Million, million, million ... blue certificates

    There are so many different certificates that very few can figure them out. Today we’ll talk about obtaining the highest level certificate, as well as the way to this. And what’s most interesting - one of those who passed this certification will tell about it. Look under the cat!

    I give the floor to the author.

    Hello, Habr! My name is Valery Samoilov and I am a leading developer in one IT company. My main specialization is CAD / CAM / PDM and AEC / BIM systems. For more than 10 years I have been working as an engineer and application programmer with AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Inventor, Revit systems. I know C ++, Qt and recently I write a lot in C #.

    I recently passed exams for MCSD status and want to share my experience.

    What for

    I sat, didn’t touch anyone, wrote the code, and then I suddenly found out that the company announced a set of volunteers for exams for Microsoft Gold status.

    Our company already has Microsoft partner status with Silver competency. This gives us certain privileges: 25 licenses for development software, a loan amount for using Azure, and other useful things. Gold status will allow us to obtain up to 100 licenses and increase the amount for Azure. Not to mention the fact that Gold status sounds solid. The company pays for volunteers to pass exams, and provides certified specialists with various buns.

    What certificates give to the ordinary developer? Some consider certificates useless and even rationalize this. In some ways, they are right, because a programmer without a certificate is similar in everything to a programmer with a certificate, only without a certificate.

    I do not share this point of view. In everyday work, we do not use all the capabilities of a particular language or technology. Preparation for the exam allows you to better study the tools used, as well as learn new ones at least at the basic level. The certificate itself confirms that you understand this area. In addition, most exams are conducted in English, and this is a good reason to expand and deepen reading skills in English technical literature. Therefore, I recommend choosing an exam in English, even for cases where there is a Russian version.

    How to prepare

    To move from abstract thinking “It would be nice to get a certificate” to practice, I familiarized myself with the exam program, assessed my strength and made a preparation plan. Yes, like in any other serious business, the plan rules.

    The exam program is on the Microsoft website. The program is often updated, so in the process of preparation it is advisable to sometimes look at it, otherwise skip the important one. This is especially true for Azure exams.

    A preliminary exam date can be set when viewing the program. The names of topics will help you navigate. I appointed a specific date and time for the exam in three to five days, when I realized that I was ready.

    To prepare for the exams, I allocated 1-2 hours on weekdays and 3-4 hours on weekends. Not every day it turned out to prepare, but I aspired to these indicators. Remember, planning is not only deadlines, but also accounting and control. Therefore, mark the key points on each topic of the exam and track the progress. I used Trello for planning because of the convenient system of cards and lists.

    Exams consist of three types of questions:

    Common questions. This type of question is known to everyone who has at least once passed an exam in a test form: task, question, answer options. You choose one or more correct options. The required number of options is indicated in the description of the question. In the block of ordinary questions you can freely move around and change your answers.

    Serial issues.The same question is repeated 2-4 times in a row. The question contains the conditions, the problem and the proposed solution. You answer whether the solution is suitable (yes / no). It is impossible to return to the answered question, as he answered - he answered so.

    Case Study. The description of the task (Background), Business Requirements, Technical Requirements, code sections is given. There are several questions to the problem (there are also serial ones). The questions correspond to the context of the requirements, sometimes the requirements directly state what to do, sometimes you need to analyze what they really want from you. In one exam, as a rule, several Case Studies. The skill of working with TK and the customer is useful in solving such problems.

    See examples of questions here (section Exam formats and question types).

    Where and how to take

    You can take the exam at the Pearson VUE Testing Center or remotely from your home / work computer. I prefer to take full-time at the testing center. It mobilizes. You are left alone with the computer - now either you are it, or it is you.

    You can pay for the exam directly at the testing center or on the Microsoft website. Microsoft is cheaper because they offer special discounted offers . For example, until September 30, the offer "exam + retake" is valid at a discount.

    It is advisable to come to the testing center at least 15-20 minutes before the appointed time. So you will go through all the necessary formalities without haste: fill out the questionnaire and take a picture. And there will still be time to focus on the main goal - passing the exam.

    Before the exam, personal belongings, except a passport, must be taken to the safe - nothing should be in your pockets. You will be given only a sheet of paper with a marker and sit on a computer.

    I passed all exams in English. You can pass Azure exams in Russian, but this is not worthy of a real samurai. Yes, and MSDN is useful in English: machine translation into Russian, despite the success of Machine Learning, to put it mildly, leaves much to be desired.

    If you firmly decided to get a certificate and for this you are ready to endure the hardships of preparing and passing exams, you just have to pack up and take three decisive steps to the coveted MCSD. Below I will talk about my experience of going this way.

    Step 1. MCP

    At the beginning of the path to MCSD is exam 70-483 Programming in C #. To prepare for it, I studied Exam Ref 70-483: Programming in C # and read the excellent CLR via C # book by Jeffrey Richter. The exam turned out to be quite simple. I think a programmer who has two years of development in C # behind him will pass it without any problems.

    The main difficulty of this exam is that it covers the full scope of the language. Few people use C # 100% in their work. During the preparation I paid special attention to knowledge gaps, and Exam Ref. This is one of the most popular exams, the network contains a detailed description of the preparation process and personal experience of those who passed (for example, here) There is one section in the exam (I had 50 questions), you can return to the questions. The case when one question from the test contains an answer to another is not a joke, I had it.

    After successfully passing the first exam of the 70-XXX series, a Microsoft Certified Professional certificate is issued . Many stop at this, but this is not about me. He grabbed the tug, do not say that not a dozen!

    Step 2. MCSA

    So, the first exam is passed. What's next? And then you make a choice: turn in 70-357 Developing Mobile Apps (it's about UWP, not Xamarin, as you might think) or 70-486 Developing ASP.NET MVC Web Applications .

    I chose 70-357, because I did not develop for the web, and UWP is much closer to the desktop applications that I know well. Plus, in the exam program I met the familiar abbreviations WPF and MVVM.

    The main problem of this exam is the almost complete absence of systematic training materials (no sensible books, Exam Ref either). Free MSDN with a bunch of articles on exam topics and the official Practice Test saves(for some money). I took the Practice Test and did not regret it - questions and tasks give a good idea of ​​what you will have to face in the exam. But, of course, you should not expect that the questions from the test will be on a real exam (perhaps some will be similar).

    The exam itself is structurally much more complicated than 70-486: serial questions and case studies appear. You need to be prepared for them. For example, without understanding, I missed a couple of questions, but the remaining ones were quite enough for success.

    Now I think that it would be more correct to pass 70-486. 70-357 dead end - UWP exams to get to the next level are closed.

    After passing the second exam, they receive a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate certificate. The rank of Associate, as it were, hints that you need to sweat to recognize you as a real application developer.

    Step 3. MCSD

    Microsoft offers quite a few options as a final exam. Eyes run up. But as soon as you look closely, it becomes clear that only three of them have perspective:

    • 70- 487 Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services (as a natural continuation of exam 70-486);
    • 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions ;
    • 70-535 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions .

    From the list, I immediately threw 70-487 (web development is still not my thing) and 70-535 (I decided that it is too early). Thus, there was one exam left, for which I began to prepare.

    Up to this point, I had a vague idea of ​​cloud technologies, but it turned out that, according to the creators of the exam, I had to equally successfully configure virtual machines using PowerShell scripts, deploy containers, understand SQL and NoSQL databases, and, of course, write web applications - and mobile- using Azure. Well, I thought, this is an occasion to learn new things. It is necessary at least sometimes to peek out from the cozy world of desktop CAD and CAM systems, especially since they already use cloud technologies to their full potential.

    Armed with a free Azure account, the latest versionExam Ref 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions and Practice Test , I started the preparation. An $ 200 account was attached to the Azure account, however, with a limited "shelf life" of 30 days). It’s very convenient, because you can [almost] not restrain yourself in experiments when studying exam topics.

    The main training tool, as for the previous exam, was MSDN. Exam Ref and Practice Test is a good help, of course, but for their productive use, basic knowledge is needed, which I did not have enough. But most importantly, I could immediately try everything live on a combat server.

    Preparation took about two months. This time, instead of the “I came, saw, won” approach, I showed reasonable caution - it’s still dangerous to take an exam on topics about which I had no idea just three months ago. Just for Azure exams, there was a promotion - “exam + retake + practice test” at the price of one exam.

    And caution was warranted. For the first time, something went wrong: 13 points were not enough.

    In the results of a failed exam, they write in which topics you have shown yourself to be the worst. I got together, analyzed the errors, and the second time I did the right

    thing. The MCSD certificate is formally unlimited. But every year it can be updated by passing one of the exams in order to keep knowledge up to date.


    Was it worth it? I have only one conclusion - definitely worth it.

    The path was not easy, but the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. I filled in the gaps and systematized my knowledge of C # and UWP, learned a lot about Azure-based cloud technologies, and the company was one step closer to the coveted Gold status.

    All good, new knowledge and successful exams!

    about the author

    Valery Samoilov is a leading developer at Rubius . The main specialization is CAD / CAM / PDM and AEC / BIM systems. For more than 10 years he has been working as an engineer and application programmer with AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Inventor, Revit systems.

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