31 Jan

Training Kit (70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases

70-462 Training Kit

70-462 Training Kit

Well, one more test down. I have to admit, straight up, that I enjoyed this one a lot less than I enjoyed 70-461. When I did the Oracle SQL Expert test it was hard, but honest. I never had the feeling that the official study guide was missing anything major and I felt the questions on the test were really clear and direct. They were just mean at times.

This test felt more like what I remember from Microsoft tests, a tendency to rely on vagueness or very subtle word choices, and minutiae, rather than testing knowledge. Honestly, a large part of this test were simply things that unless you were a full-time DBA, then it would all be 2nd nature to you, are things the rest of us would look up.

But, this is about the book, so here goes.

First, this book doesn’t even make the attempt to be interesting. It’s simply, here are the steps to do Y, for 500 pages. It’s just a straight up grind through the content. I don’t know if that’s the author’s fault, or the content of the test, which is a straight-up grind. Just be aware that this is, a, grind.

Second, the book, at times looks to have been lifted almost directly from the online documentation. Again, that’s probably due to the content, but when you see sentences that are essentially identical to the online content you wonder, a little, as to why you bothered to buy the book.

Other commentators have noted that you need to set up 6 servers. I didn’t do this, I used brute-force on the process, but I can see that helping. There’s so much micro stuff on the test that going through the process could help, they certainly test it. I wish I’d done it but at the same time the test is so heavy on memorization that maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference.

I guess if you’ve gotten this far you’ve figured out that I wasn’t a big fan of this test or the book. The prior training kit was excellent but the content of that book is rife for more interesting writing and reading. The question I can’t really answer is the pain I felt plowing this book, due to the book, the test content or less interest on my part?

Finally, you really have no where else to go to study for the test. The book does provide enough to pass the test, so there is that, but for me it was just painful to get done. This sort of test screams out for a solid study guide and this isn’t that. I felt like I was fighting the book and the test so I’m very happy to have this one in my rear view mirror.

If I had to rate this book I’d probably give it a 2-1/2 out of 5. No way is this a 5, or even a 4 but at least it gets you through the basics of the content.

The book is available at amazon.com.

15 Jan

MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide

$38.41 from Amazon.com

I’ve read a fair amount of certification books over the years and to be honest, this was, by far, the best book I’ve read. Everything you need to know is here, the sample questions are excellent, and it should be more than enough to pass the test.

Unfortunately, it’s been almost 2 years since I’ve read the book, and I no longer have a copy, but here is what I remember. The book is broken into 4 sections, one for each exam. Each section runs from 100 to 150 pages and the sections are remarkably focused on each section. Additionally, and I believe I downloaded these online, but there are a series of sample questions that come with the book. They are opened ended questions, rather than T/F or pick one of the four, and if you know them, nail them, you will pass the exams.

Without giving anything away, the developer side was harder than the administrative side. I pretty much cruised the administration part, which could have been because I did them last, or the fact that there is a lot less material there. They could bury you in minutiae but all things considered they were pretty fair in that regard. Plus, everything that I saw in the test was covered in the book. There won’t be any surprises because you didn’t read every line of the online documentation.

Also, and I have to be honest about this, this isn’t the hardest exam in the game. By contrast, the Oracle SQL Expert exam is many times harder and it’s only dealing with SQL, no administration at all. I can’t say much more but there were questions on the MySQL exam that I think you could answer correctly with no MySQL experience, conversely, doing that with the Oracle exam you would be murdered, so to speak.

Finally, the book is a bit dated a this time. We’ve moved beyond 5.0 so if you get it, get it with that caveat.

All that said, if you want to sit this exam, and I believe it’s still offered, and you don’t have 10 years experience with the product, by all means get the book. It really will help you get through the exam as it’s rock-solid test preparation.

Available at amazon.com.

11 Jan

Training Kit (Exam 70-461): Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012

70461

70-461 Training Kit
Available at amazon.com
Click here to get it.

As I just took this test, and passed, I thought it might be worth reviewing the book, especially since there are no other study resources.

The book itself is a pretty standard Training Kit effort. It’s 17 chapters with 2 or 3 sections each. Each section tells you that you need to know some SQL, etc. and will take anywhere from 15 minutes to 60. further each section comes with 3 test question and each chapter includes a couple of scenarios. I have to be honest and say that I really hate this format. This book is 700 pages and could easily be cut by at least 100 pages.

My version of the book had a couple of bonuses. First, chapters 13 and 14 are out of order. The book goes 12,14,13,15. Further there is some content missing that at release wasn’t on the CD or on the website. The author has indicated that all of this is to be fixed in the next printing of the book. Based on what I see at Amazon you can no longer buy it except from price-gougers. This will probably change soon and it should be available at around $37.00.

Structural problems aside, this is a very good book. It’s an excellent introduction to T-SQL and SQL Server. There is a lot of content, it’s well organized and with a couple of minor exceptions that aren’t worth mentioning, presented very well. I would recommend the content in the book to anyone who wanted to brush up on T-SQL. I would also rate it as the best Training Kit, even with the printing problems, that I’ve read. The author deserves a lot of credit.

But, that isn’t really the question, the question is does the book get you ready for the test and I think the answer is “yes”.

The test itself isn’t that hard. There were no major topics that were a surprise although there were a handful of specifics that I wasn’t certain about. Any regular user of T-SQL should pass and with this book they should easily pass. I come from a MySQL background so I had to fight in a few places. I think another week with the book and I would have cruised through it.

I would score the book as follows: 5 stars for the writing, 1 star for the construction (come on, chapters out of order) and another 5 stars for passing. Overall, rounding up I would give it 4 stars.

Training Kit (Exam 70-461): Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012

10 Jan

Oracle Database: SQL Certified Expert (1Z0-047)

I thought I’d take some time and write about this test. There is scant information on the web, only a couple of bloggers, and the rest is the buy a certification garbage that comes along with every certification. So, instead of that, I thought I’d toss out some thoughts and advice on the whole thing.

The first thing that will probably happen, if you are like me at least, is that you’ll look at the test, see it’s on SQL, and think that it’ll probably be pretty easy. Then, if you are also like me, you’ll pick up the book, study it, see all the stuff on basic SQL, and figure that you really, really know it. Trust me on this, unless you have a couple of years working with Oracle SQL, you don’t know it. Here’s why:

I thought I’d take some time and write about this test. There is scant information on the web, only a couple of bloggers, and the rest is the buy a certification garbage that comes along with every certification. So, instead of that, I thought I’d toss out some thoughts and advice on the whole thing.

The first thing that will probably happen, if you are like me at least, is that you’ll look at the test, see it’s on SQL, and think that it’ll probably be pretty easy. Then, if you are also like me, you’ll pick up the book, study it, see all the stuff on basic SQL, and figure that you really, really know it. Trust me on this, unless you have a couple of years working with Oracle SQL, you don’t know it. Here’s why:

First, you can write SQL multiple ways to achieve the same thing. For instance, some “easy” examples, that all produce the same result.

SELECT 1 var
FROM dual;

SELECT MOD(3,2) var
FROM dual;

SELECT id var
FROM (SELECT mod(3,2) id FROM dual);

These all produce (formatting aside):

VAR

1

Now, these are simple examples. You won’t see anything this simple on the test but it illustrates the point that multiple ways can achieve the same result. Now suppose you come from MySQL and want to do these same things:

SELECT 1 VAR; – Oracle automatically puts things in upper case.

SELECT mod(3,2) VAR; or SELECT 3%2 VAR; – Coming from a PHP background I tended to use the % but the function does exist in MySQL.

SELECT id VAR FROM (SELECT 3%2 id) somename; – Yes, you need to name the subquery or you get an error. Oracle, on the other hand, doesn’t care.

Also, note the use of dual. It’s required in Oracle while MySQL could care less.

So, there are multiple ways of doing the same things, not only amongst different databases but even within the same database. And these are easy one’s. The Study Guide shows several ways of add indexes and constraints and you need to know each and every one.

Secondly, if you haven’t worked with Oracle you’ll wander into the exam and start off down a handful of questions because you won’t be tight on Oracle security or what the difference is between user_tables and dba_tables, for instance. It’s pretty easy to get tripped up even if you kind of know the environment but if you aren’t familiar with it at all you may as well skip these questions.

Third, this test isn’t easy. When I did the MySQL exams, I twice ran into questions that it was literally impossible to get wrong. You, in fact, wouldn’t even have had to know a thing about SQL to have gotten them right. There simply was no other answer than the correct answer. That won’t happen here. Be prepared for questions that test multiple concepts and have multiple correct answers. And, if you’ve done the Microsoft exams, be prepared to run into questions that don’t make sense. Most of the questions were solid but not all of them.

Fourth, there can be time pressure and the test software isn’t the best. You have to answer 70 questions in 2 hours, which seems like a lot of time, until you run into something where you get confused by the question and hung up in the schema. Suddenly 5 minutes rolled by and you are behind. Also, the test software isn’t the best for reviewing questions. I hit question 70, wasn’t quite sure, but didn’t make a check mark. At the end of the test, I had a couple of minutes to spare, wanted to go back and double-check it, but couldn’t get back. I had to literally punch the NEXT button 70 times to get there.

How to study for the exam.

First, the official information can be found here. Of course, you’ve probably already been there and possibly even taken the sample test.

But, you don’t really care about that.

The first thing I believe you should do is buy OCA Oracle Database SQL Expert Exam Guide: Exam 1Z0-047. It’s the official study guide and, despite the negative reviews, is enough to pass the exam. But, here’s the catch. You’ll pretty much need to read and memorize the whole book. I mean it. Memorize it, especially the syntax. Also, the sample questions at the end of the exam are not even close to the actual exam. I suspect the source of many of the negative reviews are people who looked at those and thought they knew what was going on. I’d ignore them. The CD exam is tougher but the software isn’t very good. You’ll just have to deal with it.

Just remember that the book is enough, if, and only if, you memorize everything in it and I mean exactly that.

I would say that using Transcender is a toss up on this exam. I thought it was off relative to the test. It seemed like every question wanted to trick you, which is fair, because Oracle will, but Oracle tricks you and asks tough questions. I just didn’t see the value in Transcender for this exam. I’ve had good luck with them in the past, however.

Finally, the online documentation. I found this to be a real hit and miss with Oracle. If you have a concept that you need to flesh out, this is where you should go, in fact, it’s almost the only place you can go. And, it will help, but, it would be very hard to rely on it for this exam as some of it can literally bury you in 100 pages on a single topic.

One last piece of advice. Go into this test ready. Don’t kind of know it, know it, REALLY KNOW IT! It looks like a cute lil’ bunny but it’ll goddamn eat you alive if you aren’t careful.

Good luck with it.