Jun 16

When I prepared for my Visual Studio 6 MCSD, first thing I did was to collate the resources necessary to ensure a pass. That meant reading the CramSession study guides and doing Transcender practice exams the weekend before the exam. In fact, if my employer at the time hadn’t  insisted on (and paid for) my getting my MCSD in short-order; I probably wouldn’t have taken the exams otherwise.

I’m not going to take a hugely different approach this time either, except that I’ve looked at Cram4Exams. On brain-dump sites, but primarily the large number of ‘recent live exam question’ pay sites that seem to have sprung up since I did my MCSD, there is expressed a common view that the best way to pass an exam is to memorise all the answers before sitting it. While it’s certainly true that this strategy will provide a pass, I don’t think it does the developer, their (potential) employer or the certification any favours. At interviews for a C#.NET developer contract at a client, there were several early-adopter MCAD holders, and I suppose the certification was a key consideration in getting them an interview.

The standard of these applicants at interview was truly appalling, possibly because there was no brain-bump for the questions we asked, and none of the MCADs got the job. Simple OO questions, such as “what’s the difference between an abstract and virtual method” drew hesitation, shallow and evasive responses. Now, let’s be clear, I’m not implying I think this is somehow something to do with brain-dumps. I don’t think it is – its the individual’s approach to certification. Cram4Exams has a number of discussions that take brain-dump question and answers and attempt to provide explanations as to which is correct and why the other options are wrong (aka Transcender). And in my opinion that’s A Good Thing.

Like brain-dumps, Transcender exams have an uncanny resemblance to the real things – a fair number of questions from my MCSD exams evoked more than a sense of deja-vu, I admit. What is important though, is understanding why the answer is the correct one – and Transcender does a good job of explaining this, as do some of the inadvertent ‘threads’ on Cram4Exams and the like (which, btw, are set up as single-threaded message uploads rather than the discussion forums they should be).

Experience alone will not help in passing these exams. Preparation is necessary. It’s important to remember that these are part of a vendor certification programme. They are product based – and the exams will, unsurprisingly, have more to do with the product and the vendor’s proscriptive approaches than, say, being a good developer. Had I gone in and sat my Visual Studio 6 MCSD exams without preparation, I doubt I’d have passed them, even though I was an experienced senior developer and VS beta tester at the time.

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