I took the SQL 2008 MCM Knowledge exam while in Seattle for the PASS Summit ten days ago.
I wasn't planning to do it, but I got persuaded to try. I was meaning to write this post to explain myself before the result came out, but it seems I didn't get typing quickly enough.
Those of you who know me will know I'm a big fan of certification, to a point. I've been involved with Microsoft Learning to help create exams. I've kept my certifications current since I first took an exam back in 1998, sitting many in beta, across quite a variety of topics. I've probably become quite good at them – I know I've definitely passed some that I really should've failed.
I've also written that I don't think exams are worth studying for.
(That's probably not entirely true, but it depends on your motivation. If you're doing learning, I would encourage you to focus on what you need to know to do your job better. That will help you pass an exam – but the two skills are very different. I can coach someone on how to pass an exam, but that's a different kind of teaching when compared to coaching someone about how to do a job. For example, the real world includes a lot of "it depends", where you develop a feel for what the influencing factors might be. In an exam, its better to be able to know some of the "Don't use this technology if XYZ is true" concepts better.)
As for the Microsoft Certified Master certification… I'm not opposed to the idea of having the MCM (or in the future, MCSM) cert. But the barrier to entry feels quite high for me. When it was first introduced, the nearest testing centres to me were in Kuala Lumpur and Manila. Now there's one in Perth, but that's still a big effort. I know there are options in the US – such as one about an hour's drive away from downtown Seattle, but it all just seems too hard. Plus, these exams are more expensive, and all up – I wasn't sure I wanted to try them, particularly with the fact that I don't like to study.
I used to study for exams. It would drive my wife crazy. I'd have some exam scheduled for some time in the future (like the time I had two booked for two consecutive days at TechEd Australia 2005), and I'd make sure I was ready. Every waking moment would be spent pouring over exam material, and it wasn't healthy. I got shaken out of that, though, when I ended up taking four exams in those two days in 2005 and passed them all. I also worked out that if I had a Second Shot available, then failing wasn't a bad thing at all. Even without Second Shot, I'm much more okay about failing. But even just trying an MCM exam is a big effort. I wouldn't want to fail one of them.
Plus there's the illusion to maintain. People have told me for a long time that I should just take the MCM exams – that I'd pass no problem. I've never been so sure. It was almost becoming a pride-point. Perhaps I should fail just to demonstrate that I can fail these things.
Anyway – boB Taylor (@sqlboBT) persuaded me to try the SQL 2008 MCM Knowledge exam at the PASS Summit. They set up a testing centre in one of the room there, so it wasn't out of my way at all. I had to squeeze it in between other commitments, and I certainly didn't have time to even see what was on the syllabus, let alone study. In fact, I was so exhausted from the week that I fell asleep at least once (just for a moment though) during the actual exam. Perhaps the questions need more jokes, I'm not sure.
I knew if I failed, then I might disappoint some people, but that I wouldn't've spent a great deal of effort in trying to pass. On the other hand, if I did pass I'd then be under pressure to investigate the MCM Lab exam, which can be taken remotely (therefore, a much smaller amount of effort to make happen). In some ways, passing could end up just putting a bunch more pressure on me.