How I achieved my MCP certification

My philosophy is that as a Technical Project Manager in IT – I need to know as much as I can about the technologies that I am managing.

My background is that I’ve been a programmer, a project manager, and what I would call a technology to business liaison for many years.  When confronting someone I have never met before – how do I convince them that I am knowledgeable about technology, project management, and business process improvement?  Get certifications.

So, unlike many people working to getting a certification – the certification I choose at Microsoft was on a topic that I had over a decade of experience.

Even with that experience I may have been a bit cocky taking the test the first time and I failed it. 😦  It happens and I lost $150 for the cost of the test, but I prepared better the second time around.

MCP – stands for Microsoft Certified Professional – and it is the certification you get for passing any of the technical tests offered by Microsoft.  The test I choose was 70-461 “Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012”.

The first thing I did was purchase the book “70-461 Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Training Kit” from Microsoft Press.  I made it to page 342 out of 675 pages.  It is rather unfortunately a very dry book.

Let me put it another way.  If you have trouble sleeping in bright sunlight with children playing around you – this will help.

The book isn’t entirely useless.  It just isn’t very good.  No, that’s not right.

The content of the book is good.  The enthusiasm and personality of the text is zero.

The practice exam questions at the back of the book are very poor.  No, that’s not right either.  They are accurate questions, but entirely too easy.  If you took those test questions and went in to the exam thinking you were prepared because you aced them you would be entirely wrong and fail horribly.

So, how exactly did I study for the exam?  A better question perhaps is, what did I study for the exam?

The best thing was to watch the content at Microsoft Virtual Academy.  We live in an incredible era where a lot of the knowledge necessary to do things is out there on the internet.

There were two specific courses at MVA that contributed greatly to my passing the 70-461 exam.

Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases Jump Start

Boost Your T-SQL with the APPLY Operator

Both courses offer a vast amount of information and should not be watched like watching a TV, but watched like you are in a classroom of one and you can stop the professor every other word if necessary to take notes and perform what they did in the class in your own instance of SQL Server.

Go through both those courses once taking notes, review your notes, and once just watching them through going over concepts that are unfamiliar even after the first go through.

I would also advise taking another MVA course “Database Fundamentals“.  I know, you already know all of this stuff, right?  The problem is that we ‘know’ all we need to know to drive a car and pass the drivers test at age 17.  How much have you forgotten about the basics of databases?  Even if it is a little it could come out and bite you during the exam.

Another valuable resource was’s “MeasureUp Microsoft Certification Practice Exam: 30 day“.  This was very valuable as these questions were as difficult as the ones in the actual Microsoft exam, and some were a little bit harder.  It helped that I was able to combo paying for my second attempt and getting some money off on the MeasureUp Practice Exam.

Please be aware if you purchase the MeasureUp Practice Exam that you have to select the appropriate exam after you purchase it that you are studying.  Otherwise you may well waste your money and time on a preparation exam for the wrong certification.

The day before the exam I went through every practice exam question from the book (useless) and from MeasureUp (good).

A combination of all these things and tightening up on my XML outputs (something I’ve never used in practice) and I was able to pass the exam the second time through.

Will I get another Microsoft Certification?  I don’t really know.  My primary career right now is as a project manager, but if I get a MCSA and MCSE that should only make me more valuable on the employment marketplace, no?