Jeff Pries

Business Intelligence, SQL Server, and other assorted IT miscellany

Month: September 2016

Microsoft Certifications and Beta Exam 70-768 First Impressions

successfailsignRecently, I had the opportunity to participate in the beta period for the new Microsoft 70-768, “Developing SQL Data Models” exam.  As part of the development process for new exams, Microsoft periodically offers invitations to take a beta version of the exam free of charge.  Passing an exam while in the beta period results in passing the test officially when it is released.  However, there are a few catches to this.  The first of which is that these betas are designed to be taken by people who already have knowledge of a subject and work with it on a regular basis.  Since the exam is brand new, there are no official study materials to study, and there is typically a short window of time between the announcement and close of the beta period, so there isn’t a lot of time to prepare.  These exams also aren’t for those that feel the need for instant gratification, as it may take a month or longer to receive score results to ultimately find out if you passed or failed.  But, the wait is for a good cause as the beta exams are used to determine the final versions of the exam as well as passing scores, which must be completed before the beta exams can the go through the scoring process to be officially scored.

For those interested in taking a beta exam and qualified to do so, I’ve found that Microsoft usually announces the availability of a limited number of seats via the Born to Learn blog which are available until the allocated number of exams are scheduled.  For this last batch of SQL Server beta exams, 300 seats were made available for each exam.  This may sound like a lot, but this is worldwide, so you have to act fast.  I’ve found that if you don’t act within the first day or maybe two of the announcement, you will probably be too late.  Once announced, you typically have to have the exam scheduled in a proctored environment within around a month of the announcement.

Like all Microsoft certification exams, the beta exams are covered by an NDA protecting the exam content, so I won’t go into exam specifics, but I do have a few general thoughts about the exam and process.  It is interesting to see how the Microsoft exams in general have changed and matured over the years.

  • I’d classify this exam as “tough, but fair” with a heavy amount of reading.  I underestimated the amount of reading, and was thoroughly exhausted at the conclusion of the exam.
  • Due to the length of the questions and answers, and re-reading questions and answers, I used almost all of my time allocated for the exam.
  • The published Exam Objectives were very representative of the exam content (shockingly so) and make a very good framework for preparing for the exam.
  • How an exam is scored is always a black box, but some questions do make mention of how they award partial credit, such as “1 point per part of correct answer” which I found to be a welcome change — nice to know for sure that partial credit is at least possible in some cases.
  • The test engine itself is new since the last time I took an exam and seemed to work well with one exception.  An exam may be made up of a combination of “reviewable” questions in which you can go back and “non-reviewable” questions in which you cannot go back.  I’m sure there’s an intelligent reason for this.  The way the engine handled this, however, is to go through the reviewable questions first, then allow for the standard review and change process, then proceed to the non-reviewable questions with the remaining time — only it really didn’t do a good job of explaining this process.  Instead, I saw the question count, such as “50 out of 60,” hit next, then it proceeded to the review screen, which I thought was a glitch in the question count, no big deal…so I spent a bit too much time reviewing, only to have it launch into the next set of questions with not much time remaining once I finished review.  It’d work a bit better if the non-reviewable questions came first or it gave a can’t-miss screen of explanation to allow for better budgeting of time.
  • The question types are made available here .  Not all types will necessarily be present in all exams and the Build List is definitely a type to be very familiar with, as it seems quite popular.



I’m currently eagerly awaiting my results, and probably will be still for some time as the beta period has just closed.  Should I not pass, I look forward to attempting it again, possibly in the new online proctored format, which I’m curious to try out.


SQL Saturday Roundup: #560 – Charlotte, NC

SQL Saturday 560 - Charlotte, NCThis past Saturday marked Charlotte’s 5th consecutive SQL Saturday event, and my 4th in Charlotte (I missed last year’s due to a scheduling conflict) — SQL Saturday # 560.  Also fun, this happened to mark the 20th SQL Saturday that I attended over the past few years — a pretty cool achievement!

As a change to this year over previous years, this year SQL Saturday Charlotte offered 2 all-day precons on Friday, both of which would sell out.  With a “go big or go home” type attitude, they made life very difficult and forced me to choose between two incredible spears and presentations:  Adam Machanic’s (B | T) “Tuning Your Biggest Queries” and Jen Underwood’s (B | T) “Advanced Analytics”  With two fantastic speakers to choose from, each with a great, and relevant, session, I had some decisions to make.

After an easy drive from north Atlanta to Charlotte after work on Thursday, I headed out bright and early Friday morning to attend Jen Underwood’s (B | T)  “Advanced Analytics”  The precons were held in an off-campus location, the Ballantyne Center, which worked out to be a pretty decent venue.  Adam’s precon was held in a standard classroom and Jen’s precon was held in a computer lab, which provided each person a computer with a solid network connection and the ability to follow along with the presentation slides and run the lab exercises locally.

Jen Underwood presenting Advanced Analytics

Jen Underwood presenting Advanced Analytics

Jen’s Analytics precon was an excellent session and a great introduction to the topic.  The topic is far too deep to cover in a single day session, but Jen did a good job of hitting the highlights and getting people introduced to the material and inspired by the possibilities of the subject with plenty of resources for further learning.  This was certainly time well spent!

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