In April 2012, Michael Bender, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), began working toward his MCSE: Private Cloud certification. He has challenged other IT pros to do the same in 60 days. Read about how this all started. Are you up for it?
So here we
are in week 2 of the Challenge to get the MCSE: Private Cloud certification.
Last week, I introduced you to the challenge and there was good discussion on
twitter from people joining the challenge, as well as comments and feedback
through the blog comments. Keep it coming! As with anything, all of us can
benefit from each other’s shared knowledge.
you are hard-at-work building a study plan, and that is good to hear. 60 days
is not a lot of time especially if you are looking at knocking out all 5
certification exams needed for the certification. So I want to spend some time
talking about how I create a study plan, and then I’ll talk about my plan.
General rules of Certification Studying and Testing
You can’t possibly know everything so rely on your
strengths and focus on your weaknesses. For example, Peter has mad AD skills
due to his role as an AD admin for a large company, so he’s identified areas
such as AD LDS and AD CS that are not part of his daily work and is making sure
to get up to speed on that.
You will be tested on stuff you may never have, and may
never use. All IT
certifications include areas that are often new or only used by larger
organizations so you need to be prepared to cover all of the items listed in
area of the exam information. Based on my own experience gained from taking a
broad range of IT certification exams, several vendors also include some
under-utilized new technologies in their exams. One thing I would like to see
from Microsoft Learning is improving the Skills Measured information. The
information currently available on Microsoft Learning’s site leaves a lot of
room for interpretation and can be quite broad. I would really like to see them
deliver a blueprint for their certifications that can serve as an excellent
study tool for candidates to create detailed study notes for themselves.
Develop a solid test-taking strategy. From my experience, I have been able to pass many exams
without stressing since I know how to use what I know to answer questions about
what I may not know. We’ll talk about test taking strategies in a later post,
but what I’m talking about is using the information you know to be true to weed
out answers on a topic you may not be familiar with. With a solid strategy, you
should be able to get down to a 50/50 chance on multiple choice (single answer)
You need hands-on experience…PERIOD! Since the point of
a certification is not the piece of paper, but the knowledge, you need to have
hands-on experience with the technology. So you will need some sort of test lab. In the
next post, I will be detailing my lab setup for the Private Cloud
certification. If you are looking for a great lab server that could also run a
small company, check out Jeff’s great rig at expta.com. I built this same
server spec for spec.
If your work/home life will allow, carve out time every
day to study & practice.
For me, I have a ton of material to learn in a short amount of
time. I can’t afford to take a day off
nor will I be successful in learning the material long-term if I try to cram it
Reward yourself when you hit your goals. Think of some things that would be fun
rewards like a new video game, or a dinner out, something of value that helps
make the achievement of your goals additionally rewarding.
Take time off when you need it. All work and no play makes us all dull so
make sure to take some time away for friends, family, and fun.
should you start building a plan? Well,
get out the calendar. I use Outlook for
EVERYTHING! I print out a copy (In month
view) of the timeframe I am working with.
As I go through the creation process, I can visual see how things stack
up. It’s also very helpful to have work
& family calendars available because the last thing you want to do is
schedule an exam on the Friday afternoon when you are leaving for a holiday.
Set your Goal. In my case, my goal
is to complete 3 exams (70-646, 70-247, and 70-246) and earn my MCSE: Private
Cloud by the time I step on the bus at Microsoft TechEd to go to the Attendee
party. So that leaves me with
approximately 52 days to accomplish my goal.
Gather your study materials. It may seem like you could do this after
setting your goal and identifying the exams, but the Private Cloud
certification exams are brand new, so there are very few books and traditional
exam-taking tools available. So you are
going to need to rely on various training options from Microsoft, as well as
their documentation. Since there is a
good amount of online training available, you’ll want to build your plan based
on how fast you can consume and process the content. While I like online trainings for bite-size
learning, two full days of SC 2012 training is going to take me a while to
Set Exam Milestones. Unless you are an Uber geek and a wiz-kid,
you probably will not be taking 5 exams during the same week. So you want to layout a path that allows you
to complete the exams you need with enough time should you falter at some
point. Typical of any project, if you do
not build in slack time, failing an exam will have dire consequences. Since most exams require 24-48hrs before you
can reschedule, scheduling all of your exams on Wednesday and Thursday at
TechEd could cause for some problems. Since
I only have one exam (70-646) that I don’t plan on taking at TechEd, I have
scheduled that exam for May 23rd.
Once the Prometric scheduling opens up on the TechEd site, I will
probably schedule 70-647 just so I have a date to shoot for.
Fill training into your calendar. Once you have your exam dates locked in,
you know what you need to be prepared for and when. Now is the time to begin filling in your
training calendar. If you are starting
with the MCSA: Windows Server 2008, then it may be easiest to take it one exam
at a time. Each exam will build a
foundation for the next one as you move through the exams. Recommended path is 70-640 to 70-642 to
me, it is a little bit different. I have
a strong background in Windows Server and Virtualization, I teach the course
work surrounding much of the material on a regular basis, and I am a complete
newbie to System Center (of any flavor).
So even though I am taking 70-646 first, I am starting my prep with
System Center since I have a ton to learn.
Also, I can’t get the exam schedule in a location convenient for me
until May 23rd so I’ll carve out time the week before to “cram” for
Get to work. With the other
responsibilities I am juggling, it is just a matter of fitting everything in
over the next 7 weeks. Below you find my
Continuing building test lab using Evaluation
Guide (Ch 3)
Finish reading Private
Cloud Defined White Paper
Read Unified Installer
Download all content I need for studying
including videos, whitepapers documentation etc.
Run through 2-day Private
Cloud Jump Start series from back in March.
Continuing building test lab using Evaluation Guide (Ch 4)
Continuing building test lab using Evaluation Guide (Ch 4,5)
Make my way through documents listed in 70-247
Make my way through remainder of documents
listed in 70-247
Begin Prep for 70-646 Exam
Take Exam 70-646 (5/23)
Celebrate passing exam with a new book (TBD)
Make my way through documents listed in 70-246
Make my way through remainder of documents
listed in 70-246
Microsoft Virtual Academy track on Configuring and Deploying Microsoft’s
Run through Guided
This will be a tough week as I have a VMware
vSphere 5 ICM Train the Trainer class all week. I’ll need to fit studying in at night and
during travel time to TechEd.
Last minute exam prep
Complete as many HOLs at TechEd as possible
Sit in on broad SC 2012 sessions and hopefully
test prep sessions
Take Exam 70-247 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Take Exam 70-246 (Thursday)
Celebrate Certification with a future Windows 8
So that’s my plan…What’s your plan? Let us know on twitter using the hashtag of
#60days2MCSE or better yet, sign up for the #60days2MCSE challenge group on borntolearn.mslearning.net. I’ve included some links to Blogged Plans of
#60days2MCSE Challengers that I know of at the time of writing this post.
Peter Gray - http://becausegraymatters.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/60days2mcsethe-plan/
Matt Griffin - http://mattblogsit.com/2012/04/20/60days2mcse-challenge-the-plan-the-resources/
@guidovbrakel - http://masterofprivatecloud.com/author/admin/
So our next post will discuss building a test lab, checking
in on the plan, and anything else new.
Until we talk again…Mike