Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Microsoft Certification for Developers

Today I was talking to my buddies from work, Ryan and Michael, about Microsoft certification. We discussed about the MCPD and the SharePoint certifications and I decided to post some information here.

MCPD Enterprise Application Developer 3.5

The MCPD Enterprise Application Developer 3.5 certification is the current top developer certification and it requires you to pass in 6 exams. The following table contains all the exams and links to the official training books. Some of books have not been published yet, but they are expected sometime during the first quarter of 2009.

70-536 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 - Application Development Foundation

70-562 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Application Development

70-505 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Application Development
  • Official Training Book (CAD52.91). Not published, expected on Feb 25 2009. Since there is not so much difference between the .NET 3.5 and .NET 2.0 versions, you could use this book (I used this book for the beta exam).

70-561 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Application Development

70-503 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Windows Communication Foundation Application Development

70-565 Pro: Designing and Developing Enterprise Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
  • No current Official Training Book. However, there is the .NET 2.0 version here (CAD48.50).

The exams don't have to be completed in a specific order, but I recommend starting with the 70-536 exam first for two reasons:
  • The 70-536 exam contains the foundations of .NET framework (types, collections, threading, app domains, configuration, serialization, encryption, code access security, reflection, interoperability, globalization, and drawing). This will provide a very good foundation before jumping into the specific types of applications.
  • The 70-536 exam is a prerequisite for all the developer MCTS certifications. To acquire your first .NET MCTS certification, you need to pass in two exams : the 70-536 and the desired MCTS exam (WCF, Windows Form, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, WF, WPF). By taking 70-536 first, you will acquire a new MCTS certification for every subsequent MCTS exam you pass.
Another recommendation is to take the 70-565 exam at last. This is the professional exam that will cover designing .NET enterprise applications and choosing the proper technologies. It is better to finish all the specific applications first before taking this one, for obvious reasons.
For the other exams, you should choose first a exam that you are most familiar with. This will make your life easier, and you will progressively advance to other exams of unknown areas.

Some Tips when preparing for the exams above:
  • One of the most important things is to practice all the material. You should try all the code samples you find in the study guide, make modifications, improve the code, apply real scenarios and examples from your day job, etc. Also, try using different methods overloads, different constructors, etc. Sometimes the training book shows how to use some set of classes, and then on the exam you see them used with different methods and constructors and do not know if it is right or wrong. So, go beyond the examples of the book.
  • Check it out the material in the MSDN online. If the book is showing you how to use the a certain class, check it out the documentation at MSDN to see this class methods, properties and the usage examples on MSDN.
  • Although the books are great resources, read all the topics of the preparation guides to make sure you know all of them. Supplement book information with MSDN library information.
  • Make sure to get the book correction from Microsoft Support. When I was studying with the .NET 2.0 training books, I found lots of minor mistakes in the books. To get the book correction, just go to the Microsoft Help and Support and search for the book ISBN. For more information, see here.
  • Usually these books come with practice tests from MeasureUp. It is recommended to practice these tests to get used to the format of the exam, type of questions, etc.
  • Take advantage of the Microsoft Second Shot. You get an exam voucher to be used when registering to your exam. If you fail the exam, you can register for a free retake exam using this voucher. It is a good investment just in case something bad happen during your first attempt.

Additional Resources:
  • Prometric: this is the exam provider where you can schedule a Microsoft certification exam. You will be able to choose the test site where you can take your exam. The .NET 3.5 exams usually cost USD 125. Do not forget to use a exam voucher from Microsoft Second Shot when registering, just in case you need to retake the exam.
  • Gerry O'Brien's Blog: This is the official blog about Microsoft certifications for developer and SQL Server. You will find information about upcoming exams, new certifications, beta exams, etc. Also, pay attention to announcements for Visual Studio 2010 exams, that should bring a new MCPD .NET 4.0. Gerry and his team are still planning the new certifications, but as you can see from his comments, there will be upgrade exams from MCPD 3.5 to 4.0 (2 upgrade exams, I think), see his comments on this post.
  • Beta Exams Announcements: This blog contains announcements about beta exams. What is a beta exam? Well, it works like a beta software. Before opening a new exam for the general public, Microsoft first releases it as beta exam (71-### instead of 70-###) to evaluate the exam, get feedback and error reports from test takers. You can register for these beta exams for free (normal cost is 125 USD), and if you pass on the beta exam, the exam credit will be added to your transcript and you will not need to take the exam in its released form. I took 4 beta exams of .NET 3.5 and passed on them without paying anything!! When taking beta exams, make sure to leave some feedback because they are expecting our input to improve the exam experience.

SharePoint Certification

I started working with SharePoint (WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007) recently and I am planning to get certified on it as well. For developers, there are two SharePoint MCTS:

70-541 TS: Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 – Application Development
  • No official training book, but there is the Microsoft Press book (CAD34.64).
  • There are no practice tests from MeasureUp for this exam.
70-542 TS: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 – Application Development
  • No official training book, but there is the Microsoft Press book (CAD31.49).
  • You might consider buying the practice tests from MeasureUp.

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