The new MCM exam

Are you ready to step up to the plate for this new SQL Server exam?

MCM blog

I wanna talk about the new SQL Server MCM (Microsoft Certified Master).  And with so little info out there on this exam it was really hard to know what to study.  However, I will say that this is the type of exam that's really hard to study for... more on that later.

First of all let me say that this is a revamping of the certification.  It used to be that you had to go to Redmond for 3wks and take classes and then take the knowledge exam followed by the lab exam.  Now you don't have to go to Redmond for the study; you can just go take the exams if you like.  And they're much cheaper than they used to be.  So when they decided to revamp this cert there was a small backlash throughout the community that the standards would be slipping in order to propagate the cert and make it more popular.  However, after taking this exam today I can tell you that the integrity of this exam is intact.  Let me take a minute to tell you what this exam is about so you'll know whether you're right for it or not.

For starters, all the prereqs are still in place.  You still have to take both dev and both admin exams.  But passing those exams doesn't prepare you even a little bit for this exam.  What this exam is all about is finding thought leaders.  The prereq exams are all about building soldiers who can demonstrate knowledge about performing tasks in SQL Server.  They're concerned with finding out if you can actually do the basic tasks involved in being a DBA.  This exam however is concerned with finding out if you can think your way around the big problems.  Let's look at a good example to illustrate the difference between the 2 exams.  In one of the prereq exams you might be asked something about what port you need to setup a mirroring witness on, or what mode you have to run mirroring in to achieve automatic failover.  In the MCM exam you may be given a set of specific goals and asked whether you should use mirroring with replication, clustering, or log shipping, and which RAID levels the different servers in the scenario should have to meet the goals outlined.  Neither of those are specific questions on any of the exams; they're just examples of the difference between them.  So for the MCM it's really hard to just study.  You really need to have done this enough to know how all these technologies play together so you can meet the goals outlined.  And these are all things that an enterprise-level DBA gets asked all the time.  At that level you're constantly being asked to architect solutions while under severe hardware and software vendor constraints.

So how can you study for the new MCM exam?  Well, that's a tough one and I'm not sure that you can.  What you can do though is do it.  Set yourself up with a small lab and test things out.  Work extensively with the different HA technologies and put them together and see what it takes to get them going together.  Work with the different aspects of the DB and get to know them intimately.  If you're not used to doing this kind of stuff at work then it'll be much harder for you to do well on this exam because you'll be presented with situations here that you haven't faced before.  That's not to say that there's absolutely nothing you can study, but reading will be the smallest part of your prep for this test.

There's another feature of the new exam.  They make you wait 30 days before mailing you the results.  It's a security feature to help prevent cheating.

So how about it?  Are you ready to be an MCM?  Are you Michael Corleone or Luca Brasi?

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