Certifications / Microsoft

MCSA Exam Success

by Garth Schulte
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Published on May 17, 2013

Editor's note: CBT Nuggets trainer Garth Schulte (our longest-tenured trainer) recently earned his SQL Server 2012 MCSA certification. Congrats Garth! We asked him to share his experiences, as well as exam-preparation/taking tips.

Garth in the recommended MCSA garb, with his exam results.

Hey Nuggets Fans,

I recently ventured back into the world of exam cramming to take a crack at the SQL Server 2012 MCSA certification.

The last SQL certification I acquired was the old MCDBA in SQL Server 2000, and having completed the CBT Nuggets series for these exams (70-461, 70-462 and 70-463), I was long overdue to update my transcript and prove myself to the world once again.

As the adventure began, my initial thought was "this is going to be fun!!!" and each day the exams drew nearer that statement lost an exclamation point.

Do I know enough? Am I prepared enough? What if I <gasp> fail?!

It was a stark reminder of how stressful exam time can be. So I would like to share some tips from my experiences-in hopes of better preparing you for your next exam.

Study Tips

Study Tip No. 1: Study in bite-sized sessions. The Nugget formula at work here: 30-45 minutes, 2-3 times a day is the sweet spot for retaining information. It was my routine for each exam. Breakfast, lunch and dinner turned into read, watch and do. Which leads to another study tip…

Study Tip No. 2: Mix it up! If you're watching Nuggets for instance, pause and perform what you learned to keep your muscle and mental memory in balance. Diversifying like this also can help keep your focus in check.

Environment Tips

Environment Tip No. 1: Don't fret… Replace those stressful thoughts with peaceful ones. Easier said than done, indeed, but a clear mind makes better decisions than a cluttered one. Crack a few jokes with the front-desk folks, or if anyone else is waiting to take an exam, start a conversation to lighten the atmosphere.

Environment Tip No. 2: Wear something comfortable. Leave the business attire at home (or in the car). Being relaxed also can help ease your body and mind. Angry Bird PJs and Nugget shirt? Check!

Exam Tips

Exam Tip No. 1: Read the question twice, answers thrice. Goes without saying really, but there's usually some minute detail within the question or something a little off about an answer that will give you a clue to the match.

Exam Tip No. 2: Process of elimination is your BFF! For multiple choice-style exams, there's no better way to hone your focus and increase your odds than by ruling out the obviously incorrect answers. I found this also works really well for interactive questions where you must drag and drop statements or events in a specified sequence.

Exam Tip No. 3: Mark questionable questions. Try not to spend too much time agonizing over one question. If you're unsure, mark it and come back to it during the review phase. Chances are good that a future question will give you a clue, or spark something in the depths of your memory that will give you that "ah-ha!" moment.

Exam Tip No. 4: Remain calm, confident, and when in doubt… go with your gut! It never hurts to have a "last resort" strategy for those questions that make little or no sense. Don't let them get you down, take your best shot, let instinct guide you and keep moving forward.

Keep these tips in mind during your certification journeys and conquer with confidence my friends!

I hope this has been informative for you, and I would like to thank you for reading.

– Garth Schulte (Nugget Trainer & SQL Server 2012 MCSA)


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