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Tough question, but how much study is usually required for cert. exams RRS feed

  • Question

  • I have been working for 3-4 years as a Configuration Manager administrator, mostly in CM12. I have strong areas, like OSD and application deployment, and weaker areas, like PKI/https and Compliance Settings. I consider myself to be an advanced technician or engineer.

    I am considering System Center Configuration Manager certification (70-243), but am wondering how much of an endeavor this is likely to be. Can others that have taken this or similar certificate exams please advise me? In weighing the value of certification, I am wondering if I will be likely to succeed with a 100 hour commitment, or is it going to much more substantial a time investment?

    I know this will vary wildly depending on how quickly a person learns and what they already know, but would love to have some idea before I decide to go down this path. I welcome your feedback and experience.

    Gary

    Monday, December 29, 2014 9:26 PM

Answers

  • A 100 hour commitment is way too much for an exam about a topic that you are already very familiar with. If you have been working for years with a specific tool/technology (such as SCCM), you can simply go to the exam description page and read the list of "Skills Measured". For each item in the list, consider whether you already have the corresponding knowledge. You will find out that you already know most of them. If there is a topic that you don't know well, read the online documentation (MSDN, Technet, or do a search on the Web). This shouldn't take more than a few hours in total. Alternatively, buy a book for preparing the certification. Browse the contents, and you will find that you can skip most of the chapters because they explain things that you already know. Reading through the rest of the materials shouldn't take more than a few hours, even if you choose to practice some of the topics, which should be straightforward if you are already experienced with the corresponding tools.
    • Marked as answer by Gary Knigge Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:48 PM
    Tuesday, December 30, 2014 7:36 AM

All replies

  • A 100 hour commitment is way too much for an exam about a topic that you are already very familiar with. If you have been working for years with a specific tool/technology (such as SCCM), you can simply go to the exam description page and read the list of "Skills Measured". For each item in the list, consider whether you already have the corresponding knowledge. You will find out that you already know most of them. If there is a topic that you don't know well, read the online documentation (MSDN, Technet, or do a search on the Web). This shouldn't take more than a few hours in total. Alternatively, buy a book for preparing the certification. Browse the contents, and you will find that you can skip most of the chapters because they explain things that you already know. Reading through the rest of the materials shouldn't take more than a few hours, even if you choose to practice some of the topics, which should be straightforward if you are already experienced with the corresponding tools.
    • Marked as answer by Gary Knigge Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:48 PM
    Tuesday, December 30, 2014 7:36 AM
  • Hi Gary-

    As you mentioned, the time it takes to properly prepare for an exam varies quite a bit.  So it will be helpful if other people chime in with their experiences too.  For most Microsoft exams, there are topics that you know and work with, topics that you've read about but not worked with, and topics that are new to you.  Let me break down how this impacts the amount of time required to study:

    • Topics that you know and work with.  Some people might think that these topics don't require study time.  I think they do require study time.  That's because most admins have a specific method that they use in their work.  That might not be the method that the exam tests you on.  For example, in ConfigMgr you might use the management console for the  majority of your work.  The exam may test you on PowerShell.  It may ask a basic question about performing a task that you know how to do in the management console but the only answer choices are PowerShell.  Or, they may test you on a new feature in R2 when your environment isn't running R2.  I recommend that you review the latest enhancements to R2 and spend a bit of time investigating alternate methods to perform tasks.  I estimate about 4 or 5 hours on this.
    • Topics that you've read about but not worked with.  These topics require study.  I recommend that you read about them and work with them.  For example, you should read about configuration items AND implement them in a lab environment.  There are several learning styles and often people don't know which style is most effective for them.  Some learn by reading, some learn by doing, some learn by hearing, etc.  Typically, you will retain more knowledge by combining the learning styles.  For me, I typically start by playing with a technology in my lab for a few hours.  Afterward, I will read about it.  Then maybe go back to the lab.  For others, it may be different.  But definitely experiment to see what feels right for you.  I recommend that you avoid just reading about something that you've never worked with because it will make the exam difficult to pass.
    • Topics that are new to you.  These topics require the most study.  As Alberto pointed out, use the Skills Measured section.  Print it out.  Each time you finish reading and exploring a technology and feel comfortable, cross it off.  For these new topics, definitely get your hands on them in a lab.  Even if you only spend a few minutes with each one.

    For me, I usually allocate about 2 weeks to study for an exam.  But study time during that two weeks comes in between regular work and family stuff.  Maybe a couple of hours a day total and a few extra hours the day before the exam.  In the past, I've allocated as little as 1 week to prepare for an exam.  For beta exams, I've walked in several times without any preparation.  In all cases, I always think that I should've spent a couple of extra hours.

    If you've never taken a certification exam or a Microsoft certification exam, you'll want to spend more time than others who have taken exams.  But, one thing I typically tell people is not to spend too much time studying.  It will work against you.  If you spend 8 weeks studying, by the half way point you will start forgetting the stuff you studied in the first week.  When the exam comes up, you'll have probably forgotten half of the stuff you studied.  I recommend a maximum of 4 weeks of study for an exam like this.  A book dedicated to 70-243 will be helpful but should be combined with hands on time in a lab environment.  If you don't have a lab to work in, check out the free TechNet labs for Configuration Manager at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/bb467605.aspx.  Finally, don't worry about failing an exam.  It is often the one thing that can help you the most in your exam preparation!  I advise that you schedule the exam.  Pick a date a couple of weeks out and commit by scheduling it.  If you fail, you will know exactly what you need to do before you take the exam again!

    Brian

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014 5:59 PM