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MS Exam in Your Future? Check Out Their Study Groups

When people prepare for any IT certification, I recommend taking a self-study approach for those who may be strapped for funds, with a classroom or online training based approach for those who can afford it. Either way, the run-up to the exam should also include books like those from the Exam Cram or Cert Guide series, one or more practice exams, perhaps some flash cards, and more. Another key ingredient is the focus of today's blog: a study group, which brings together a community of past, present, and future exam-takers to voice and answer questions, address concerns, talk exam strategy and so forth and so on.

Sometimes, the trickiest part of the study group element is finding a good one. There are lots of such groups out there on the Internet, but some are undoubtedly better than others. For anybody considering or pursuing a Microsoft certification exam, the company's own online study groups merit investigation and possibly even participation, at least for those who fit under its four categories, shown in the following screen capture from the "Microsoft Certification Study Groups" page at Microsoft Learning:

Four major silos match many MS certs

Here's how these various silos map to specific Microsoft certification exams, each with its own discussion forum and "Exam Prep Wiki:" For the MTA, exams 98-349 Windows OS Fundamentals, 98-365 Windows Server Administration, 98-366 Network Fundamentals, and 98-367 Security Fundamentals are covered. For the MCSA: Windows 8, both 70-687 Configuring Windows 8.1 and 70-688 Supporting Windows 8.1 are covered.

  • Windows Client Certification Study Group:
    For the MTA, exams 98-349 Windows OS Fundamentals, 98-365 Windows Server Administration, 98-366 Network Fundamentals, and 98-367 Security Fundamentals are covered. For the MCSA: Windows 8, both 70-687 Configuring Windows 8.1 and 70-688 Supporting Windows 8.1 are covered.
  • Database Certification Study Group:
    For the MCSA: SQL Server 2012, 70-461 Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012, 70-462 Administering Microsoft SQL Server, and 70-463 Implementing a Data Warehouse... are included. For MCSE: Data Platform, 70-464 Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases and 70-465 Developing Database Solutions ... get the nod. And finally, for MCSE: Business Intelligence exams 70-466 Implementing Data Models and Reports... and 70-467 Designing BI Solutions... come up.
  • The Developer Certification Study Group covers 21 exams in all, including elements from the MTA (5 exams), MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML (3 exams), MCSD: Windows Store Apps using C# (3 exams), MCSD: Web Applications (3 exams), MCSD: SharePoint Applications (4 exams), and MCSD: Application Lifecycle Management (3 exams). See the Developer Study Group page for the details.
  • The Server Certification Study Group covers 20 exams in all, including MTA, MCS, and MCSA: Windows Server 2012 elements, plus these MCSE topics: Desktop Infrastructure, Server Infrastructure, Private Cloud, Communications (Lync Server); Messaging (Exchange), and SharePoint. See the Server Study Group page for those details, too.

These Study Groups cover nearly every current Microsoft certification exam, and are well worth digging into. While the Discussion Groups will let you pose questions and obtain answers, it can be just as informative to peruse Q&A from other forum members as well. Likewise, the Exam Prep Wikis offer pointers to all kinds of information resources from Microsoft on the exam topic, including free and commercial options (don't forget to plumb the PITC pages here as well, for books, video training, practice tests, and flashcards, too).