.
I am pleased to report that I got my other SQL Server exam passed today. 70-228 Installing, Configuring, and Administering SQL Server 2000. I had been looking at the exam materials over the last few months in the absence of any other specific objectives. With my objectives set to .NET, I managed to get the exam in quickly this week to get a result for my studies before I get my head down for the next exam.
That means I have one core exam to sit if I want MCDBA, but my focus is now on the three c# .NET exams to take me to MCSD.NET.
The exam I passed ? As you would expect, lots of stuff on administration – backups, security, indexes and the like. And for some reason it wasn’t as scary as the developer exam, but that was probably down to timing.