Tuesday, 24 September 2019

5 tips for Microsoft certification exams



Microsoft is the most valuable company in the world, and being a certified Microsoft professional no doubt reflects this value. Here we give you a few tips to help you pass Microsoft certification exams.

After more than 40 years at the forefront of the computing industry, the tech giant doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Earlier this year Microsoft added several new certifications to its already impressive portfolio, while also announcing the retirement of a few others.

The new courses are not only more sophisticated, but the exams have become more complex as well. In an environment where complexity is the rule and change is the only constant, it’s crucial to learn how to learn better, and not just spend more time.

Beginner or advanced, if you’re a webmaster on an Azure-based website or if your team relies on Office365 (or any other product in the MS family), these tips will help you get your Microsoft certification by preparing better, and studying smarter.


1. Find out what you need to know


Studying (and retaining) every single piece of content on the exam track is impossible. Luckily, there are ways to increase your exposure to the right content.

Microsoft offers descriptions of every exam they administer. This means that the exam you’re taking has already been broken it down into objectives and sub-objectives, detailing the skills you will be tested on.

You can find this on the Microsoft Training website. On each particular course, you’ll find it at the "Skills Measured" section for the exam/certification are planning on taking.

Narrowing down the content of what will be measured in the exam and being familiar with the style and layout means you’ll also have room to practice your time management skills.

It’s important to remember that Microsoft want you to pass the exams and get certified. By making these resources available to you, they are giving you every support to pass.


2. Find the correct resources


It seems like a recurring theme, but as a company Microsoft tends to offer pretty thorough support - everything but giving you the answers to the exam. Among the countless resources you can find online, these are arguably the most useful (and closest to the source).

MOC (Microsoft Official Curriculum) Courseware.

The jewel of the crown, the courseware for Microsoft official courses is written by experts in the field and aligns closely with the objectives of the exam you’ll sit. Most of the concepts are covered in detail in the MOC course content, and it’s arguably the most up-to-date with the curriculum.

You can get it through Microsoft learning partners, but the companion content (when applicable) is free to download. As learning partners, we made some resources for previous years available for free on our website so you can have a reference of what to expect.

Publisher Study Guides

If you can’t take an official Microsoft course, there’s no problem. Microsoft are flexible, and you can still sit a certification exam with just self-study. There are plenty of study guides to help you pass your exam.

As a side not - be careful to get a study guide from a legitimate source. Examples of reputable vendors who offer study guides for the more popular exams are MS Press and APress.

Microsoft Learn (successor to Microsoft Virtual Academy)

In January 31, 2019, Microsoft Learn replaced Microsoft Virtual Academy to become a go-to place to get started with any of the company’s technologies - completely free. In there you’ll find videos, presentations and learn-by-example resources for the full range of Microsoft products.

Also quite useful (and often overlooked) are Microsoft TechNet (where you can read through the documentation of any Microsoft product) and Microsoft Developer Network, which unsurprisingly lends itself to developers.


3. Practice what you learn


By this, we mean get your hands dirty after doing the reading and note-taking (and yes, even in the internet age, there’s plenty of reasons why you should be taking notes). Practice in this context is two-fold:

Exam Practice

This has to do with the process of taking the exam. Exams often entail multiple choice and performance-based questions. Understanding the layout of a Microsoft exam is crucial to passing it - you need to make sure your time management skills are sharp.

We offer practice exams for several Microsoft courses. Alternatively, MeasureUp have a series of practice exams and labs you can complete by yourself. These practice labs are aligned specifically to the different exams.

Taking the exam is the best practice. Ideally, take the exam a couple times to get familiar with the format.

Technology Practice

It’s increasingly more difficult - if not outright impossible - to pass a certification exam without any practical experience. So in addition to the content you absorb from books, lectures, and videos, you still need to actually use the software.

By taking an official course, you’ll have access to data centres and labs to help with your studies.

If you’re unable to take an official course, an alternative solution is to sign up for a trial Microsoft Azure account, where you’ll be able to create multiple virtual machines in Azure and set up networks and domains.

If you do set up a lab environment in Azure, be sure to shut down your VMs when not in use, as multiple VMs will quickly use up any credits you have.


4. Join a Microsoft forum


If you’re not the type of person that likes studying independently, then getting involved with a community of peers can be the ideal learning supplement. Forums are usually at the bleeding edge of the discussions, as well as a focal point for the most frequent questions about products.


In addition to learning, the whole point about a community is you’ll also get to meet people from similar backgrounds to you, which can help with motivation and thus learning better.


5. Manage your time when taking the exam


Finally, don’t let the clock win. When taking the exam, you must pace yourself and manage your time. You’ll usually know the number of questions and the total time you have before starting the exam, so make the most of it.

If the exam allows you to backtrack, one good idea is to do a first pass tackling the easier or more familiar questions, and then distribute the remaining time among the harder questions. It’s OK to skip questions completely - it’s better to focus on what you know first.


Where do you go from here?


Taking any exam is hardly leisure, and it can be even more daunting to take a certification exam on your own. If you’re set on getting certified but still unsure of how to maximise your chances, you can always look for an official Microsoft learning partner.

At Firebrand we’re here to help you get certified as fast as possible. If you decide to go for a fast track and that a course is the best way to go, just get in touch and we’ll be there every step of the way.