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Tag: Certifications

I will not try to take a Microsoft Online Proctored exam again

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL ServerAt least, I will not try to take a Microsoft Online Proctored exam again until they fix or change their exam software.

When I heard about Microsoft Online Proctored exams and found out they were available in Norway, I knew I wanted to try it. Taking an exam online would allow me to schedule it during the weekend without having to take time off work or travel an extra 2-3 hours in one day.

Reviews of the exam process were both good and bad. Some had technical difficulties and had to reschedule, some had technical difficulties and failed their exam, while others had no problems at all and were very happy. The first thing I did was to make sure that I passed the system requirements and the system tests. I found out that I couldn’t use my Surface Pro 3 because the camera did not take a clear picture of my ID. However, I could use my work laptop, and both system tests worked just fine.

I scheduled my exam, and on the day of the exam I made sure I reread all the fine prints three times. I cleared my entire office area and removed all items except my laptop. I made sure I wore clothes that would easily allow me to roll up my sleeves and turn out my pockets. I tied my hair in a ponytail so they could see that I didn’t have any devices in my ears. I was even careful not to drink too much during the day because bathroom breaks are not allowed.

As soon as it was time for my exam, I logged on and launched the application. It required an update before I could launch it, then it checked my microphone, my camera and my speakers, no problems. Then I had to take a picture of myself, and I took a headshot. After taking a picture you need to confirm that the picture is in fact a headshot. I clicked “yes” and nothing happened. The “next” button was disabled and I couldn’t click it. I clicked “yes” again and it returned to the screen where I had to take a picture. I took another picture, clicked “yes”, and nothing happened. I clicked “no”, and it returned to the screen where I had to take a picture. I tried clicking back and forth through the microphone, camera and speaker checks, took yet another picture, and still nothing.

Since I couldn’t get it to work, and I had turned off my phone so I wouldn’t be disturbed during the exam, I opened the Pearson Live Chat and explained my problem. It took about five minutes before a man replied. He asked if I could see the headshot on my screen. I said yes, and explained what I saw on my screen. It took another couple of minutes and then he asked if there was another button. I said that I could see the yes/no buttons and the back/next buttons. It took another couple of minutes and then he asked what happened when I clicked the “no” button. I said that it returned to the screen where I had to take a picture. I asked if it was safe to relaunch the application because my initial 15 minutes set aside for the check-in process had already passed. He confirmed that I still had 11 minutes to complete the check-in process, and I tried to relaunch the application.

Relaunching the application didn’t help. Updating Adobe Air didn’t help. I was still stuck on the screen trying to accept the picture I had taken. After another five minutes, he told me that he had created an incident report and that I had to call a Reservation Specialist the following day. I triple-checked that I would be able to reschedule my exam, he confirmed and left the chat.

On the following day I called the Reservation Specialist. He looked at the incident report and told me that they had not been able to investigate the issue yet. The Reservation Specialist could not reschedule my exam until they had investigated the issue, but they would call me back within two days when they had looked into it. Later that day I received an email that my exam had been cancelled, that the exam fee had been refunded and that I could reschedule my exam.

I tried the system tests again a few days later, and I got stuck on the same part where I had to take a picture. I tried it on my Surface Pro 3 running Windows 8, I tried it on my work laptop running Windows 7, I tried it on my old Windows 7 computer and I even asked my sister if she could try for me. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling Adobe Flash, Adobe Air and the Exam software on all systems. I tried on a wired and wireless connections. I closed and uninstalled programs that might interfere, but I kept getting stuck on taking a picture. I contacted customer support again, was told to send an e-mail with screen shots, and that I just had to wait for my scheduled exam. He told me “Please try at your scheduled time and check. It should work at that time.”

It didn’t work the last time at my scheduled exam time, why would it suddenly work this time? Finally I decided not to trust customer support, cancelled my scheduled Online Proctored exam, and rescheduled at a test center. Trying to get it to work for two weeks was just not worth it.

Starting my journey to MCSE: Business Intelligence

MCSA Training KitsOne of my goals for 2014/2015 is to learn enough to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Business Intelligence.

I can upgrade my MCITP certification, but I decided to start from scratch with the SQL Server 2012 exams because it’s a great way for me to learn new features while my company is still using SQL Server 2008. I’m also sure it will be very useful for me to step out of my comfort zone of data warehouse development / architecture and dive into the scary world of database administration.

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL Server 2012 will remain in market without any alterations and passing the three required exams will be my goal this year. The MCSE exams will be updated with SQL Server 2014 topics and I aim to pass them later this year or early next year.

The three Training Kit books finally arrived yesterday: Training Kit (Exam 70-461): Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012, Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases and Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

Reviews range from “useless” to “excellent”. Based on my experience I can’t rely on these books alone, but hopefully they’ll be a great starting point and will help me identify what I need to work on. My own reviews will be posted as I finish the books and take the exams.

My plan is simply to work my way through each chapter and write down useful suggestions and improvements for my company. It’s easier for me to learn when I can relate the content to my work. I’m most excited about learning more about database administration since that’s not something I do every day, and most curious about the data warehouse part since I’m kind of already supposed to know my way around dimensional modeling and SSIS :)

I passed exam 70-461 (Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012) in January 2015.
I passed exam 70-463 (Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012) in April 2015.
I passed exam 70-462 (Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases) in May 2015.

Have you recently taken any of these exams? What is your job and what did you find most challenging?