Taking any exam can be a stressful experience which requires a lot of preparation and planning.
Back in October 2011, I sat my first Microsoft exam, which was the Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Administrator exam. I remember wanting to sit a Microsoft exam before then but being hesitant about it because it was an unknown scenario to me and worried it wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy doing.
Since then however, I have sat 20 different Microsoft exams ranging from Exchange 2010 to Azure Data Fundamentals. And I wanted to share some of my experience with you all to help you plan your approach to sitting an exam and explain how some of the exam process works.
There is a plethora of exams available for you to choose from. Exams are dialled into technology and then job roles after that. There are fundamentals exams for those just starting on their journey or expert level exams for the more experienced. You can sit the exams in any order that suits your purpose or journey, I think I sat some expert level exams before attempting the fundamental ones. So, there is no right or wrong way, just the way that works for you.
Certifications and Exams
Exam objectives and study material
Each exam has set objectives which help guide you in not only selecting which exams are relevant to your experience or career objectives but they are also there to help you with your studying. Each exam has a small “Skills Measured” section which gives you a percentage breakdown of how much of the exam will be focussed on that topic and there is also a larger document that breaks down each section into more detail so you can really dial down your studying plan.
Each exam also helps point you to some learning materials as well that help you find things to read or use as your study material. You’ll have seen information to Free online training at Microsoft Learn and also some information for any in person instructor led training if it is available for the exam you are focusing on. Books and official Microsoft documentation is also resources you should check out as part of your study material and also trying to get some hands on experience with the technologies that the exam is testing on.
Booking an exam
Booking an exam is key to this whole process if you ask me, when I start my journey to gaining a certification, I start with booking the exam. If it’s booked, I have a deadline set and I have the motivation to study! Booking the exam can be done straight from the exam page itself, it will show the exam provider for your region and give you the relevant link to the place you can go to book the exam. One tip I would mention here is to watch what time you book the exam for; be sure you aren’t booking those 1am slots, unless you really want that slot. ;)
Sitting an exam at home
With the current situation in the world getting to a dedicated test centre to sit the exam is hard for a lot of people right now. The opportunity to sit an exam still exists though, you can sit the exams at home.
When sitting an exam at home there are certain rules that you need to adhere to and those can be quite daunting if it’s your first time. When I sit an exam at a test centre I often make use of the reusable white board they give me to make notes or do drawings of the question to help me visualise what I am being asked. However, at home you aren’t allowed any bits of paper for note taking. The other things to consider when sitting an exam at home are:
- No one else is allowed in the room with you and if someone comes in it could mean you fail the exam
- You can’t read the questions out loud or speak during the exam
- You can’t cover your face or go out with the webcam view
- You can’t use two screens
- Your desk must be tidy
- Your phone can’t be within reach of you
There are a lot of other rules as well, so you should pay attention to them before you book an exam to make sure you can accommodate them. If Pearson VUE are the testing provider for your region then you can find more information at taking online exams with them here, if PSI are your testing provider for your region you can find more information about taking online exams with them here.
What happens if I don’t pass first time?
Sometimes even though you’ve put a ton of work in and are confident you won’t pass first time, I’ve been there, I remember the first time I failed a Microsoft exam, I walked out of the test centre and went straight to my favourite coffee shop to get cake and a big latte to commiserate, it’s never a great feeling. However, all is not lost, you can sit the exam again. You must await at least 24 hours before retaking the exam again and you can sit the exam up to five times per year (12months) if needed. You can find more details on the exam retake policy here.
Occasionally you’ll see exam pop up as Beta exams, these are new exams that Microsoft has released. There are often a limited number of slots for people to try out the exam at a discounted price, however you won’t get your exam results back straight away. You’ll have to wait until the exam is released fully and sometimes you have to wait a number of weeks after the exam is live before you will receive the results. My colleague Liberty wrote a great article explaining more about the beta exam process here.
Good luck on your journey to studying, sitting, and passing a Microsoft exam, please do let us know how you get on with your journey!