Becoming a Microsoft certified professional is certainly a plus in your career. It not only increases your career advancement opportunities but also brings you self-confidence and self-esteem. You know deep down inside that you have taken initiative and made significant efforts to master your crafts and now you have something to prove and show others about all that.

As a Microsoft certified professional myself, I have passed nearly 30 Microsoft certification exams in SQL Server, .Net web and windows development and Windows server administration, also failed a couple tests, over the past decade or so. Below are the top 6 things l have learned through the process about how to prepare and pass Microsoft certification exams:

1. You don’t need to be a super expert to pass the certification test

Those who have taken some Microsoft certification tests would admit that the exams are not easy and some are really tough. But that does not mean become Microsoft certified professional is an insurmountably challenging task.

You probably read the news that Ayan Qureshi of Coventry, England, passed a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam when he was 5 years old and has become “The World’s Youngest MCP.”

One lesson from this story is that any IT professional can pass the Microsoft certification exam if one really has the intention and willingness to put in the time and effort to do that. You just need to buckle down to prepare and go through the process-Read, practice and review to achieve the certification goal.

The truth is you don’t need to be a genius or super expert in the area to pass the Microsoft certification exam.

2. Extensive fast-track training is better than slow study

For preparing the certification exam, extensive fast-track study is better than slow learning. You may spend months or years to lean a new subject to understand every aspect of it, but to ace an exam you’d much better off using extensive and focused training in a short period of time. By concentrating on the most important areas of the exam, reviews the materials as fast and frequent as possible, you will not forget much content as you slowly move on with learning a new subject. Also with the knowledge fresh in memory and motivation still high, you have a much better chance to pass the test and thus get rewarded in a timely manner. Otherwise you may get stuck in decision-making paralysis or test anxiety may set in to derail your certification intent and sabotage your certification goal.
REMEMBER, you are study to ace an exam like cram for your final, so do it fast in weeks, not months.

3. The Measure-Cram-Test three-step system works like a charm

As you know, whatever Microsoft technology you choose to get certified, for example SQL Server, Windows Server or C#/VB.Net Windows or Web application development, you may have worked in the area for some period of time and have a solid understanding of the basics. But the chances are you may not have worked on all aspect and every single feature of that technology.

And to be honest, you don’t need to exhaustively master the nitty-gritty of the technology to pass the exams to be certified. Most Microsoft certification exam has 50-80 questions and 2-3 total hours to complete; the test does not cover and measure your skills in every details of that technology.

That is why Measure (find gaps)-Cram (fill gaps)-Test (take exam) three-step system works like a charm. To best prepare the exam you first read the exam’s requirement and take a self-assessment test to identify your knowledge gap; then you study intensively in a short period of time to fill the gap. You don’t need to waste time on the areas you already know, you only focus on what require extra study, the areas that will be tested but you don’t know enough. After the effective and intensive study you take the exam and you pass it.

4. Practice exam especially simulation test has the edge but choose yours wisely

The first time you sit for the Microsoft certification test you will be shocked and say to yourself: “What’s the hell is this?!”

Many Microsoft certification exam questions are not only difficult but also kind of weird and mean. So to pass the exam, you better take a lot practice so you will be familiar with the test style, format and difficulty level. You also need to concentrate on items that might be heavily tested.

There is a variety of study resources available for Microsoft certification exams, such as study guide books, in class or online training, hands-on practice labs and sample tests. Among them practice test especially computer-based simulation test engine is essential to prepare and pass the real certification exam. They will let you have an objective appraisal of your readiness for the exam thus to speed up your Measure-Cram-Test 3 step cycle discussed before. The practice will also give you confidence once you are in the real test as you are already familiar with the exam format and difficulty level to beat exam stress.

But you have to choose your study resources wisely. The two most important criteria here are: reliability and to the point. The resources have to be accurate to give the correct answer as well as close to the real exam in styles, format and difficulty level enough to equip you well to actually pass the tests.

5. Yes you can get certified with very little money spent

To get certified in Microsoft technology needs money. You need to pass 3-5 exams to become a MCA, MCSE or MCSD. Each Microsoft certification exam costs $165 at this time. Self-study training material can cost several hundred dollars and instructor led classes may ask for $1000 – $3000.

But get certified does not need to cost you an arm and leg. There are many ways for you to become certified with little or even no your own money spent:

Free resources: many authorative training are free. For example Microsoft Virtual Academy provides many certification prepare classes, you don’t need to spend a penny to take them.

Ask your employer to cover the cost: You can ask your employer to pay the test fee or even the study material once you have passed the exam. Most employers will be happy to pay the bill because they know invest in motivated worker’s skill enhancement is good for the bottom line.

6. The ONLY secret for you to succeed in becoming a certified Microsoft professional: ACT NOW!

Become certified in any Microsoft technology is a daunting task. And it’s natural that while think about getting certified you may experience some anxiety, doubt or some kind of analysis paralysis. You may say to yourself : I will do it someday in the future, when I have more free time, when the job is less demanding, when my knowledge become more solid and thorough……

But deep down inside you know that there will never be a perfect time for you to be totally ready. So the time is NOW for you to step on the certification journey to validate your skills and move up to the next level in your career and life. As you charge forward you will find the time and resources you needed and you will expand your mind and improve your skillset. As a result your life as a whole will be changed for better.

So right now, the best thing you can do is to get started: go choose your certification path or even better, register for your first exam so you have a deadline for your preparing.

So NOW, right at this moment, buckle up, knuckle down and begin the certification journey of challenging yourself for a better future.

Best wishes for your endeavor and be glad to hear your thoughts, your actions and results!

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