Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008

I've been really busy lately. A big component of that time has been my involvement with the new Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008 program. I was privileged to be chosen to teach six days of the fifteen day program in the recent alpha rotation. In addition, I decided to attend (and pay !) to attend the rotation, do the exams and qualifying lab.

Well it was quite an experience!

Anyone considering this program needs to understand the demands that it will place on your time. The three weeks of classes run from 8am to 6pm daily but most attendees would then spend up to another three or four hours per night studying while there. On the weekends, you have lab work that needs to be completed before the next week and each Monday morning, you have a two hour Prometric exam. On the final Saturday, you have another two hour Prometric exam followed by a six hour hands-on qualifying lab. I was with a wonderful group of people on this first rotation and have to say that all looked exhausted at the end.

Paul Randal and Kim Tripp covered the first week, Adam Machanic, Paul Nielsen, Allan Hirt, Ron Talmage, Andy Kelly, myself and Gert Drapers covered the second week and I covered the third week.

While I obviously can't tell you anything about the exam content, I'd be giving nothing away by saying it's in a different league to the questions you see on the MCITP exams. And the final qualifying lab has some carefully chosen scenarios that you need to navigate your way through, with lots of little (intentional) road-blocks on the way.

If you look into doing this program, you need to block a bit over three weeks of your life completely out. It's also expensive and what might surprise you more is that most candidates don't pass at the first attempt. I was one of the fortunate ones to do so this time but you should not consider it to be any sort of failure if you don't achieve it on the first attempt. You can retake the exams (with similar rules to the other Prometric exams) but you can't retake the qualifying lab until you've passed the exams. You only get two attempts at retaking the qualifying lab or you then need to retake the whole course. (I believe that would happen at a 50% discount but you should check the rules for clarification). Also, don't plan to fly out on the Saturday night at the end. Leave the time to have dinner with the rest of the people in your rotation and avoid any time pressure related to flights. That's the last thing you'll want on your mind at that stage.

Regardless, it's highly recommended if it makes sense for you. I'll be back teaching in the next rotation and I'll look forward to seeing any of you that decide to tackle it.


8 thoughts on “Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008”

  1. Hi Greg, I've been intrigued by this for quite a while.  Since you teach the class and are involved with administering the test, do you get a pro forma Master's certification yourself?  Or would you still have to go through the testing process to get the certification?
    Best regards,

  2. Great question Kevin! I wish!
    The content and the exams are both developed independently from the same objective domain, which is the first thing created. The content folk and the exam folk were not aware of exactly what each were doing, only of what needed to be achieved.
    For the first rotation, I made sure I did the exams exactly the same way the students did. I specifically did not want to see them beforehand. The tests aren't administered by the instructors.
    I imagine I'll now be also involved in the exam process for the future rotations of the course, but just from the point of view of being another check on the accuracy of the questions and from making sure that all the topics are covered.
    It's important to note though that the exams can cover anything from the prereading, not just from the course content.
    So I got to do the exams and labs just the same as the students and even got to pay to attend as well, even for the days I was teaching…

  3. Ok, let me get this straight.  Microsoft called and said "Greg, have we got an offer for you.  We want YOU to PAY US to teach one one of the most rigorous courses in our profession.  Sounds great, eh?"  
    And then you said "Sign me up!"?  <big grin>

  4. Greg, I'll be attending the March 2009 rotation.  Will you be instructing?  Any tips, tricks, or additional insights for success?  Thanks!

  5. Hi Jimmy, it's great to hear you'll be attending. I've read many of your blog posts over the years. Paul and Kim will be taking week one. I'll be taking week three and probably one or two days at the end of week two.
    My main advice is to not plan to do anything else while attending the class. Your best outcome will be to totally dedicate yourself to it for the three weeks, including the last Saturday. There's just too much material to cover to also try to tackle anything else concurrently. Just plan to immerse yourself in the product during the course, including the weekends.
    I look forward to seeing you there.

  6. Greg,
    how much of the exam cover xml data?  This is my weakest area with programability.. so should I worry about it?  It it mostly on design physical and logical and sql internals?

  7. Hi Danielle,
    While I can't comment at all on what the Masters cert exams cover, it's reasonable to mention that the course is very much DBA focussed, rather than dev focussed, even though a number of dev topics are covered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *