Friday, 7 December 2012

A week with Firebrand – SQL Server 2012 Student Review | Days 4 - 7

Rowan Troy took time off each day during his accelerated and intensive seven day course to blog about his experience with Firebrand Training.You can find days 1, 2 & 3 on the following link:

Rowan successfully gained his MSCA at the end of his course.
Microsoft SQL Server 2012 - Firebrand Training
SQL Server 2012 - Firebrand Training

Day 4

So it is exam day today.  Not looking forward to it myself.  My chosen topic, which I did stupidly choose to accept, is SQL Server 2012 and particularly the DBA elements.  I set out on this course knowing I probably wouldn’t pass the exams.  This is NOT, I will add in huge bold letters, because Firebrand isn’t good enough to get me through, far from it.  It is because like with all things new, I haven’t had a chance to get real world experience with the product and you do need that.  I have knowledge of 2008 which I thought would be helpful and it has proven to be a bonus as I least can drive the main interface of SQL.  One of the pre-requisites for any Microsoft course is now to have 2 years’ experience at least.  Unfortunately 2012 has only been out since Q3 so fat chance of that!  After 3 days of material I was really confident I would score well, when I set out from home I was certain this was not going to be the case!

I went to breakfast fairly early so I could spend a few hours before our exam slot revising some key components.  When I met up with the rest of my course alumni there was a lot of nerves being thrown around and people wondering if they will pass or not.  I went in with the expectation that after 3 days of material I stand a 50/50 chance of passing.  Alas that 50/50 turned into about 5% once I sat down and read through the first ten questions!!!  It was an extremely tough cookie and unfortunately I was defeated on this occasion.  Man Vs. Exam – Exam Wins!

I have sat many Microsoft exams in my time; I think I am almost at 20 now, but this one slayed me rather harshly.  I couldn’t blame the course content, nor the training kit book as that’s fairly new.  I could only put it down to my lack of real world experience and I believe that Microsoft is making it very tough to get past their exams without that element.  It does make the certification seem a lot more real and less paper like so when you finally complete the track, you’ll have achieved something worthwhile.  Exchange 2010 was also one of those that knocked me down a peg and I have a vast amount of real world experience with it but the exam was a true master at putting me in my place.  I did pass it on the second time of asking which is what I plan to do with this SQL exam. 

I’m off to sleep early tonight so I can get some rest now that first exam is out of the way.  Who knows I may even pass it the next time but having seen the exam, I now know what I need to research.  With free resits at the moment, there is panic!!!

Signing off…

Day 5

Well I passed on my second attempt.  I went back to my room after dinner and spent a lot of time reviewing the material, spoke with my trusty DBA at work for an hour (or maybe it was two can’t quite remember) and re-read huge chunks of my training kit and a lot of MSDN pages it recommended I do.  In doing that, I was up until gone midnight and had to get up early doors to be in the exam room.  Fortunately for me Paul Templeton, who you’ll meet when you come Wyboston lakes, did me and two of my fellow alumni a huge favour in getting us into the exam room again before our course started on Day 5. 

Having seen the exam once and then having a second shot gave me a bit more confidence in passing.  I went in with the wrong attitude; that I was going to fail, and had I changed that attitude, and read what all that material the night before my first attempt, I would have probably passed it then.  Even if you think that you don’t know much, you will be surprised, as I was, with what I did know.  Take your time reading the questions, ensure you have truly understood what they are asking for.  I do sit Microsoft exams rather quickly and it has always paid off in the years gone by.  Now though I believe that due to the changes in the courses and exams and the technical difficulty within them, you really need to read the questions.  I had my thumb up against that monitor, ensuring that I read every word before I answered.

Lots of people have different techniques but I have had to adapt mine.  It takes longer to complete the exam but I am safe in the knowledge that I have read everything right.  So what I once thought was impossible, is now possible.  We continued the material for the next exam track and I only missed thirty minutes due to my re-take.  There is still a long way to go but I have at least conquered part of this course.  Onwards and upwards as they say…

Signing off….

Day 6

I had an early night last night so I feel refreshed today as we continued with the content and labs.  I still have to reiterate my comment about breakfast, that you will feel better for having just cereal and toast and not opting for the full fry up.  You really do need your brain fully engaged each day so take this as the best advice I can give you.

We have been working on T-SQL, which is something I have little knowledge of but I was actually understanding terms and syntax, much to my amazement.  I have often looked at this 'stuff' during my career and just assumed aliens wrote it and people who write it now have some sort of disposition that they want to talk in a foreign language for a living.  But it is exactly that, another language that requires definitions.  I knew this part would very tough and take a lot of reading and practice so I hope that with the hours I have put in it will pay off.

Once again it's past 2300 so time to get some sleep, second exam tomorrow and possibly the hardest of the three!

Signing off..

Day 7

Early start again to get the last minute revision of my notes and the training materials.  Exam two is sometimes the hardest but if you have never sat a Microsoft exam you'll find out that most of them are just multiple choice with drag and drops but this one actually requires you to type the answers.  The first time I have sat an exam like this and I have to admit the nerves were getting to me.

I had an early breakfast with a few of the alumni who were just as concerned with the fact we had to actually type the answers out.  We were bouncing off revision and tips off each other which does help when you have to remember so much.  Sometimes it's the conversations you have with those going through the same training and exam as you that you can actually get the answers you need.

We started the exam at around 9:30am and I used 2 hours of the 3 hours available to pass with a very reasonable score.  I was told there were 10 questions that you would have to type the answers, I completed 2 that I knew were right and the syntax was correct (according to the checker within the exam of course, albeit it doesn't like spelling).  I was certain two more were right but the syntax checker was doing its usual trick of telling me I was wrong.  I made sure I put comments on those questions to tell Prometric, the exam company, that it needs tweaking.  The rest of the questions I gave it my best shot and with all that I did get my pass.

Unfortunately I had to leave today, missing the last two days of material and the final exam to complete my MCSA.  Fortunately Firebrand, as always, were understanding and gave me my exam voucher so I can go and take the exam when I get the opportunity.  The experience, again, has been very rewarding, although my brain is absolutely stuck in the world of T-SQL and I am exhausted but I have learned so much and in such a short space of time I could never have done this anywhere else.  I want to personally thank everyone at Firebrand, including Angela for being a great trainer and Paul Templeton who I now consider 'The Don', who once again went above and beyond for me - all your hard work is very much appreciated by me and I am sure by everyone who visits.

Signing off for the final time..

Congratulations Rowan gaining your MCSA in just 7 days.