21 Mar

The Review: Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

Image2A few weeks ago I did what, I guess you can call a prereview, of this book (you can read it here) and I was very frustrated with it.  I believe, without checking the review that I gave it a -5.  I’ve mellowed a bit, and now rate the book higher, but, I just can’t get to the point that I think “wow, they really nailed it”.  There’s just too much frustration in it for me.

This review will focus on the following things:

  • Content
  • Exercises
  • measureUp practice test.
  • How well it prepares you for the test.

Lets start with the first one of those.

Content

This is one of two areas that I’ve somewhat mellowed on the book.  When I started my writing binge there were a small handful of times where this book was the only place to go.  The MSDN was funky, both of the Knight books, which were very SSIS specific, maybe didn’t cover the concept well, and I wound up using the book as my primary source.  It really does cover the breadth of the content, and there is a lot of breadth to cover.

However, despite 850 pages, there are times you are wishing for something more.  You are wishing for an explanation that just isn’t there.  As such, I wound up using the MSDN, a lot.  In some cases, you get a single paragraph on a transform, and nothing else.  Or, they skim a topic, or, the explanation is confusing.

However, the scope of the book is easily is greatest strength so, for that, it gets 3 Tucos.

tucotucotuco

Exercises

This is a hard thing to score, except for one simple thing, they are why I stopped reading the book.  I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is, well maybe my stuff has this same problem, but I don’t have an editor and I’m not getting paid, to do an exercise and it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work the first, second or third time.  Sometimes, when you dig, and dig far enough, you find out that you missed a crucial step.  Maybe, you were moving too fast, or maybe, the author had a bad habit of lumping steps together.

In some cases, however, the base package that you are supposed to be working from just dies.  In one case, I received an error for a missing table.  The instructions say to load the code from an earlier chapter but that code doesn’t have the table.  I finally find the code in the starter code for the chapter.  The exercise, and they did this every time it was necessary prior to this, doesn’t mention it.  So, I load the table, run the package, and everything runs fine.  One small problem, the code is supposed to throw an error.

That was the last exercise I tried to do.  I simply gave up on the book’s exercises at that point.  The author badly needed to find an intern, or even better a completely non-technical person, hand them the exercises, and watch all the problems.

One last thought on this section.  It’s possible that the author will fix the sample code at some point.  If he did, my overall rating of this book would be much better.  The current state of that code is simply a disaster.

No Tuco’s for the exercises.

measureUp Practice test

This is another case of “what they give, they immediately take away”.  The positives, for me, were that it covered a lot of content.  It is probably the inspiration behind half the SSIS articles on this site.  I would do a sample test, note that I didn’t know an area perfectly, and, there you go, content for an article.  My final test preparation consisted of going through all of the questions (there are 189), noting areas that I was weak on, and using those as an area to focus on.  It really helped in that respect.

On the other hand.  This test almost caused me to give up.  I never came close to passing it, and I mean not even close.  For the first few weeks of studying, I would take the test as a guide post, not as a study guide, and not only did I see very little progress, I actually went backward.  I think 2 weeks prior to taking the test I broke 40%, and I think I scored 30%, one-time after that.  In practice test land, 80% is passing, I never broke 60, yet, I passed the actual test with room to spare.

When I entered the final review phase, and basically just reviewed the test questions, I discovered why I was having so many problems.  There is a lot of awkward language, awkward questions and in some cases answers to questions that I don’t agree with.  On the actual exam itself I don’t think I was confused by a question.  There were a couple where I had to guess at the final answer but there was nothing where I did a “what the heck are they asking here”.

One of the really frustrating things about old-school Microsoft exams is that they used to be vague.  You could look at a question, interpret a couple of reasonable answers, and you had to determine which was “the best” for the situation they were describing.  And, in different situations they might both be “best”.  In a sense, the tests were using vagueness to generate difficulty, rather than using difficulty to generate difficulty.  I feel the same way about this practice test.

However, all of that aside, I think it did help, it’s just that it subtracted from the experience too.  I’ll give it 2-1/2 Tucos.

tucotucohalftuco

Test Preparation

Well, this is what counts, and it will be short.  I stopped studying from the book 2 weeks prior to the test.  I did, in a couple of cases, review concepts using it.  Out of the 60 articles I wrote during that time, maybe, and I really mean maybe, I used it for 10 of those.  So, it had some content that I found useful and worthy.  And, it does touch on everything you will find on the test, and in some cases it even does a good job.  However, for the most part, I found myself relying on the MSDN, or third-party articles almost exclusively.

The one thing, however, that I have to give it credit for, is that this test covers a lot of areas, and the book does touch all of those areas, from what I can tell.  It’s just that, the overall presentation, when combined with the practice tests and the exercises, well, it’s very frustrating.   On the other hand, I did pass the test, and this book was part of it, although the MSDN was much more of a part of it in the end.

So, two Tuco’s for test preparation.

tucotuco

Conclusion

Honestly, I really hate to do what I’m about to do.  The author took a very large topic and produced a ton of content (over 850 pages).  They absolutely deserve to be commended for that.  And given the massive profits they’ll no doubt receive (that’s sarcasm) I hate to down rate a book like this.  Further, a lot of the problems in this book are likely due to not just the author, but sloppy editing and a publishing house that hasn’t done a very good job with these books.  For instance, the 70-461 book had chapters out of order in it.

Still, I can’t shake the fact that I almost quit studying because of it, and not once, not twice, but multiple times I threw the book at a wall in sheer frustration when something didn’t work.  Even if I concede that some of that was me, and surely it was, I never felt that way about the Knight books.  So, my final scores are 2 Tucos in it’s current state, and 3 Tucos if they fix the sample exercises and clean up the presentation of the exercises in the future.

Final Score:

tucotuco

If they fix the exercises:

tucotucohalftuco

You can get the book at Amazon.com at the link below:

Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

One thought on “The Review: Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

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