To complete the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification as a database developer or administrator, you have to be a well-rounded, database-aware individual. The new generation of Microsoft certifications is much more meaningful and maps more closely to the everyday work environment found in the real world. You will also likely find this particular exam quite challenging.
The 70-431 exam requires you to have at least a base level of knowledge about the entire SQL Server 2005 product. You need to know how to apply SQL Server objects and principles to everyday implementation and maintenance tasks. The exam is broad in nature and tests you across the full realm of the actual SQL Server software.
Remember that this is a Microsoft exam, and it is focused on the SQL Server product. To pass the exam, you need to know how the software interacts with both the hardware and the operating system. You need to know how to configure the software, where to store the files and data, and how to organize the placement of all the individual database elements and other application objects.
The 70-431 exam includes questions covering all SQL Server objects, including the appropriate creation and use of each object type. A business application has many supporting objects in the database management system over and above the data itself. You can expect to see questions that offer choices between a wide assortment of these objects; you need to be familiar with where each object type and technology is best implemented.
You can get all the information you need from the material presented in this book. If you're willing to tackle the preparation process seriously and do what it takes to gain the necessary experience and knowledge, you can take and pass the exam. In fact, the Exam Cram books and the companion Exam Prep books are designed to make it as easy as possible for you to prepare for these exams, but prepare you must!
The Ideal MCITP Candidate
To give you some idea of what an ideal candidate is like, the following is some relevant information about the background and experience such an individual should have:
For more information on the ideal MCITP candidate, consult the Preparation Guide for Exam 70-431, at www.microsoft.com/learning/exams/70-431.asp.
You should also have at least one year's experience implementing relational databases.
Put Yourself to the Test
The following questions and observations are designed to help you figure out how much work you'll face in pursuing SQL Server certification and what kinds of resources you can consult on your quest. Be absolutely honest in your answers, or you'll end up wasting money on an exam you're not ready to take. There are no right or wrong answers, only steps along the path to certification. Only you can decide when you are ready.
Two things should be clear from the outset, however:
Perhaps the most important key to success on any certification exam is hands-on experience. If I leave you with only one realization after taking this Self Assessment, it should be that there's no substitute for time spent performing tasks and working with the product.
You can obtain the exam objectives and practice questions, and you can get other information about the new generation of Microsoft certification exams from Microsoft, at www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/newgen/.
If you have the funds or your employer will pay your way, consider taking a class led by a professional instructor. This is a good idea particularly for those just starting out or with limited knowledge or access to state-of-the-art computer systems. Microsoft has designed very good courses that can be taken in most communities.
Testing Your Exam Readiness
Whether you attend a formal class on a specific topic to get ready for an exam or use written materials to study on your own, some preparation for the certification exams is essential. You pay for your exam attempts whether you pass or fail, so you want to do everything you can to pass on your first try. Not only can failed attempts be very expensive, but they can also be very discouraging.
Each chapter in this book includes practice exam questions, and Chapters 10, "Practice Exam 1," and 12, "Practice Exam 2," include practice exams. So if you don't score well on the chapter questions, you can study more by taking the practice exams.
For any given subject, you should consider taking a class if you've tackled self-study materials, taken the practice test, and failed anyway. If you can afford the privilege, the opportunity to interact with an instructor and fellow students can make all the difference in the world. For information about systems auditing classes, visit the Certification Program page at www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp.
You will find it helpful if you have taken certification exams before. Regardless, practice exams are helpful in determining readiness. Answer the following question:
There is no better way to assess your test readiness than to take a good-quality practice exam and pass with a score of 90% or better. When I'm preparing, I shoot for 95%+, just to leave room for the "weirdness factor" that sometimes shows up on Microsoft exams.
One last note: Hands-on experience using the actual product within the context of the exams is important. As you review the material for the exams, you'll realize that hands-on experience with database design concepts and best practices is invaluable.
Let's Get to It!
After you've assessed your readiness, undertaken the right background studies, obtained the hands-on experience that will help you understand the products and technologies at work, and reviewed the many sources of information to help you prepare for a test, you'll be ready to take a round of practice tests. When your scores come back positive enough to get you through the exam, you're ready to go after the real thing. If you follow this assessment regimen, you'll not only know what you need to study, but you'll also know when you're ready to take the exam. Good luck!