As many of you know, I took the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) knowledge exam back in November, and received notice that I passed back in December. The MCM knowledge exam is the first of two tests that you have to pass in order to receive the MCM certification, after you take and pass the MCITP database administrator and MCITP database developer exams of course. The second of the exams, is a 6 hour lab which is supposed to be just as hard as the knowledge exam, if not harder.
I’ve been asked a couple of times what my test taking experience was like, how much experience I have as a DBA, etc. So that’s pretty much what I’m going to talk about in here. I won’t be talking about the kinds of questions, or whats on the test as that would be an NDA violation, but this may give you some ideas about the experience it self.
The testing center
When you go and take the MCM exam, you can’t just go to any testing center and take it. You have to go to a special high security testing center. Normally when you take an MSL (Microsoft Learning) exam you just turn off your phone and leave it in your car. At these facilities you take nothing with you, except for your drivers license, which is to remain on the desk at all times, and your little white board for notes that you want to take during the exam. Everything else, wallet, keys, etc. goes into a locker which you have a key for with you (also sitting on the desk). IDs are checked every time to enter and exit the testing room (for a bathroom break, etc). When you go take the test, expect an almost TSA like inspection. OK they don’t actually pat you down, but you do have to pull your pockets out to show they are empty.
The test it self
The test itself is hard, very hard; as well it should be. The goal of the exam is to weed out the people that don’t have the requisite knowledge and experience at the level expected. I’ve been told that this exam is actually harder than the prior one that the people that went through the class room training took. I’ve got no idea if this is true or not, but either way, the test was very tough. I had no idea if I had passed or not until I got the email stating that I had passed (people that aren’t in the beta program for the exam probably won’t get an email, but will instead just get the notification from Prometric).
My SQL Server Experience
A lot of experience with the SQL Server database engine is definitely a requirement to passing the MCM Knowledge Exam. Personally I’ve been using Microsoft SQL Server since SQL Server 6.5, although most of my experience has been with SQL Server 7.0 and beyond. I really started getting into SQL Server back in 1998 or 1999, so I’ve got about 12-13 years experience with the product as both a database administrator as well as being a database developer. A long amount of experience is, in my opinion, absolutely critical to passing the MCM exam. Without it you won’t have the breadth of knowledge of all the various features which the MCM knowledge exam is going to test you on. The MCM exams which Microsoft has released (and were recorded by SQL Skills) are a good starting point for people that don’t have a similar level of experience, however they are not all that you need. A working knowledge of the production from practical on the job experience using all the features for several years will greatly increase your odds of passing.
If you plan on taking the MCM exam, be very sure that you know your stuff, well … very well. Several people that know SQL Server well have taken the MCM knowledge exam and have not yet passed the exam. This should drive home the point that you need to know the database engine very well before taking it.