How I passed 70-417

Hot on the heels of writing about How I passed 70-480 I decided to start studying for the exam 70-417 – Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012. This was probably the most difficult exam i’ve approached for quite some time having historically been a SharePoint developer first, a SharePoint administrator second and a Windows administrator a very distant third. So maybe it’s just me, but this exam was hard. It doesn’t help that if you fail any one of the 3 sub-sections to the exam, you’ll fail the lot. I was lucky to scrape by with one of my scores barely making the cut, even if the other 2 scores were much better.

But before I get into the details of how I passed 70-417, I want to comment a little about my overall thoughts of the exam, or more particularly the suitability for it to exist as part of the SharePoint 2013 administration certification stream. Feel free to skip this rant and find the ‘Resources I used for 70-417′ heading to cut to the chase.

My thoughts about 70-417 for a SharePoint certification

So I could only make wild presumptions in regards to why we now have to complete these pre-requisites to gain the overall certification. The cynic in me would suggest its a convenient way to increase the amount of course and exam fees they’ll rake in from this decision. The realist in me would appreciate that for anyone to be certified in SharePoint (and for that certification to mean something) they probably need a broader skillset than the specifics required for the 2007-2010 certification streams. Having pre-requisites are a reasonable way to demonstrate that.

The problem I have though is with the MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010 certification being a valid pre-requisite for 70-417 and then that being the basis for showing the required level of knowledge for a SharePoint Administrator qualification.

Point 1: I wasn’t upgrading my knowledge at all. I was learning the majority of this from scratch. Now I would NOT have been happy if I had to essentially become a certified Windows administrator as a pre-requisite to becoming a certified SharePoint administrator (that is, completing all 3 individual exams which make up 70-417 – costing over $600 just to sit them in the process) but i’m not sure this was the right compromise.

Point 2: I’ve now essentially demonstrated that I know a bit about the new features of Server 2012 and how this has changed from previous Server versions. While this knowledge was interesting, it was not all particularly relevant to being the best SharePoint administrator I could be.

Point 3: I still feel like I have a lot to learn. I feel my study could have been far more productive if it was more specifically focussed on content which was more relevant.

What would I have liked to have seen? I think rather than taking the easy (lazy) option of having us do 70-417, they should have created a SharePoint-specific exam which could truely prove the candidate had the required Windows administrator skillset most relevant to being a SharePoint administrator. This would not necessarily have been upgraded skills, because i’d suggest a number of people would have been in my boat – had the SharePoint knowledge and perhaps experience without ever really having to dive into the Windows administrator world (most teams I’ve been involved in have already had these specific team members).

Anyway that’s probably enough of that, on to the good stuff!

Resources I used for 70-417

It seems every exam I do these days I take a different study path. For this one, because I wasn’t at all confident with the material, I invested a fair amount of time (easily over 40 hours). I watched some study videos again after having some success with that method when I passed 70-668 (although I now have learnt the time-saving capabilities of playing videos at 1.8x speed in VLC player!). The video resources i’m aware of include Pluralsight’s Windows Server category (which includes videos for the individual exams 410, 411 & 412), CBT Nugget’s more targeted 70-417 Upgrading Skills to Server 2012 and Channel 9’s Exam Prep’s for 70-410/70-417, 70-411/70-417 and 70-412/70-417. There are also Jump Start videos at Windows Server 2012 Upgrade Jump Start.

I also for the first time read one of Microsoft Publishing’s exam references Exam Ref 70-417: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012. To be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t had read this book, I probably would have failed. I would perhaps only read them in these circumstances in the future where I wasn’t at all comfortable with the content, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the option.

I also read a tonne of TechNet and other articles relating to topics I still wasn’t particularly comfortable with, however I didn’t do this in my usual structured way – more so via search engines. But that’s not particularly helpful to you, so I’d suggest checking out Enduria’s Preparation resources for the exam 70-417 for individually linked TechNet articles.

The final resources I believe are worth referencing are Vlad Catrinescu’s I passed 70-417, MCSA Windows Server 2012! and Free Windows Server 2012 Learning Material & Resources! Part 1 and Keith Mayer’s “Early Experts” Challenge – Apprentice Quest. All 3 posts are worth reading through and link to some decent resources for this exam.

To wrap things up i’d have to say my overall feeling is one of relief – relief that I passed and can finally put this lot behind me and get back into learning about SharePoint more specifically. My experience wasn’t as negative as Patrick Kremer’s MCSA 2012 upgrade exam experience – MS 70-417 but I can see where he’s come from and to an extent I agree about the value of this certification, if perhaps for different reasons. I wouldn’t say don’t bother though – chances are you want that MSCE SharePoint Certification and this one is a means to an end. It did have some value, but there’s room for improvement. I believe Microsoft have the right idea including a wider range of topics for an overall SharePoint certification, but I hope they change the way they go about certifying it.

Good luck!

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2 Responses to How I passed 70-417

  1. JA says:

    “invested a fair amount of time (easily over 40 hours)” !

    That is unbelievably fast! At least for me. My average time that I have spent with MCP’s and MCTS’s is approx. 4-5 months per exam. I guess that reading speed is one thing that explains things. My english is not too good either as i’m not native english speaker.

    70-299 took whole year and I read book about it almost three times, prepared myself with practice test so much that I eventually learned all Q’s and A’s and I even watched CBT nuggets video lectures…

    Another test that took whole year was earlier upgrade test from MCSE to MCITP: EA.
    Now I know what is coming with upgrade exam this time -and I don’t expect myself to progress any faster… :P

    BTW. Thanks for listing your resources, there was many that I haven’t heard before.
    Though I had already decided to buy that same “Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012″ By J.C. Mackin.
    I’m glad to know that it is not gonna be disappointment!

    Besides of that I have already watched jump start videos and some AD stuff. Like this great lecture from Dean Wells :

    https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2012/SIA312

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks for sharing your link JA. I guess the time taken feeling like a lot is in comparison to previous exams i’ve taken – all these newer ones i’m finding are taking as long as each other to prepare for, and the difficulty of the exams seems harder than in the past. Probably a good thing – makes it mean that much more! Good luck for when you decide to sit it!

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