Professional certifications can go a long way toward helping IT professionals achieve their career goals. Given the current state of the economy, however, certifications might be more difficult to obtain than ever. It isn’t that the exams have become any more difficult than they were a year or two ago, but rather the fact that when times get tough, corporate training budgets are often the first thing to go. As such, IT professionals may be forced to take their careers into their own hands.
Unfortunately, there is no way that I know of to get a Microsoft certification for free. Even if you know the material inside and out, you still have to pay to take the certification exam. Exam prices can vary, but the average price of an MCTS exam is $125.
Even though you can’t get certified for free, you can greatly reduce the overall cost of getting certified by looking for free training materials. Although it might be difficult to find everything that you need in one place, it beats shelling out a couple thousand dollars of your own money to attend a training class.
You can find a tremendous wealth of free information online. Unfortunately though, the technical information that you get online may or may not be accurate. I don’t mind telling you that this is one lesson that I have learned the hard way. As such, it is imperative that you only get study information from reputable websites.
If you are going to use the Internet as your basis for getting certified, I recommend that you start out by going to the Microsoft Training Catalog. This page allows you to search Microsoft’s training catalog for various exams. Once you locate the page for the exam that you are planning to take, check out the exam objectives.
Microsoft provides a very detailed list of the objectives for each exam. This list even discloses specific topics that fall within various exam objectives. If you have a good working knowledge of each of the specified topics, you should have no trouble passing the exam. Of course if you haven’t taken a formal training class, there are likely to be many exam topics for which you are going to need some help.
Once you have identified those topics that you will need to study for, take a look around the TechNet Library. The TechNet Library contains detailed technical articles on almost every Microsoft product.
Does the TechNet Library contain enough information that you could use it to pass an exam? Probably. Is the TechNet Library a perfect study companion? Unfortunately, no.
From a technical standpoint, the TechNet Library is probably your best source for free information. The information found within the library is quite accurate. On rare occasions I have found technical errors in the TechNet Library, but those errors have been few and far between.
The problem with the TechNet Library is that it was never intended to be a study guide. As such, it can sometimes be difficult to locate the information that you need. One hint that I will give you, however, is that if you have trouble finding a topic within the TechNet library, try doing a Google search. Enter the word Microsoft into the search box, followed by the topic that you are having trouble finding. The first result will often be an article within the TechNet Library.
Another issue with the TechNet Library is that it includes far more information than what is usually required to pass an exam. In other words, if you study the TechNet library, you will probably learn everything that you need for passing the exam and a great deal more. However, that may not be desirable, if your goal is to learn just enough to pass the exam.
Finally, you may occasionally find gaps in the TechNet Library. Last week for instance, I needed to research a particular topic and found that the TechNet article on the topic was still being written.