Browse Tag: exam

Should I get certified?

The value of Microsoft certifications has split opinion for years, and both camps feel very passionate about their side of the argument.  In this post I’ll try and look constructively at the value of Microsoft certifications, so you can make the decision for yourself.  I’m specifically talking about Microsoft developer certifications here, but the concepts/points could likely be applied to any certifying body.

1. What are the current Microsoft Certification paths (for developers)?

There is a route for just about every job role in the industry, I have to narrow the criteria quite a bit just to stop this post from becoming long and boring.  Here is a high level overview;

MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate)
This is a foundation level certification targeting people getting started in their career.  There are 3 main routes; IT Infrastructure (up to 4 exams), Database (1 exam) and Developer (8 exams).  Reading the overview of each route shows that each exam is meant as an introduction to that particular field.

MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer)
This is a middle-level (most developers will probably fall into this band) certification with several different routes; Web, Windows Store (JS, CSS, HTML), Windows Store (C’#) and Application Lifecycle Management.

MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer)
Now all but defunct (replaced by MCSD). this was a more advanced path, again with several routes available including; Desktop, Windows Phone and Silverlight.  The desktop route had a strong focus on WPF, WCF, and Entity Framework, as well as developing applications for the enterprise.

So many paths

The fact that there are so many paths available targeting all developers from novice to seasoned professional forms the basis of the first argument against getting certified.

The facts are quite simple.  Each exam costs around £99 to sit, and there may be up to 4 exams in any certificate route (usually no less than 2).  This price does not include between £20-£40 for an official Microsoft training guide and subscriptions to third party training providers, such as PluralSight, which will set you back another $29 a month.  If you opt for classroom training, you could easily be looking at £5000 for a 5 day intensive course with no guarantee that you’ll pass at the end.

Microsoft would probably argue that they are trying to provide useful training to developers of all skill levels, and that £99 is cheap compared to something like CISCO CCNA, costing between $150-$295.

Conclusion: Microsoft offer exams to make money plain and simple.  Whilst not the most expensive, Microsoft and their partners make money from the exam itself, and supporting training material such as books.

2. Will getting certified help me get a job/earn more money?

The answer is not simple, “Yes with an if, no with a but”.

According to Mutually Human, employers hire developers based on the following criteria;

  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Education

When a company is looking to match a candidate to a role, they favour experience and skills over education.  Don’t be fooled, Microsoft certifications fall under the education banner, and aren’t necessarily “proof” that you are highly skilled.  This is true for all but the most junior positions.

Yes, if you are at the very beginning of your career.
Having a decent Microsoft certification will give you a good edge over your competition.  At worst, it shows that you know how to study training material and that you had the drive and determination to do so.  It’s also a couple of extra lines on your CV and a little “something extra” to chat about when you get invited to interview.

No, but exams like the ones offered by Microsoft will highlight areas that you are most passionate about.
If you can identify where your skills are strongest, you may become a specialist.  If your specialist skill is in high demand (a good SQL developer is always a good example) you will certainly be able to demand higher rates if you are a contractor/freelancer/consultant.

3. Is it worth the time/effort?

If you are serious about sitting a Microsoft exam, and I mean without cheating then you will be required to make a significant time investment.

If you are already an experienced software developer looking to sit the MCSD Web Applications route, I estimate that it should take about 90 days to complete (30 days per exam [70-480, 70-486, 70-487]).  And really that is for developers who have already been actively using/developing code using those technologies on a daily basis for at least a year.  If you are not using these technologies regularly, you would have to at least double or triple the amount of time/effort required.

So it is?

Another incredibly tough question to answer.  Honestly, it depends.  It all depends on your motives.

If you want to complete a Microsoft certification because you believe it will get you a promotion or a pay rise FORGET IT.  Don’t waste your time because it probably won’t happen.  And if you get lucky, you will truly be in the minority.  I’m speaking from personal experience because this was my motivation once upon a time.

If, say, you are a desktop developer looking to make the transition into web development then ABSOLUTELY.  You will gain valuable insight into a wide range of technologies, and gain some hands on experience.  The Microsoft exams tend to be at quite a high level, but they will certainly give you a taste for what you can expect from a full time position.  And for a couple of hundred quid, you can get a nice shiny certificate to show your current/next employer.

Summary

Microsoft offers a wide range of courses, from novice (MTA) to more advanced (MCPD), targeting desktop, mobile, and web developers.  Microsoft offers certifications because it generates revenue, not only from the exams but from books and supporting training material.  Getting certified likely wont help you get a promotion or a pay rise, but they probably will help you get your foot in the door if you are at a more junior level.  Microsoft exams, however, may help you decide on an area on specialise, and specialists usually get paid more money (especially if you’re a contractor/freelancer/consultant).  Microsoft exams are a big commitment no matter what level you’re at, so be prepared to have to invest significant amounts of your time into them.

I’m 70/30 in favour of sitting Microsoft exams, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-487 (Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services) in 30 days

Before you continue reading this blog post, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”.  I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time.  The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard!  You will not find any brain dumps here!  If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now …

Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the Microsoft exam 70-487.  The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself. So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target.  Setting yourself a target motivates you.  If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!)

Know the exam objectives

Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are.  Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in learning material that is of no relevance! You can find the exam objectives under the “Skills Measured” section on the official 70-487 exam page.

Books

Books aren’t for everybody, some people find it hard to sit down and read a book … I get that, but you should at least try. Have a look at Exam Ref 70-487: Developing Windows Azure and Web Services. AzureWebServicesBook This book was written by William Ryan, Wouter de Kort, and Shane Milton.  Its no secret that I am generally not a fan of these books.  I generally find that they’re not particularly well written, boring, the examples arbitrary…but not this book.  I found this book to be a breath of fresh air and actually pleasurable and enjoyable to read.

Each objective on the exam receives equal coverage with helpful realistic exams.  The book is not chatty (which I like) but is in no way robotic (like some Microsoft books I have read in the past).  There are some good insights into the various technologies at a high level, and the authors are clearly very experienced in this field.

You may also want to scrub up on your Entity Framework as well, as this is mentioned in the exam objectives several times.  Probably one of the best Entity Framework books I have ever read was written by Julie Lerman, named Programming Entity Framework.  If you want to become a top Entity Framework developer, I highly recommend that you check it out.  There are also lots of Entity Framework posts on my blog.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) JumpStart

Microsoft has provided some great FREE training videos on the Microsoft Virtual Academy website, so its only polite that you fully exploit these resources. You will want to start with the Windows Azure Web Sites – Deep Dive Jump Start video series.  Just a note, you will need a free Microsoft account to access the videos.

Microsoft (Windows) Azure Deep Dive

Back in January, Microsoft put on an event in celebration of the awesomeness that is Microsoft (then called Windows) Azure.  This was 5 full days of Microsoft Azure training videos, hosted by the likes of Scott Gu and Scott Hanselman (et al).  I highly recommend that you check it out, but don’t spend too much time watching the videos targeted at DevOps or IT support people.  Just focus on the developer videos.

Pluralsight Training Videos

Pluralsight is a subscription (paid for) site offering training material for developers (and now IT professionals as well) at all levels, and in all stages of their careers.  If you don’t already have a subscription (??) you can get a free 10 day trial (up to 200 minutes) to give you a taste.  The subscription starts at a mere $29 (£17.08 ish) a month. Here are some of the videos I watched whilst preparing for this exam; (Make sure you follow along whilst the presenter is talking!)

My Honest Opinion

Brace yourselves, the truth is coming.  Don’t waste spend too much time studying Microsoft Azure.  But wait, isn’t this a Microsoft Azure exam? Well yes it is, but the questions I was asked about Microsoft Azure were pretty straightforward, and any competent developer could have used their powers of deduction to figure out the answers.  Instead, you should focus more of your efforts on getting hands on with WCF.  I wrote a few blog posts about various WCF topics, I recommend you check them out.

Summary

It is possible to pass Microsoft exams in 30 days, assuming you have some background knowledge in the subject and are prepared to work (very!) hard.  Microsoft make a lot of training resources available to you for free, and there are online training providers that can help you out as well (for a small fee).  There is no “one size fits all” or “silver bullet”, so you’ll want to try a range of resources to find what works best for you.  Don’t resort to cheating or you will be caught and banned for life! In case anybody is wondering, I passed the exam with a score of 93% in April 2014. If you found this article useful, please leave comments below!

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-486 (Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications) in 30 days

Before you continue reading this blog, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”.  I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time.  I am not trying to sell you anything.  The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard!  You will not find any brain dumps here!  If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now …

Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the Microsoft exam 70-486 in just 30 days.  The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself.

So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target.  Setting yourself a target motivates you.  If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!)

Know the exam objectives

Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are.  Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in learning material that is of no relevance!

You can find the exam objectives under the “Skills Measured” section on the official 70-486 exam page.

Books

Books aren’t for everybody, some people find it hard to sit down and read a book … I get that, but you should at least try.

Have a look at Exam Ref 70-486: Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications

Developing ASP .NET MVC 4 Web Applications

This book was written by William Penberthy.  And its terrible not the best book I’ve ever read.

Pros; Each objective on the exam receives equal coverage.  There are some good insights into the various technologies at a high level, and the author is clearly very experienced in this field.

Cons;  This is the official book from Microsoft from the 70-486 exam, and it is somewhat off the mark.  The objectives/sections/chapters are disjointed and only covered at a very high level.  The book is severely lacking in detail and code samples/walkthroughs.

If you really want to read a book, I highly recommend reading Professional ASP.NET MVC 4, which was written by Jon Galloway, Phil Haack, Brad Wilson, Scott Allen and Scott Hanselman.  Five people who are leading experts in this field.  I learnt a lot from this book, it flows well, there are sufficient code samples and the book is very engaging.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) JumpStart

Microsoft has provided some great FREE training videos on the Microsoft Virtual Academy website, so its only polite that you fully exploit these resources.

You will want to start with the Building Web Apps with ASP .NET Jump Start video series.  Just a note, you will need a free Microsoft account to access the videos.

Pluralsight Training Videos

Pluralsight is a subscription (paid for) site offering training material for developers (and now IT professionals as well) at all levels, and in all stages of their careers.  If you don’t already have a subscription (??) you can get a free 10 day trial (up to 200 minutes) to give you a taste.  The subscription starts at a mere $29 (£17.62 ish) a month.

Here are some of the videos I watched whilst preparing for this exam; (Make sure you follow along whilst the presenter is talking!)

You may also want to scrub up on your HTML 5, JavaScript (jQuery) and CSS, as these are mentioned in the exam objectives as well.

Summary

It is possible to pass Microsoft exams in 30 days, assuming you have some background knowledge in the subject and are prepared to work (very!) hard.  Microsoft make a lot of training resources available to you for free, and there are online training providers that can help you out as well (for a small fee).  There is no “one size fits all” or “silver bullet”, so you’ll want to try a range of resources to find what works best for you.  Don’t resort to cheating or you will be caught and banned for life!

In case anybody is wondering, I passed the exam with a score of 94% in January 2014.

If you found this article useful, please leave comments below!

How to pass Microsoft Exam 70-480 (HTML 5, CSS3 and JavaScript) in 30 days

Before you continue reading this blog, you need to be aware of the following; This is not a “quick fix” or an “easy solution”.  I have not discovered some secret formula to guarantee you pass with 100% marks every time.  I am not trying to sell you anything.  The exam is genuinely challenging and the only way you are going to pass is by working hard!  You will not find any brain dumps here!  If you’re afraid of working hard to achieve your goals, you best leave now …

Still Here? Congratulations, you are taking your first steps towards passing the exam.  The purpose of this post is to link to all the resources that I used when revising for the exam myself.

So why 30 days? Well its important to set yourself a target.  Setting yourself a target motivates you.  If you are paying for this exam yourself (like I did), you’ll really want to make sure you give the exam your best shot (after all, £99 is a hefty amount of money!)

Know the exam objectives

Probably the most important thing you should do before starting studying for any exam is to find out what the exam objectives are.  Basically the exam objectives tell you what to study for! There is not much point in learning material that is of no relevance!

You can find the exam objectives under the “Skills Measured” section on the official 70-480 exam page.  You can also find other sites (try GeeksWithBlogs.net/WTFNext/ as an example) that will try and match the objectives with relevant material.

Books

Books aren’t for everybody, some people find it hard to sit down and read a book … I get that, but you should at least try.  Microsoft really is your friend here, as one of the two books that I recommend reading is provided by them for free!

Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScriptProgramming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

This book was written by Kraig Brockschmidt.  It attempts to achieve several goals at the same time.

The book is focused on introducing developers to Windows 8 Store Application development using HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript.  It is very detailed and contains a lot of useful code samples and links to Microsoft resources.

Pros; This book is free, gives lots of good sample code, its thorough and its a great resource for anybody looking to write Windows Store applications.  Its also the official Microsoft book of the 070-480 exam.

Cons; Whilst this is the official Microsoft 070-480 exam, it doesn’t target the exam itself.  What I mean is, there is a lot of generic code in this book, and the book does not target the exam directly (unlike the next book)

Programming in HTML 5 with JavaScript and CSS 3Training Guide: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3

This book was authored by Glenn Johnson and was written specifically to help you pass the exam by giving hands on, practical examples, specifically target at the exam objectives.

Each chapter is divided into manageable sections, complete with hands on exercises (usually one or more per chapter).  This book very much helps you learn by doing, which in my opinion, is the best way to learn.

I believe that if I hadn’t read this book, I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have passed the exam.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) JumpStart

Microsoft has provided some great FREE training videos on the Microsoft Virtual Academy website, so its only polite that you fully exploit these resources.

Depending on what level you are currently at, you may want to start with the HTML 5 & CSS 3 Fundamentals: Development for Absolute Beginners video series.  You will need a free Microsoft account to access the videos.

MVA Website
MVA Website

I also strongly recommend checking out the Developing HTML 5 with JavaScript and CSS3 Jump Start (and the refresher) training courses, brilliantly hosted by Jeremy Foster and Michael Palermo.  By the way, you should also follow the blogs of these people, as they are constantly posting useful information that you may find helpful.

Pluralsight Training Videos

Pluralsight is a subscription (paid for) site offering training material for developers (and now IT professionals as well) at all levels, and in all stages of their careers.  If you don’t already have a subscription (??) you can get a free 10 day trial (up to 200 minutes) to give you a taste.  The subscription starts at a mere $29 (£12.60 ish) a month.

Here are some of the videos I watched whilst preparing for this exam; (Make sure you follow along whilst the presenter is talking!)

And probably the most important video on the site (from your perspective at least ) … HTML 5 Advanced Topics.

Summary

It is possible to pass Microsoft exams in 30 days, assuming you have some background knowledge in the subject and are prepared to work (very!) hard.  Microsoft make a lot of training resources available to you for free, and there are online training providers that can help you out as well (for a small fee).  There is no “one size fits all” or “silver bullet”, so you’ll want to try a range of resources to find what works best for you.  Don’t resort to cheating or you will be caught and banned for life!

In case anybody is wondering, I passed the exam with a score of 93% in September 2013.

If you found this article useful, please leave comments below!