One of my goals is to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Business Intelligence. I decided to start from scratch and take the three exams required for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL Server 2012 to learn as much as possible. I passed exam 70-461 (Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012) in January and decided to take exam 70-463 (Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012) next. I passed in April :)
Preparing for the exam
I work in a Business Intelligence department and mainly focus on Data Warehouse and SSIS development. Most of my preparation has been working on real projects for over five years and it is by far the best learning experience. I focused mainly on learning the new features in 2012/2014 and features I haven’t used as much in projects: SSISDB, Project Deployment, Environments, Parameters, Data Quality Services (DQS), Master Data Services (MDS), Data Mining, Change Data Capture (CDC), Transactions, Checkpoints and Fuzzy transformations.
My plan was to work my way through each chapter in the Training Kit book, but I skimmed through half of it and skipped the exercises and practices that I already felt comfortable with. I answered all the quick check questions, lesson review questions, and case scenarios out loud to myself. The practice tests that came with the book were great for identifying knowledge gaps.
I completed the Implementing a Data Warehouse with SQL Server Jump Start on Microsoft Virtual Academy and I watched this prep video:
Finally, I went through the list of skills measured and made sure that I felt comfortable with everything mentioned there.
Taking the exam
The exam itself was 50 questions that I had to answer in 120 minutes. Some were simple questions with one correct answer, some were multiple-choice, some were drag-and-drop where you had to choose a certain number of code snippets or steps and place them in the correct order, and some were questions where you had to interact with a GUI and select the correct settings and options.
The different kinds of questions made the exam very interesting, but some questions were actually more difficult than I expected. The questions I found the most difficult were about installing, maintaining, backing up and restoring because this is not something I have a lot of practical experience with – I mainly use features after they have been installed. Make sure you know most of the things in the list of skills measured, focus on the new features in 2012/2014, and get some hands-on experience.
As soon as you end your exam you will see your score and if you pass or fail. Good luck on your exam! :)