Dos and Don’ts for Microsoft Certification Exams

Many people resolve to get Microsoft Certified but do not have the first clue about proper preparation for the exam before going down to the testing center. Although experienced programmers are likely to fare well without a lot of prep work (at least one would hope so!), one should not discount the breadth of information that is covered on these exams.

First off before even considering a particular exam you must have a good idea of the target audience for that exam. Microsoft is excellent about spelling this out. They tell you on the exam page on MSDN who the exam is intended for. Additionally – and this is the second crucial part for you as an exam taker – they tell you what their expectations are for passing the exam. In other words, they are looking to make sure that the exam proves real world expertise in the subject so that they are handing out a credential that actually means something to employers in the real world.

The detailed exam topic list from the exam guide should be your starting point in preparing for the exam. Pay close attention the weighting of the topics that are to be covered jamb runs in the exam. Microsoft does extensive research during the exam development process to make sure the exams have their priorities straight – in other words that the exams are focusing the right amount of attention on the topics that are important to employers; topics that are crucial to mastering the subject as a whole. The percentage rating for each section of the exam will tell you how heavily focused the exam is on that mini subject area.

One thing I always advise people to do is to stay as far away from those popular websites that have the answers posted. Aside from the obvious ethical reason that this is in fact dishonest, think about the long term. Do you really want to get a credential that you would not have earned on your own merit? What about when you land that next gig by virtue of this new credential and you are not prepared? The best way to prepare is to take advantage of practice tests such as MeasureUp (they charge a fee). The best thing I’ve found about these aside from the good quality of test questions based on real scenarios is that upon reviewing your questions, you will find links to the exact relevant MSDN pages – the pages that have information regarding the topic that question was testing. If you’ve spent as much time in MSDN as I have you know that sometimes you can get lost in there. This targeted link will help keep you focused.

Exam preparation and performance can be time consuming and confusing if you don’t have the right skills, techniques and tips for doing well. With simple exam preparation skills, by the time you enter the exam, you will be in a position to excel and get the best grade you are capable of. Knowing what is important, revising on relevant topics and doing practice exams are all fundamentally important study tips for exams.

Firstly, you need to know what you need to know! This means knowing what the key areas of assessment are and the proportion of marks for each question. Look at your course guide and talk to your teachers to find out this information, so as to allocate the right amount of time in the exam and for exam preparation. From this information you should be able to map out what you need to be focusing on and which questions needs more time. Knowing the criteria and study questions will give you a basic orientation to excel in college exams.

It is a good idea to start revision at least two weeks before the examination. This will allow you enough time to revise and mentally prepare yourself for the day. Participate in study groups to better understand what is required and revise the key areas more effectively. Learn specific areas to be assessed to teach to your study group. This will minimize the time you spend revising and orient you in the best way for the exam. Meet with your study group as often as you can…. once every 3-4 days is a good start but it does depend on your learning style and study preferences.

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