Tag: mcsd


Azure Certification: Where to Start? 2016 Edition

The choice of choosing which certification to obtain can be a tricky one, especially if you’ve never studied for or taken a Microsoft Certification exam before. It can also be daunting if you don’t know anyone else who has done it either. You shouldn’t let this discourage you. It may be a bit confusing, but it’s actually not all that complicated. This article outlines some of the specifics in what certification you might want to target for your specific skills or interest, as well as some tips to help on your way to getting Microsoft Certified in Microsoft Azure.

What Azure Certifications are there?

Microsoft recently announced a complete revamp of the Microsoft Certified Professional program creating 5 new MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) certifications. While these MCSD and MCSE are the “big” certifications that require passing multiple exams to obtain, there are some alternatives that only require passing 1 or 2 exams.

Here’s a list of the specific Microsoft Certifications that include 1 or more exams that cover Microsoft Azure. The list starts with the “easier” certifications that only require 1 exam to get, then it moves to certifications that require 2 or more exams to get.

The certifications above really to work on a progression where they build on each other. You take 1 exam, possibly get one of the MS certifications, then take a second exam to get an MCSA, then take the third exam to build up to an MCSE or MCSD! The additive nature of the new certification structure is awesome!

The additive nature of the new Microsoft Certification structure is awesome!

There are also a few MCSA certifications that provide foundations for the bigger MCSE and MCSD certifications that don’t specifically cover an Azure exam that are worth noting. These let you target a specific specialty, while build an MCSD or MCSE on top of them by passing a more Azure focused exam.

  • 2 Exams Required
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Web App
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Universal Windows Platform
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Windows Server 2016
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Windows Server 2012
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL Server 2012 / 2014
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL 2016 Database Development
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL 2016 Database Administration
    • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL 2016 BI Development

The new certification landscape has the Microsoft Azure cloud focused exams much more interwoven within the various Microsoft Certifications. There is now a pretty diverse set of Microsoft Certifications that include Microsoft Azure skills.. You no longer have just 2 choices (an MS or MCSD) when getting a certification that includes Microsoft Azure skills.

Microsoft Certification Roadmap

At first read the above list of certifications can be a bit confusing or even overwhelming. An image to lay out the specifics can really help out, so the below image provides a nice visual representation.


Each horizontal track in the image is a very specific expertise category / area. Most of these areas offer multiple options of MCSA (2 exam certifications) to start with. Then each one has a single exam path in order to build on from the MCSA certification into either an MCSD or MCSE, depending on the specific skills area.

One note about the image that will help in reading it is to look at the white dots along the colored tracks. Each dot represents a single exam, then the star represents an MCSA certification that is achieved after passing those exams. Finally, after passing a chosen elective exam the MCSA is built on to obtain a full MCSE or MCSD certification.

Attribution: This roadmap image was originally posted on the Born to Learn site.

Certification Renewals

It takes a lot of work and can take a significant amount of time to pass certain Microsoft certification exams. The amount of time and work all varies depending on the individual. Once you do finally achieve that Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification it will stay “active” until Microsoft decides to retire it. This generally doesn’t happen for a few years.

Just as your technical expertise and skills evolve over time, the Microsoft Certifications are setup to evolve along with you. For this reason, the MCSD and MCSE certifications stay current for 1 year after achieving them. Then, you can take 1 elective exam each year to keep your certification current and renewed for the following year. This allows you to show growth year over year and adapt your knowledge / skills to the ever changing technology landscape.

Instead of taking one “renewal” exam that include topics from multiple exams with update content, or requiring you to take multiple separate exams to earn a new MCSD or MCSE, the new certification structure allows you to take just 1 Elective Exam to renew and stay current. As your skills evolve over time and flow along with the pulse of the industry, you can take your choice of elective exam that fits what you need. You not only tailor your MCSD or MCSE more personally to you, but when you renew the certification each year you still have the option to keep your certification personalized to your skills.

You not only tailor your MCSD or MCSE more personally to you, but when you renew the certification each year you still have the option to keep your certification personalized to your skills.

As an example, when you’ve obtained the MCSE or MCSD certifications you have a list of up to 10 elective exams (depending on the particular MCSD or MCSE) to choose from when renewing your certification. This is a tremendous different from only a single choice of renewal exam that old MCSE or MCSD certifications have offered in the past.

Where are Study Materials?

There are many videos, articles, books and other materials available to use for studying for Microsoft certification exams. The details page for each specific exam on the Microsoft Learning site contains the list of objectives covered on the exam as well as links to books and practice exams that can be used to study.

Before I give you a big list of study materials, first here’s a list of blog posts I’ve previously published outlining the various study materials I’ve personally used to study for a couple of the Microsoft Azure Certification exams:

Here’s a list of some generally useful resources that can be used to study for certification exams and generally learn about Microsoft Azure. These resources are ALL FREE!

Here are some Exam Reference books from Microsoft Press that specifically target objectives for individual exams:

In addition to videos, articles, books, etc., it can be very useful to utilize Practice Exams. There are a couple different practice exam vendors that offer these. A couple of these vendors are MeasureUp and MindHub. Personally, I’ve used MeasureUp, but I’ve seen MindHub linked to from the Microsoft Certification site as well.

Speaking of Practice Exams; here’s a link to a Free, Open Source project I created while studying for the Azure developer exam that contains many practice test questions on the exam objectives for the Microsoft Azure developer (70-532) exam:

An important study note to be aware of is to stay clear of “brain dumps.” As I’ve outlined previous, brain dumps are cheating and violate the terms you agree to in order to take a Microsoft Certification exam.

In addition to all the free resources available and the exam reference books are training courses from online course providers too. Here’s a couple of the vendors that offer paid Azure video training courses:

There are many more vendors and resources available. The above lists are hardly encompassing, but hopefully the give you plenty of places to start.

How to take an exam?

Once you’ve studied and feel you’re ready to take a certification exam, you must then register for the exam. The exam information pages on the Microsoft Certification site for each of the exams offered contains a “Schedule exam” button. Just click this button and it’ll take you through the process of picking a date and time to take the exam.

Currently, each Microsoft Certification exam costs $165 USD to take; whether you pass or not.

There are 2 options for taking Microsoft certification exams. The main on is to physically take it at a testing center. However, if you have an isolated space you can elect to take certification exams from home (or really anywhere else) as well, or Online Proctored.

The online proctored delivery method of taking Microsoft Certification exams may not be available for all exams offered. When available it can offer a much higher level of convenience; especially if you live a considerable distance from the closest testing center. The below link contains requirements and other information necessary about the online proctored exam deliver option:


Exam Retakes!

microsoft_certification_boosterpackEveryone fails an exam from time to time. There can be many reasons, from not studying enough, not being quite ready enough, to just taking the exam to see if you can pass without first studying. There are MANY reasons you may fail an exam. Don’t let this discourage you from studying more and trying again!

Since it’s common for people to fail a Microsoft Certification exam from time to time, you are allowed to retake the exam again. However, you do need to pay the exam fee again for each time you attempt an exam. For this reason, Microsoft offers Booster Packs that give you a discount on exam retakes. A couple of the Booster Pack options even include a Practice Test to help studying!

Please post your own Microsoft Certification experiences in the comments. Also, don’t be afraid to post questions too. I’m always happy to help!

Happy studying!


MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure Certification

mcse_cloud_platform_and_infrastructure_certThere are a total of 5 Azure specific certification exams available from Microsoft currently. If you pass each of these individually you will earn a Microsoft Specialist certification for the topic/skills area the exam covers. Also, until this week if you took the 3 Azure Solutions exams you would earn the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect. Well, the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification is being retired, and instead replaced with an entirely new redesigned and restructured set of 5 MCSD and MCSE certifications. There are many changes afoot in the Microsoft Certification realm, so if you were targeting to obtain the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification you might be wondering, “What do I do now?” What ever you decide, don’t stop studying! See it through because the exams are still here, along with a clear path to proving those hard earned skills!

On the path to earning the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification an MCSA certification will first be earned.

The MCSA Foundation

On the path to earning the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification an MCSA certification will first be earned. It’s really good to have a milestone along the way, instead of having to pass a ton of exams before claiming any single certification title / credential. Additionally, instead of just a single MCSA to earn first before the MCSE, there are 4 tracks to choose from based on your unique combination of expertise and interests.

Here’s the list of the 4 MCSA certifications and the exams you need to pass to achieve them:

As you can see the MCSA Foundations for the new MCSE, while they require you to pass either 2 or 3 exams depending on the track, offer a pretty wide range of expertise paths to follow! Anywhere from Azure/Cloud only, to Windows Server 2016 or 2012, to the MCSA: Linux on Azure that is a mixture of Azure and Linux!

The New MCSE

mcse_cloudplatform_certificateOnce an qualifying MCSA certification (as listed above) is earned, the next path is to pass only 1 more exam to earn the full MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification! And, the best part, is you get to choose from a fairly long list of exams to make that happen.

Here’s the current list of Elective exam options to grow that MCSA certification into a brand new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification:

Even if you chose to focus on Windows Server 2012 or 2016 with the MCSA you earned, it’s very likely you will be mixing in some Azure / Cloud expertise and learning with the elective exam you choose to take for upgrading to the MCSE. Unless of course you go with the “Securing Windows Server 2016”, but that exam isn’t available yet so we don’t fully know what Azure / Cloud stuff might be on it; I’m guessing there’ll at least be a bunch of Private Cloud stuff given the direction that Microsoft is taking even on-premises Windows Server.

Once an qualifying MCSA certification (as listed above) is earned, the next path is to pass only 1 more exam to earn the full MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification!


If you followed along the paths above for MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, you may have notices the 5 Azure specific exams, in particular the Developer 70-532, Infrastructure 70-533, and Architect 70-534 exams, and how if you pass all three you will now earn the new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification instead of the old MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification that will soon be retired.

The new MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure path replacement for the old MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect with the exact same exams looks as follows:

mcsa_cloud_platform_certStart by earning the MCSA: Cloud Platform certification by taking and passing any 2 of the following exams:

Then round out the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification by taking and passing the 1 remaining exam of the 3.

mcse_cloud_platform_and_infrastructure_certBasically, take all three of these exams and you’ll now earn the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification, instead of the (soon retired) MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect. The new certification title for the same exams is a little more ambiguous as it doesn’t specifically have “Azure” in the name. Also, there are many Developers who won’t be as interested in the new certification since it’s now an MCSE and not an MCSD anymore.

Lastly, for those disappointed in retiring the “Architect” certification, it is important to remember the “E” in “MCSE” stands for “Expert”. The gives the new certification the full title of:

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure

Happy studying!


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Microsoft Certification Changes and Goodbye to MCSD Azure Solutions Architect

Both Fall and Spring time each year mark times when Microsoft normally announces changes to the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program. It was 2 years ago they started releasing the Azure certification exams (70-532, 70-533, and 70-534) and in Spring 2015 they announced if you take all 3 you’ll earn the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification. Today, coinciding with the Microsoft Ignite 2016 conference, there are some broader changes to the MCP program being announced. This article will go over what these changes are, as well as discuss some of their implications to help give a full picture of the coming MCP landscape. Read More


Microsoft Azure Certification: Where to Start? 2015 Edition

The question of “Where do I start?” can be confusing if you’ve never studied for or taken a Microsoft Certification exam before. It can also be a bit daunting if you don’t know anyone who has done it themselves either. Do not let this discourage you. It may be a bit confusing, but it’s actually rather simple. This post will outlines the main steps necessary as well as the main resources you’ll need to begin, study, eventually pass an exam, and finally obtain a Microsoft Azure Certification yourself!

Update 9/30/2016: This week Microsoft announced some really big and amazing changes to the Microsoft Certification program and how the Azure certification exams fit in with MCSD and MCSE certifications. As a result, you want to reference the 2016 Edition of Where to start with Azure Certification article instead.

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MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect Certification

MCSD_Azure_BlkRecently, Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer: Azure Solutions Architect certification. This certification is a bit unique in relation to the other MCSD certifications as it’s for Architects, not Developers. Being for Architects, the exams required to earn the certification test expertise in Development, Infrastructure (IT Pro and DevOps) and Architecture/Design. Read More


(Retired) Preparing for 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions Exam

Retired Exam: This exam is being retired December 31, 2017, and is being replaced by Exam 70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions. The exam content will be similar but different enough that Microsoft is giving it a new number to differentiate it more clearly.

Spec_Arch_AzureSol_logo_BWI have already shared my own guides for both the Microsoft Azure Developer (70-532) and Infrastructure (70-533) exams on my own personal journey to earning the MCSD: Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect certification. Since, I recently passed the the 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions exam, it’s time for me to share the list of study materials I used when preparing for this exam.

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