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Tim’s MCSE Journey: 70-331, Part 1

Editor’s Note: CBT Nuggets trainer Tim Warner is taking the exams required for MCSE certification for both Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 and Microsoft Windows Server 2012. When all is said and done, he will have taken five exams in five weeks! Tim is blogging about his experiences and providing valuable insight and advice for other potential test-takers. Here’s the first blog post of the series.

Exam Review: 70-331, Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013

Hey everyone. Today I’d like to give you a run down on Microsoft Exam 70-331, Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013. I must confess that this is a difficult exam for a variety of reasons that will become clear as we proceed through this blog post. Personally, I know that I just took a difficult certification exam when I see the results and am actually surprised to see that I passed!tim_blogpost_BLOG

The “Core Solutions” part of the exam name refers to what Microsoft considers to be the base SharePoint competencies. You can read all about the content domains by visiting the exam blueprint link I gave you in the preceding paragraph. For now, let me summarize them for you in light of my own experience:

  • Design a SharePoint Topology: Believe it or not, you actually need to know your system requirements for both on-premises and O365-based SharePoint!
  • Plan Security: You will be tested on not only the theory behind authentication and authorization, but you’ll be required to point and click to the appropriate UI elements in Central Administration (more on this later)
  • Install and Configure SharePoint Farms: Understand how to perform an automated installation before you sit for this exam, that’s all I can tell you.
  • Creating and Configure Web Applications and Site Collections: Remember that Microsoft loves to ask about new and changed technology. Thus, expect lots of questions on the new app model, host-named site collections, and the search service application in particular
  • Maintain a Core SharePoint Environment: Be aware of all the SharePoint monitoring tools, even those that are present in other Microsoft applications such as SQL Server and Visual Studio

Now be aware that any information I provide to you regarding this exam is intentionally “fuzzed out” a bit in order to respect the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that every Microsoft test taker needs to affirm before they start their exam.

With that, let’s delve into 70-331!

70-331 Exam Metadata

You can register for your 70-331 exam through the Microsoft portal at The registration fee is $150 USD, and is per attempt. Be on the lookout for the exam discounts and special offers that Microsoft periodically hands out to candidates; they represent a good deal.

Now onto the exam itself: The Core Solutions exam puts you in the position of SharePoint solutions consultant, so the test uses a case study format that you really have to be prepared for before hand.

Specifically, we’re talking about approximately 5 case studies with approximately 5 questions apiece, and a bank of 25 or so “loose” questions that are not tied to any particular case. Net result is that you face approximately 50 question to complete in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Each case study represents a fictional company and a detailed description of its current infrastructure. The case studies are all broken down into the same basic headings:

  • Business Requirements: Stuff that the business leaders want to be able to do to blend SharePoint with its business objectives
  • Technical Requirements: Constraints and mandates concerning their IT infrastructure and how it relates to SharePoint

Each case study is its own mini-test (formally called a “testlet”). While you can move backward and forward through the questions within a single case, once you submit your answers and move to the next case study, you can no longer revisit previous cases.

The bank of 25-26 “loose” questions is a bit of a head-scratcher. The item stems are pretty thick; almost mini-cases in their own right. In my experience, I spent most of my exam time answering not case-related questions but the “loose” ones.

Up next: Part 2 of this blog post features Tim’s content and case study strategies for the 70-331 exam!


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