I woke up bright and early Saturday to take the beta version of the Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server 2008 Knowledge Exam at a Prometric Testing center in Greenwood Village, CO. Since 1995, I have passed about 25 different Microsoft Certification exams, including several beta exams. My first certification exam was on Visual Basic 3.0! Beta exams are free, but they are longer than the regular exam. Update:Normally, beta exams are free, but this one actually costs $500. Since I am a SQL MVP, I received a promo code that let me take the beta for free. Beta exams count the same as a regular exam if you pass, but you have to wait a few weeks to find out if you passed or not.
This particular Prometric was more serious about security than where I regularly take exams. They make you completely empty your pockets, and turn them inside out, locking everything in a locker. The exam was harder than the SQL Server 2008 MCITP Administrator or Developer exams (as advertised), but not as difficult as I expected. My gut feeling is that I probably passed this exam.
One thing I typically do in Microsoft exams (as a test taking strategy and a guess about my final score) is to keep track of how many questions I don’t feel 100% sure about versus the total number on the exam. That is usually a pretty good predictor of my final score, since I probably get a few wrong that I was 100% sure of, and I get a few right that I was not 100% sure of. With a beta exam, you don’t know the cutting score, so it is harder to predict my score (for me) during the test.
If I passed the Knowledge Exam, I still have to take and pass the Lab Exam, which is much longer and supposedly much harder. My understanding is that you cannot even take the Lab Exam until you pass the Knowledge Exam. As far as preparation for this exam, I listened to about half of the excellent set of MCM Prep videos from the incredible team at SQLskills.com. I just didn’t have time to listen to all of them.
Even if you have no intention of ever taking the MCM exams, you should listen to those videos, since there is a lot of great content there! I would also recommend that you take one or more of the upcoming MCM classes from SQLskills. You should also read as much as you can from the SQL Server 2008 MCM Pre-reading list.