SharePoint MCSE

Before I jump into the good stuff, allow me to provide some background info on why you’re reading this. I decided last year that I would go for MCSE: SharePoint (2013), as I’ve been completely bypassing Microsoft certifications for many years. Most IT Pros have similar reasons for avoiding the MS certs as I did, so I won’t bore you with the details. In short, more credence has been placed on 3rd party product/technology certifications in my industry, therefore I haven’t even really seriously considered an MS cert since I was taking the ancient MCSA 2000 courses! I have two reasons for pursuing the cert at this time. One, I’d like to help my employer maintain a silver or gold competency. Two, I’ve been working with and evangelizing on Microsoft SharePoint technology for many years, so why not just pass the exams? After all, I know all this stuff! Or do I?

If you’re familiar with Microsoft certifications, the aforementioned MCSE moniker should be pretty familiar to you. What may not be familiar, is that there is an MCSE certification specifically for SharePoint. This new certification is part of a larger effort by Microsoft to create more focused certifications based on core competencies. The new MCSE certifications are also a bit more simplified to understand, as the prerequisite is essentially the relevant MCSA certification. Before I go any further, it’s important to note that MCSE is no longer called Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. It’s called Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert. MCSA has also been changed, swapping out Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate. These naming conventions more accurately describe the competency gained after completion.

The below list summarizes all exams required to get the MCSE: SharePoint certification. You need to pass all five exams below to gain the MCSE: SharePoint certification. After passing the first three exams below, you will have achieved MCSA for Windows Server 2012.

MCSA Prereq Exams:

MCSE: SharePoint Prereq Exams:

The purpose of this post is to shed some light on passing the first exam, 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012. I’ve used some awesome study resources as well as some not-so awesome ones, which will hopefully allow me to provide you with some tangible tips for successfully passing the exam. Before I go any further, I just want to say that I in no way recommend nor condone the sole use of brain dumps for quickly passing these exams. Are they free and readily available? Yes! Will you actually learn something and prove your skills by using them? Probably not. Save yourself and your company the embarrassment of finding out that you really don’t know the material by dedicating some time to learning it. Ok, enough pep talk.

Microsoft has begun incorporating Windows Server 2012 R2 questions into the exam. The fundamentals are the same as previous iterations, but you should understand what’s new in 2012 R2 before taking the exam. Read more

Study Resources:

    • Study Guide – Unfortunately I didn’t find a suitable study guide that I really liked, so I would recommend using the beastly Windows Server 2012 Inside Out book. It clocks in at over 1,500 pages, and it literally has everything you need to know about Windows Server 2012. Sure it’s overkill, but you can use this for all the MCSA exams and as a general desk reference. If you’re still interested in a true study guide for this exam, there are two somewhat decent ones out there. See them here and here. Just be forewarned that some readers have pointed out inconsistencies and flat out errors in those two guides.
    • CBT Nuggets – If you’re serious about learning the material and passing the exam, then I highly recommend these videos. CBT Nuggets has been providing these great learning videos for a very long time, and they nailed it with the new videos for 70-410. The trainer, James Conrad, is very engaging and you won’t regret spending some time with them. If you watched everything, you’d be committing 16 hours of your time. In my opinion, this is time well spent.
    • Practice Exams – Don’t walk into the test center without having at least one go at a practice exam. There are so many practice exam providers out there, that it can be difficult to get an idea of which provider is the best. One key thing to look for is whether or not the provider will guarantee that you pass your exam. This at least gives you added value, so you can get your money back under certain circumstances, assuming that you didn’t pass the exam on the first take. I am a fan of Transcender, and I would recommend starting there. You can also try MeasureUp and Boson.

Below is a list of notable topics to be aware of. As someone who hasn’t been in a general Windows Server admin role for quite some time, I found the need to really brush up on topics like these before taking the exam.

    • New GUI Features – It’s important to know the key differences available in Windows Server 2012 in regards to the server graphical shell, and how that relates to the Core edition of Windows Server 2012.
    • PowerShell – If you’re a SharePoint admin, PowerShell should not be new to you. But it may very well be new to you for general Windows Server administrative tasks. PowerShell is fully integrated now, and you need to begin learning how to use PowerShell cmdlets for general tasks like managing AD objects or adding/removing Windows features.
    • Active Directory – One of the big topics of this exam is understanding the fundamentals of Active Directory. If you’ve been in technology for years, I’m sure you know a lot of about AD. The problem is answering the basic questions that are often taken for granted like how to automate user accounts and knowing the relationships between users, groups and OUs.
    • Group Policy – As with Active Directory, Group Policy is a really important facet of Windows Server 2012. Know how GPOs are created and linked, as well as how templates can be used to expedite the creation of GPOs.
    • IPv4 Subnetting – Unfortunately, you need to be pretty familiar with IPv4 subnets. Some of this is straight memorization to be honest, but you need to be aware of the fundamentals. Things that you need to know are the basics of communication on different subnets as well as the amount of IP addresses per subnet.
    • IPv6 – Yes, it’s time that you deal with that hole in your IT knowledge called IPv6. If you’re watching the CBT Nuggets videos, then there’s a great video dedicated to this subject that walks you through the basics of IPv6, as well as some key areas that you should know for the exam. You will no longer have anything to fear when you see that long string of letters, numbers and colons when running an ipconfig /all!
    • Managing VMs with Hyper-V – Familiarize yourself with the various settings that are available for hosting virtual machines with Hyper-V. Understand the functionality available to you in Hyper-V as it applies to managing different types of virtual environments. You should create a few VMs with different settings, so that you know exactly how the various settings affect the virtual environment. Understand exactly where to configure specific settings like resource metering and NUMA, as well as what they do.
    • Printer Management – Don’t ask me why, but Microsoft really wants to make sure you get printer management. Read up on printer pooling and branch office direct printing.

If you’re thinking about taking the 70-410 exam, I hope this information has been useful to you. I can’t stress enough how important it is to really prepare for this exam and NOT rely solely on brain dumps to quickly pass the exam. By learning the material properly and passing the exam confidently, you will greatly enhance your marketability to your current and future employers.

Watch this space for upcoming posts on passing the other exams required for MCSE: SharePoint. If you’ve already passed the exam and would like to share your tips, feel free to post them below.

**7/8/13 Update** Microsoft recently announced planned updates to the exams for the upcoming Windows Server 2012 R2 release. Read more here.