Why I am studying for SQL 2008 exams

I recently passed the Microsoft exam 70-451, earning myself the MCITP certification Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Database Developer 2008, and I’m often asked why am I actively chasing 2008 certifications especially when

  1. the SQL 2008 exams are due to retire at the end of July 2013
  2. the SQL 2012 exams are now fully available, and some would say, more relevant

To answer this, I need to take you back in time.

Let’s jump in the DeLorean

I’d never been a big fan of certifications – I’d seen too many people with long lists of certs, but who where practically useless. I couldn’t justify spending the time and money on something that seemed somewhat devalued. However I’d always said if an employer was willing to pay for training and exams, I’d gladly do them. Double standards? Absolutely!
Then about 2 years ago a chance conversation with a friend of mine revealed that he had some vouchers for MS exams, but was in a position that meant he couldn’t use them – he’d done all the exams he could! He’d offered them out to his colleagues, but had similar responses, and time was running out – they expired in about 2 weeks time. I also had entered a new phase in my career – I had gone freelance. I was now hawking my skills for a living, so professional self development was a must.

The option of taking an exam for free was too appealing, and they had second-shot options on them too, meaning a failed exam could be retaken for free. I had to move fast, as by this point both the voucher and the second-shot option expired in 10 days! Following some advice from my friend who knew my skill-set I decided to go for the 70-433 (MCTS Database Development) exam, as that was seen as being do-able with the minimum amount of preparation coupled with 12 years of actually using the product! Jumped straight onto the Prometric website, and within minutes (several – not the easiest website to navigate) had found the only availability within convenience was about 60 miles away, and tomorrow morning! Gulp. Suddenly I felt like I knew nothing, and so spent that evening trying to brush up on the areas that I had not really used in anger.

The next morning came, I travelled to the test centre, and sat down to do my first ever Microsoft exam. Another candidate in the room was obviously a seasoned pro at this and was finished in about 40 minutes, whilst I was sat trying to decipher what the question was trying to ask (if you’ve done the exams you’ll know what I mean). 30 minutes later I finished and waited for what seemed like an eternity as the PC processed the end of my exam….FAILED! Not by much, but enough. I’d come unstuck on the questions about features that I just hadn’t ever used, or the ones where I’d automatically look to BOL to get the answer. Sadly I never got the chance to resit the exam under the second-shot offer, however it had cost me nothing, I was now armed with the knowledge of what to brush up on, and had seen what the exams felt like!

Picking up the pieces

I could have left it there, but pride got the better of me, and I wanted to beat this exam that thought it had beaten me! It took me a while to rebook the exam, but I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared, especially as this time I WAS paying for it myself! 8 months later I was prepared and smashed the exam with a score of 940!

I was now the proud owner of an MCTS certification, and what’s more, keen to work towards more certs. I had become hooked. At this time the SQL2012 exams where out in beta, and Microsoft offered a deal whereby if you completed an existing exam (in my case a SQL 2008 exam) you would get a voucher for a free SQL 2012 exam. So 5 months later I sat and passed my second exam, 70-432 (MCTS: Implementation and Maintenance).

But Kev, why you living in the past?

By now the SQL2012 exams had been officially released, and this is when the questions started as to why I was pursuing 2008 and not 2012. I have continued to strive towards the 2008 certs, and am considering going for the 70-450 (for MCITP:Database Administrator 2008)  for a number of reasons.

  1. Relevance : As a freelancer I work with a number of clients, using all kinds of versions and editions of SQL Server from 2000 to 2012, the majority NOT being 2012, so a certification that aligns with my target audience is a good thing, right? The 2008 certs won’t expire, they simply become legacy certs, but you won’t be able to sit the exams after July 2013. The 2012 ones do expire, and will require you to resit after 3 years, however I’m guessing that by then (2015/2016) there will be a new version of SQL on the horizon. Plus, there’s a lot of content in the new exams that is core SQL stuff (querying, table design, index strategy etc) and hasn’t really changed that much over the last few versions.
  2. Ease of preparation : As you would expect, there are many more training materials available for the 2008 exams than the 2012 ones, so it’s easier to do self-taught training using books, videos, tutorials etc.
  3. Ease of upgrade : I do fully intend to persue the 2012 certifications (MCSA and MCSE), however having invested time and effort into the 2008 ones, it is worth continuing as the path to upgrade is slightly shorter, and hence cheaper, than the path to start again. If you have an MCTS, you can gain the MCSA by completing 2 upgrade exams, 70-457 and 70-458, and if you have an MCITP, then it’s just 3, 70-457, 70-458 and 70-459 to the MCSE. Starting afresh MCSA requires 3 exams, 70-461, 70-462 and 70-463; and MCSE requires 5, 70-461, 70-462, 70-463, 70-464, 70-465. So it’s no quicker or cheaper (still 5 exams in total to MCSE), but you may as well take the path of least resistance!

Keep moving forward

So what does the future hold? I’ve got 3 months left to get my MCITP:DBA 2008, and with the second-shot vouchers still available, it’s kind of an insurance policy against failure. However gaining another MCITP doesn’t help any way towards the path to 2012 certs for me, it’s just a desire to try and get the full house of 2008 certs (excluding MCM – I’m nowhere near ready for that). And I’ve got 2 months left to use the free 2012 voucher I got when I sat the 70-432.

Hopefully I can squeeze both in.


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