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MCTS Experience - 70-536/528 (long)

Theodore Casser
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 14, 2001
Posts: 1902

Not that this isn't generally a site for Java, but I figured that I'd post something about my experience taking the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist exam (Web Client Development specialty), since I was involved in the conversation about such earlier last month and finally got through both parts of it.

For the record - this is basically the equivalent of passing both the SCJP and SCWCD exams. The experience includes one exam on the fundamentals of the language of your choice (VB or C#) and one on the web-based technologies for writing a client application.

70-536 (Development Fundamentals) is an exam on the language proper, with the syntax and configuration portions one would expect. It wasn't all that hard, having come from the Java environment and transitioned into C# as a matter of having to learn it for a job assignment. For this portion, while there were some things that required some serious study (C#, for instance, handles encryption entirely differently), it was mostly a matter of just learning where the method names were different. I did rather well, if I do say so myself.

70-528 (Web-based Client Development) was a different story. Where C# and Java are very similar on a language level, the web-based technologies are almost entirely different. JSPs and Servlets do not translate rather well over to the concepts of controls, web parts and ADO.NET, and as a result, I found myself cramming severely for a few weeks while trying to juggle it with my usual job (which has been, admittedly, comprised mostly of making controls for the last few weeks while I work with a Sharepoint project). This was probably my worst testing experience since working on the SCEA, so if that gives anyone some basis....

The end result is that I did pass the second exam today. I would have to say that one is highly advised, if considering moving over to the Dark Side, to look into the Microsoft Press materials (especially the self-paced training books) and at the PrepLogic MegaGuides as a last-minute study aide. (I wouldn't skimp and just go with the PrepLogic materials, nor would I solely depend on those books alone with a lack of experience - I learned the hard way that not everything on the exam is covered in the books.)

I still stand that I think that while there are equivalences between the two programs, there's sufficient differences between them to keep the programs from being compared on the level of apples to apples.
  • As was pointed out in the prior thread, you don't have to take the exams in any order - 70-528 is sufficient to get a Certified Professional certificate, whereas in the Java realm, you'd have to take the language fundamentals exam first.
  • The Microsoft exams also just cover so much more material per exam than Sun's. 70-528 covers the equivalent of JSP, JSF, Servlets, Portlets and writing clients for mobile devices, as well as material that would normally fall under JDBC...
  • Microsoft's exams are also not provider-agnostic, as I pointed out during the prior exam. You're fully expected, during 70-528, to understand how to configure IIS, both graphically and programmatically. In 70-536, you are asked tasks involving Visual Studio. It would be like being asked to know how to do some of the tasks for designing a GUI using NetBeans, or how to configure database pools in Tomcat or WebLogic.
  • I noticed this during today's exam: Microsoft's questions seem to be grouped by topic when you're taking the exam. You're given all the questions on Developing ASP.Net Mobile Apps at once, for instance. I rather prefer the more random distribution I get with Sun's (and other companies') exams where if I hit a question on a topic I'm weak on, I'm given other things oftentimes and a chance to recover before having to plow back into it. (Just an emotional inertia issue.)
  • The MS exams are shorter, with more ambiguous scoring. I do so like walking into a Sun exam knowing I need "61%" to pass - take the number of questions (often in the sixties or seventies) and do the proper multiplication. MS's exams are on a scale, with "700" being passing. Seven hundred out of? With questions worth? And on 45 questions per exam, that's not a lot of wiggle room.

  • I'm getting to the point, though, with some of these study materials, that I'm tempted afterwards to take my notes and write up a better study guide. (Something like ".Net Certification for Java Professionals" or the like.) I haven't been a slacker with things for C# while I've been pressed into double-duty as my office's specialist on "all things weird", and I find that Microsoft seems to expect a broader base of knowledge (and probably an accordingly larger span of applications to be developed) from their specialist certification candidates. This will only get exacerbated as rumors out of Microsoft Learning indicate a move towards eventually having "simulation" questions on all MCTS exams, which to me would seem to indicate actual writing of code being involved.

    So, my verdict: I think that preparing for the .Net certification exams was certainly a good experience. I feel like I've accomplished something by getting the credential. I don't know that I'd necessarily want to go through it again (two exams in seven weeks for one "base-level" credential). Now it's off to see what my employer thinks of it.


    Theodore Jonathan Casser
    SCJP/SCSNI/SCBCD/SCWCD/SCDJWS/SCMAD/SCEA/MCTS/MCPD... and so many more letters than you can shake a stick at!
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    Hi Theodore,

    I am a java developer with SCJP and SCWCD. I am studying from Microsoft Press Study Guides for both 536 and 528. Could you please tell me what materials are not covered in the books? If you could provide me a list of things not covered and where to study them from, it would be great.

    I appreciate your help.

    Thanks.
    Dibbo Khan
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Dec 19, 2004
    Posts: 147
    Watch out,

    The official Microsoft Study Guides for the exams and the actual exams are entirely two different things.

    So don't expect to read them and pass the test by itself. In fact I think it is better to see a list of the objectives on the Microsoft site and study from general reference books from Apress and Wrox.

    Furthermore although the MCPD seem like harder tests, they are actually easier than than the MCTS tests (536, 528 and 529) in fact these are the hardest Microsoft exams I have ever taken.

    I would say there is one big difference between the Microsoft and Sun exams, the Sun exams are more theoretical (SCJP is about OO theory in large part) and the Microsoft exams are less theoretical but more detail rich (class library and features of the C# langauge).


    MCPD (Enterprise Application Developer, Windows Developer, Web Developer - .NET 2.0), MCTS (Windows Apps, Web Apps and Disbributed Applications - .NET 2.0), MCITP (Database Developer & Business Intelligence Developer - SQL Server 2005), MCAD, MSCD.net, SCJP 5, SCWCD 1.4, SCBCD, SCMAD, SCDJWS, SCJA
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    To echo what Dibbo Khan said... the study guides alone won't be sufficient to pass the exam. There are items (moreso on 528 than 536) that aren't covered in the study guide, though the extent to which this happend is not occurring to me off the top of my head at the moment. (I'm also somewhat brain dead at the moment where it comes to .NET, since I've been working actually on organizing my note cards from 536 to create a study guide, and will move on probably next week for something similar with 528, all while working overtime on a Java project.) The Microsoft exams expect and all-but require your having experience with the language features, and specifically with Visual Studio and the associated tools. I ended up doing quite a bit of reading at the MSDN site and a few Google searches to fill in gaps.

    Dibbo - I've actually been avoiding the MCPD exams due to my trepidation on the proposed recertification process they're talking about and the difficulty of the MCTS exams, but if they're really that much less difficult than the MCTS, I might have to reconsider...
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    Hi,

    Could any of you provide me the links and list of what I should be studying in addition to the study guides for MCTS from MSDN and other resources.

    I am looking for a list of whats not covered in the guides for both 528 and 536.

    I will appreciate any help.

    Thanks,
    Mahrukh.
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    Also, how did you know these topics are not covered in as much detail as needed for the exam?
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    Originally posted by Mah Hasan:
    Also, how did you know these topics are not covered in as much detail as needed for the exam?

    I know from having taken the exam. (I'd think that would be obvious given my post above to start the thread.)

    As for links and whathaveyou - I don't have a compiled list handy at the moment. I mostly was using Google with phrases from the outline provided by Microsoft for the exam, and the occasional trolling of the class documentation for methods and properties not covered in detail in the self-paced guide. 536 was better in that respect - I'll eventually (probably in a week or two) start compiling my notes from 528, where there were larger gaps, into a last-minute study guide like I have been for 536.
    [ August 21, 2007: Message edited by: Theodore Casser ]
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    Hi,

    I am sorry I think I wasnt clear before. While preparing for exam, how did you know topic x is not covered in enough detail in the Microsoft book? When I am reading the book, lets say for 70-528, I am unable to figure that out or notice anything out of the ordinary for any topic. I see "Feature x is new in .Net 2.0" and I read more from MSDN about it or when the book says, "For more information, visit MSDN at <url>", I try to read at MSDN but thats about it.

    I am an experienced java developer but have no experience with C#. I need to pass the certifications asap. I am reading the 70-528 book for the second time... but still dont feel comfortable to take the exam. If I pass the mock exams that come with the study guide with 80%, do you think I am ready for the certification exam?

    Another question about 70-528: Do I need to memorize the properties for each control?

    Also Theodore, is there anyway I can get my hands on your 536 study guide. It would be really helpful.

    Thanks,
    Mah.
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    Originally posted by Mah Hasan:
    I am sorry I think I wasnt clear before. While preparing for exam, how did you know topic x is not covered in enough detail in the Microsoft book?


    Ah. Yeah, that would be different. The answer is - I was working with the practice tests on the CD and discovered that it was asking me questions that weren't covered in the text.

    I am an experienced java developer but have no experience with C#. I need to pass the certifications asap. I am reading the 70-528 book for the second time... but still dont feel comfortable to take the exam. If I pass the mock exams that come with the study guide with 80%, do you think I am ready for the certification exam?


    I would say yes, but just barely. The real problem is that Microsoft doesn't explain how they come to their passing score - 700 of 1000 would seem to be 70%, but there's no explanation as to how that score is generated from the 45 questions.

    What's the hurry with passing the exams, though?

    Another question about 70-528: Do I need to memorize the properties for each control?


    I think it's important to have a decent grasp on them, but I think most of the properties are somewhat logically named. Better to understand the general concepts than dive deep into specifics.

    Also Theodore, is there anyway I can get my hands on your 536 study guide. It would be really helpful.


    Let me think about that. I have a few more things to do with it - I'm debating if I need any screenshots, still - but could probably use a beta-tester for it when I'm done.
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    Thanks for the reply...

    Do you think you could tell me early next week sometime if you would be able to share your study guide for 70-538 with me?

    Thanks!
    David Marsh
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Jun 12, 2003
    Posts: 6
    MCTS is not an entry level cert, also you need only take one more exam to get MCPD which is Microsofts new top flight developer cert. I'm working on 70-548 right now.

    David

    SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, MCTS .Net


    SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, MCPD, N+
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    I'd disagree in the sense that MCTS is really the lowest level of the .NET 2.0 Framework exams. As you mentioned in the other thread, the exams aren't exactly the same between Sun's Java and Microsoft's .NET exams.

    I see MCTS for the .NET exams as close to SCJP as they're going to get, with MCPD as equivalent to the higher level Java developer exams (SCJD/SCWCD/SCBCD/SCJWSD) on the same paradigm (one extra exam to obtain the credential beyond MCTS). And that's really all that would be apples to apples..
    Mah Hasan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Apr 19, 2007
    Posts: 11
    I believe any certification can be passed by any level developer. You can not put a label on a certification stating it is not or it is for an entry level developer. Yes, experience definitely helps but not having experience is not the end of the world.

    I also wrote SCJP when I was entry level java developer and passed it the first time.. I think where experience plays a part is how much effort and time you need to put in to prepare for the certification is dependent on your experience in the field. and I think its the time contraint thats killing me here.

    Theodore, do you think you could provide me your study guides? Please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Mah.
    [ August 27, 2007: Message edited by: Mah Hasan ]
    pramod chavan
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Sep 14, 2007
    Posts: 1
    hi, I am planning to take MCTS certification. I am confused which exam should I take first? MCTS 70-528 or MCTS 70-536?
    Please guide me.......
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    Personally, I say do 70-536 first. It's the language-basic exam and anything you do after that will be building on that exam's knowledge.

    In the end, it matters little what order you go in.
    John Tait
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Oct 03, 2007
    Posts: 2
    Do you think it's worth splashing out on the 'PrepLogic MegaGuides' for the 70-536 and 70-528 exams?

    Were they any real help in passing the exams?

    I just want to get the best bang for my buck with the stuff I purchase for getting certified.

    Also, did you use any practice tests like Measureup or Transcender?
    Paul Michael
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 02, 2001
    Posts: 697
    Great post Theodore! I'm also coming from a Java background, any tips on what specific books to read for MCTS Web?

    Thanks so much.


    SCJP 1.2 (89%), SCWCD 1.3 (94%), IBM 486 (90%), SCJA Beta (96%), SCEA (91% / 77%), SCEA 5 P1 (77%), SCBCD 5 (85%)
    Theodore Casser
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 1902

    Sorry for having been quiet for so long around here - I've been a bit busy with a new assignment that's only recently given me net access at the office and my home life's been keeping me away from the console.

    Do you think it's worth splashing out on the 'PrepLogic MegaGuides' for the 70-536 and 70-528 exams?
    Were they any real help in passing the exams?


    I did get both, as well as the megaguide for 526. I can say honestly that they're not spectacular - they are fair-to-middling in the sense of giving you a quick overview of topics to decide if you know them or not, but I would never use them as my sole resource for studying for this exam. These guides are, actually, the precise reason I'm staring to put together a study guide of my own. (Something that's a little more in-depth, but still not good enough to serve as a substitute for adequate experience.)

    Also, did you use any practice tests like Measureup or Transcender?


    No. I used the practice exams that came with Microsoft's own books, which seemed to be fine, though I've heard good things about the material from both of these companies.

    any tips on what specific books to read for MCTS Web?


    I used Microsoft's self-paced study guides for my exams - I found that they're fairly good as representative of what they're going to be asking on the exam proper, though they're still honestly not the greatest. (And that's even setting aside that they retail for US$70 a piece, sans discounts.) I used, as I mentioned above, PrepLogic's MegaGuides for last-minute prep, but those aren't too much good for much else than that.

    The other thing I did which helped was sitting down and working with the Visual Studio tools (even the express editions) and just seeing how things worked experimentally. Believe it or not... experience really does help with the MCTS exams.
    John Tait
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Oct 03, 2007
    Posts: 2
    Thanks Theodore.

    I think I'm getting more of a handle on this now. Sometimes that you get so focussed on what you need to do to pass the exam that you forget about why you're doing the certification i.e. to become a good .NET programmer (not just someone who has memorised a whole lot of lists of Classes and Methods etc. that you would look up using Books and Intillsense in the real world.)

    I agree with you on trying stuff out in Visual Studio.
    What I'm now doing is building a simple windows application and keep adding functioality to it from the 70-536 curriculum.
    I added some functionality tonight to add entered customers to an ArrayList, saved the arraylist to a File, re-read the file and displayed the customers on screen (and playing about with the methods and properties from these classes).

    Basic stuff, I know, but I think it's just what a .Net newbie like me needs.

    I find that this is making me think about what the classes do and see it in action.

    I think this will also help me remember the stuff better as I will be able to relate the stuff to an application that I myself have worked out and put together.

    As I'm looking to get a job in .Net, there's no point being able to answer obscure questions on very fine details of the .Net framework without getting hands on experience of how all this stuff fits into real world applications.

    I think the Transcender questions come with an additional 500 flashcards based on the exam material. I'm guessing this will provide me with some last minute study guide type stuff to check I know the material.

    I'll keep on going...thanks!
    Paul Michael
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 02, 2001
    Posts: 697
    Some great stuff here. Thanks John and Theodore.

    See you around the ranch I guess.
     
    I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
     
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