Microsoft Exam 70-451 Wrap Up
This weekend I took and passed Microsoft Exam 70-451 (MCITP: Database Developer 2008). I'm pleased to say my score on this exam was much higher than its prerequisite, 70-433, which I wrote about a few months ago. Much like last time, I am happy to offer my thoughts for those who might be taking this test in the future.
How I Studied
I won't go as far as saying that I didn't study this time around. I did do some studying, albeit not much. After reading through the list of topics covered I decided to direct my efforts towards a few areas I felt I could benefit the most from reviewing. For instance, I felt I could benefit much more from studying transaction and concurrency strategies than from studying tables and programming objects.
I did not buy any books, study guides, or practice exams. I did this because I felt I could do fine by reading BOL and blog posts about specific topics. I have nothing against those types of study materials and have benefited from them in the past, I just didn't feel the need for them this time around. I also had the added security of a second chance as I purchased this exam as part of a Microsoft Certification Pack, which is a great way to go if you plan on taking multiple exams. Buying them in this manner gives you a discount on multiple exams as well as a free "Second Shot" for each one.
For this exam I was rather pleased with the variety of subject matter covered. I thought the test matched up with the list of topics covered quite nicely and did not feel there was a disproportionate balance of subject matter like I did with 70-433. One thing I did notice was that some topics in the list did not have specific questions dedicated to them, however those that didn't were usually referenced in other ways, such as being an answer choice for one or more questions.
It seems that the more of these tests I take, the greater my understanding of the intent of the questions. I think the test writers do an excellent job of coming up with scenarios that you're likely to encounter in real life as opposed to the world of ideal database design. For instance, if a question were to start off with "You are designing a database to store multiple terabytes of video" my first thought would be that I probably wouldn't design a system that way. True as that may be, it's quite possible to start a job or consulting gig at a place that has such a system deployed and can't easily be changed. In that case the best option may be to work with it (at least for the short term).
Test Taking Skills
Once again I can't over-stress the importance of test taking skills. Unless you are a complete genius, there's probably going to be at least one question on this (or any) test that you don't know the answer to. At this point your options are:
A) Leave the question unanswered
B) Pick an answer at random
C) Use your testing skills to eliminate incorrect choices and select an answer from those remaining
Needless to say your best chance of answering correctly lies with option C. When I've needed to do this, I've always been able to eliminate at least two choices. Here's an example:
Q: Rachel's query is the bestest EVAR. What hint did she use when accessing the docHistory table?
We know nothing about Rachel or her query other than it's on docHistory, so it's a guessing game at this point. One thing we do know is that NOLOCK and READUNCOMMITTED are equivalent, so A and D can't be the answer. On top of that RECOMPILE is not a table hint but a query hint, so C is out as well, meaning the answer must be B. Even if you had no clue the READPAST table hint existed, you can arrive at that answer by elimination.
After passing this test I have now completed the prerequisites for the Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008 knowledge exam. I've already had a few people ask me if I'm going to take it. HECK YES! It's definitely on my list of things to do, but I will be taking some time to prepare for it first. I have no doubt in my mind that I will get there and will work hard in doing so, the only question now is how long it will take me.