Prepping for MCSD Certification
Want something more than the usual study guide for the Solution Architectures core exam? This book is an excellent tool.
- By Paul G. Brown
This guide is for those looking to pass the Solution
Architectures (70-100) core exam for Microsoft Certified Solution
Developer certification. Not only will this book help get you there,
but later it can serve as a valuable reference tool as you design
and develop applications. And because it covers the entire solution
development lifecycle, it's also a good book for new developers.
If you're an experienced programmer who just
wants to hit the highlights to prepare for your test, you'll love
this book's layout. Each chapter begins with objectives, an outline,
and study strategies. "Exam Tips" throughout each chapter identify
items that may or may not be on the test. They also highlight quirks
in the exam that may catch you off-guard. In the chapter covering
conceptual design, for instance, one tip points out that the test
uses drop-and-connect style questions for workflow model development.
While this is an otherwise easy topic for the experienced developer
to handle, the question type might require practice to master.
Each chapter ends with a summary containing keywords
and specific concepts, followed by exercises and exam questions
that will reveal what areas you need to read again. All of these
tools make it easy to identify your weak spots so you don't have
to read the whole chapter, a plus for the busy developer.
The book also comes with the Exam Gear computerized
practice exam. This simulated exam takes you through several practice
tests, giving you experience with the different types of questions
you may face. This includes simulations where you see a key tool
component, such as Enterprise Manager from SQL Server, and are asked
questions specific to that item. It might also include creating
a stored procedure or index. Another question type allows you to
show relationships between entities such as tables or workers. In
drop-and-connect questions you drag an object onto the work surface
and connect the objects showing relationship and direction. Relationships
between tables are a common subject for this type of question. You
drag tables onto the work surface and then connect the tables showing
the type of relation (one-to-many, many-to-many, etc.) Although
not that difficult, these questions might throw you for a loop on
the test if you're confused by the format.
Using just these components, an experienced developer
should be able to skim through the guide and pass the exam fairly
easily. If you quit there, though, you'll miss some of the book's
best parts. The chapters are organized into a logical progression
that follows a "typical" development cycle. The case study, I found,
is the book's most impressive component, and almost every chapter
has one. These studies are important because the Solution Architectures
exam prominently features them, with questions growing out of them.
In fact, learning to digest these case studies is so key that the
book's Appendix E is devoted to the task. A blown case study and
some other misses and you might be taking the test again.
The book features 15 case studies covering various
scenarios. Each study dissects a problem from several perspectives,
including management, developer, clerk, and user. Because I'm a
pilot, my favorite case study is the one titled "New Riders Airlines."
Using the illustration of an airline wanting to offer "vacation
packages" that are beyond the scope of that airline's current information
system, the study shows how the changing nature of business drives
the need for change in information systems. Now, if planes aren't
your thing, don't worry-the case studies cover a broad spectrum
of other industries as well. You should be able to find at least
one study close to your work or interests.
The book's only real area of weakness involves
the Exam Gear practice exam. In several multiple-choice questions,
explanations for why an answer is incorrect should have been more
thorough. For instance, one question asks how Microsoft Transaction
Server (MTS) allows storage and sharing of data outside of an object.
Only the correct answer (Shared Property Manager) contains an explanation.
It would be nice to know that two of the answers are completely
false. The new types of questions offer no comparison between the
user's answer and the correct answer, leaving you to wonder exactly
what part you missed. Fix these problems, and you've got an entire
70-100 exam course in a box.
If you want to pass the Solution Architectures
core exam and want something more than the usual "pass it" study
guide, this book is an excellent tool. I don't think it'll gather
much dust on my shelf.
Paul G. Brown, MCSD, a developer, speaker, and a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com, lives in New Berlin, Illinois. When not in front of the computer, he can be found chasing Jerry, Wesley, Jordan and Dillon for Mom.