A New Path to Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008

A New Path to Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008

Joe Sack (MSFT)

It’s a big day for the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program, as we announce the new MCM SQL Server 2008 certification path.  Our customers want to be able to earn a SQL Server Microsoft Certified Master certification at a lower price, with more flexibility, and we’ve responded by evolving the SQL Server MCM program without lowering the bar on quality. 

What changes have we made?

  • We’ve removed the three week training requirement, instead making the experience-based exams stand alone in recognizing and validating the world’s top SQL Server talent.  
  • Candidates will now achieve MCM in SQL Server 2008 by passing these two new exams in the following order:
    • Exam 88-970: SQL Server 2008 Microsoft Certified Master: Knowledge Exam (now available)
    • Exam 88-971: SQL Server 2008 Microsoft Certified Master: Lab Exam (available in Q1 2011)
  • These new exams were written with the help of 25 SQL Server industry experts (internal and external to Microsoft) in order to ensure industry validity and integrity and will be available worldwide through a select network of high security Prometric testing centers
  • Although experience is paramount in order to be successful in the exams, flexible readiness options will also be made available. In addition to the recommended reading list and an overview of skills that are being measured, we are also providing several hours of free online video Masters-level instruction presented by top SQL Server experts.  In 2011 we also plan to release four new instructor led courses covering High Availability, Performance, Manageability and Security. These courses will be made available globally through select Microsoft Learning Partners.

It’s our goal to reach the SQL Server experts worldwide who may be qualified to achieve MCM certification, but who’ve run up against the previous barriers of time, cost and location.  By reducing or removing these barriers, while keeping the integrity and value of the certification, we expect to grow the community of SQL Server MCMs and increase its visibility and awareness of its value. We’re very excited about the new program, and look forward to the continued growth of the SQL MCM community.  Look for all the details about the program, the exams, and exam prep materials at http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/master-sql-path.aspx. 

I’ll be blogging about all the details over the next few weeks and if you have questions, please contact me.  If you’re attending SQL PASS, please stop by the MS Learning product booth in the expo hall!

Comments
  • Michal Karski
    |

    Great news ! It's been said that exams will be available in nine countries. I assume that selection of that countries is closed. Am I wrong ? The second question is related to ILT. They will be available globally with every Learning Partner who's interested in offering or also limited ?. Thanks for an answer.

  • Anonymous
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    this is a really bad move it dilutes the certification.  How can you call someone a master after they only passed a test?  That will only encourage cheating.  If you had to take a 3 week hands on course many cheaters wouldnt even bother.  Cisco makes you take a hands on test for their CCNP - why doesnt msft?

    Barriers are good!  The easier to get a certification the less its value!  Microsoft should be making this cert harder and more expensive.

  • Anonymous
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    @gosh:

    The 88-971 lab exam is a hands-on exam.  All of the MCM rotations have a hands-on lab requirement as well as a written exam requirement, and this is no different in that respect.  But it does eliminate the most onerous part of the certification, which was justifying the expense of $35,000+ for a certification (including missed work, travel expenses, and the exam cost).

    Are there any plans to reach the Exchange "Server experts worldwide who may be qualified to achieve MCM certification, but who've run up against the previous barriers of time, cost and location"?  How about Sharepoint or Directory Services?

  • Anonymous
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    I see this as a positive thing. As someone who has struggled to find training that covers the gap from the level 200 stuff that most training providers dish out to the masses to the level 400 stuff that I so desire the availability of these new training courses excites me.

    I echo OtherKevin are there any plans for updates to the MCM for the other programs such as Exchange, Directory Services and Sharepoint?

  • Joe Sack (MSFT)
    |

    To Michal Karski:

    Thanks.  Regarding the countries - the plan is to keep expanding the list over time.  We have to make sure the added sites follow very strict security standards, but the plan is to keep expanding.  As for the ILTs - plan is to announce more of this in 2011 Q1.  We're developing the courseware right now and then will create a method for defining which Learning Partners can deliver.

    To gosh:

    The requirements include two exams -> one four hour Knowledge Exam (multiple choice) and one six hour hands-on Qualification Lab.  Definitely testing hands-on experience here.  Knowledge Exam is available now. Lab Exam in Q1 2011.

    To OtherKevin and Sean:

    Thanks.  I don't have announcements about other programs emulating the SQL MCM changes, but we don't rule it out.  I think we're comfortable using various approaches when warranted based on the needs of the individual technical communities.

  • Anonymous
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    Thanks Joe - appears one of the links it broken. If I try to download for this presentation it errors - Security Auditing and Compliance - technet.microsoft.com/.../gg429825.aspx.

    Also the link in the xml for Data File Internals and Maintenance - Demo Video looks like its wrong I think it should be technet.microsoft.com/.../gg313761.aspx NOT technet.microsoft.com/.../gg313756.aspx (this is Database Structures)

  • Anonymous
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    That´s bad. Now there is a milion brain dumpers who will take this exam

  • Anonymous
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    @Kom:

    I doubt it.  While it might be possible to compromise security on the knowledge exam, you can't really braindump the hands-on lab.  And with the higher level of security (and the fact that there are far fewer test centers that can offer these exams), I'm guessing that it would be significantly more difficult to compromise this exam than the standard MS certification exams.

    In addition to limited the test centers that can administer these exams:

    The knowledge exam is $500

    The hands-on lab is $2000

    You have to pass the knowledge exam before you can do the lab

    If you fail one of the exams you have to wait 90 days before doing a retake

    One thing that I didn't see is an application.  Previously you had to apply and be accepted into the program.  Is that no longer a requirement?  To me that would be an excellent additional layer of security and quality control.

  • Joe Sack (MSFT)
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    Thanks Sean.  I'll submit requests to fix - I appreciate the heads up.

    OtherKevin - we don't have the application process.  Part of the problem was the legal defensibility and objective nature of it at the larger scale (and ability to fudge your documentation anyhow).  So the Knowledge Exam becomes that first filter.  Regarding brain dumpers - I fully expect we'll be a target like the rest - and we'll just have to keep adjusting the content as needed and apply other tactics behind the scenes.  This was definitely something that was part of the overall planning process.  Lab Exam will be incredibly difficult to pass if you don't have true experience.

  • Anonymous
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    I don't think this is a good move. Braindumps are all too common and removing requirement to attend the training takes away more from the experience and value. Being an MCM on Exchange I can tell the most valuable part of MCM certification is 3 weeks in Redmond. If travel is a problem, we should think of enabling more training centers conducting training world wide and not remove the 3 week training requirement. Also, controlling exam delivery is going to be a huge decision factor of what value the certification will hold over time. I have seen way too many MCITPs who don't know much about the product and have zero experience. It only devalues certificatoin for those who have worked hard to achieve it.

  • Joe Sack (MSFT)
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    Hi Bhargav,

    I think much of the context of these changes require background on the needs of our SQL Server community.

    Several of our SQL MCMs had deep technical expertise prior to attending the training.  Given the huge surface area of SQL Server, it was a challenge to create three weeks where "one size fit all".  Those successful in the exams were successful due to their significant SQL Server experience.

    A challenge was reaching the known top experts.  We weren't reaching them due to cost, location and duration. We had several mission critical SQL MCMs express interest in seeking MCM - deep technical experts - but with no way to lay down that amount of money (or opportunity cost) and time investment.  I'm at SQL PASS this week and have had many conversations about the changes with some of the top experts in the world, and they are excited to get an opportunity to finally prove themselves.  The training was indeed fantastic and there are many positives about the legacy SQL MCM program, but the validation of the certification is also quite important to the SQL MCM audience.

    As for security and brain dumps, there are several techniques that we'll be employing - such as sticking with select testing centers (as of today - 65 high stakes Prometric centers that are involved with other high stakes licensure-type exams).  We also plan to rotate exam content periodically to address the industry-wide cheating issues.  This will be a constant movement that will be very necessary.  We also involved 25 SQL Server subject matter experts in the recreation of these exams (many who have been involved with the SQL MCM program for years) - and the Lab Exam is something that will truly test the mission critical SQL Server candidate and will be a fair but tough challenge.

    I know that there is skepticism and ultimately those who disagree with this approach will know over time firsthand whether or not the SQL MCM program succeeds in getting to the intended audience.  I think there are examples of very successful non-Microsoft advanced certifications that also don't have a training component - so I know it can be done and I believe that SQL MCM can achieve this same combination of respect and validity.

    Joe

  • Anonymous
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    Hey Joe, are there any plans to require more rigorous requirements for centers delivering MS tests in general?  I know that you mentioned limiting the MCM testing to certain "high stakes" exam centers, and I was reminded of the time that my wife had to take a professional exam (she works in healthcare).  At the time I had been taking MS exams through Pearson Vue, and she scheduled her exam at a Vue test center as well, but it had to be a different facility.  Where I do my MS exams they have a separate testing room with 6 PCs in cubicles and two surveillance cameras.  I can check in with a photo ID and a credit card (or even my MCP card).  When my wife arrived at her test center they needed two IDs, one with a photo, and they also photographed her and scanned her fingerprint.  The exam room was set up in a wide semi-circle with all of the workstations facing out.  Each station had a surveillance camera, there was a proctor who was in the room with exam takers pacing behind them, and then there was a second proctor behind two-way glass watching the proceedings.  It was definitely intimidating, but I also felt like people would have a much more difficult time using cheating methods or hired guns in this case.

  • Joe Sack (MSFT)
    |

    Hi OtherKevin - I'm not sure what the plans are for other exams (just SQL MCM).  I imagine it is a balancing act between the level of the cert, general availability, etc.  I imagine that biometrics (as you mentioned) will start playing more of a role in the future.

  • Joe Sack (MSFT)
    |

    Hi Sean,

    The WMV link for Security Auditing and Compliance is fixed now (downloads a WMV).

    Second link is still misdirected (demo video) - so pending news on that, have a request open.

    Best Regards,

    Joe

  • Anonymous
    |

    I also think this is a bad idea.  Classroom time is a great benefit, and should be part of the certification experience.  I agree travel to WA is a problem, but this is not the fix.

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