SharePoint Exam Tips
Here’s a rundown of my best practice tips when sitting the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Exams. Hopefully there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re a SharePoint Administrator (70-667, 70-668), or a SharePoint Developer (70-573 and 70-576) – or just preparing for Microsoft Exams in general.
Before we start our list of practical exam tips, I’m going to give you an extra tip for free:
Practice, practice, practice! The exam syllabus states as pre-requisites around 3 months of product experience for the MCTS exams, and up to 2 years for the MCITP and MCPD exams. See here about booking Joel as a trainer with the online form.
Next, a note on exam style: both SharePoint Developer exams and also the MCTS Administrator exam are based on multiple choice questions, usually around 50-60 questions per test. Each question will typically start with a paragraph or two of scenario, followed by some part-completed technical steps or code.
You will then be asked one of the following:
- Select one best answer, where each choice represents a whole possible answer.
- e.g. One from a choice of A, B, C, D or E.
- Select the two best answers, where each choice represents a whole possible answer.
- e.g. Two from a choice of A, B, C, D or E.
- Select the two best answers, where each choice represents a part of a possible answer.
- e.g. Two from a choice of A, B, C, D or E.
- Select the best appropriate N steps, where each choice represents a part of a possible answer.
- e.g. Three from a choice of A, B, C, D, E or F.
- Select the best appropriate N steps in the correct order, where each choice represents a part of a possible answer.
- e.g. Three from a choice of A, B, C, D, E or F, where the order of the steps is marked too.
Case Study Questions
There are differences with the 70-668 MCITP SharePoint Administration exam. You may only be asked 10-15 of the above style of question. There are an additional 40 similar questions where instead of each one being a discrete scenario, there are a smaller set of stories, each of which is longer in length, to which may apply to 3 or 4 questions in a row. These are the so-called “case study” style questions. In total, this adds up to 50-60 questions for 70-668 as well.
Typically, the choices you will get (A – E or A – F etc.) will, in addition to the correct answers, include obviously incorrect choices, and also more devious “detractor” answers.
The Top Ten
Now we’ve covered the basics, on with the exam tips:
- Pace yourself. You have a limited amount of time and a lot of questions to answer. Give yourself a time limit per question that you won’t go over, and watch the time remaining (displayed on screen). If you make good speed, feel free to re-jig your personal time limit per question.
- Read the question. I know this sounds obvious, but the devil is in the detail. Read the question thoroughly. For the longer case studies you may need to make notes on the provided laminated cardboard sheets we get at Prometric testing centres. It’s easy to get carried away with notes though; don’t use all your exam time making notes!
- Do you know the answer? If you know the answer, and you’ve checked the whole question, and you know what you’re doing, then obviously select the answer you know and move on. Hopefully most of the questions will follow this format. :)
- Leave no question unanswered! There is no “negative” marking in Microsoft exams. In other words, you only accumulate points for correct answers; no additional marks are deducted for incorrect choices. Select your best guess (go with your gut, or use the tips below) and mark it for later review. Any time during the exam, you can review the ones you have marked, and change your mind.
- Don’t change your mind! If you choose to review your choices at the end (and this is generally a good idea) do not be tempted to change your answer unless: you are absolutely convinced you got it wrong. You will kick yourself later if you failed because you changed an answer away from a correct one.
- Look out for clues in later questions! Your exam can be a truly enlightening experience. I tend to sit exams early in their lifecycle, frequently before any courseware is actually available. Over the years I have learned quite a lot about .NET and the Microsoft platform from sitting the exams. Don’t know the answer the question 26? Then mark it for review, and maybe 29 and 37 will give you different clues in their question scenario that can help you logically work out the correct answer. It can be like a logic puzzle. In the past I’ve had 3 questions spread over the course of an exam that, when read together, can only have one logical combination of answers.
- Eliminate the stupid choices. The quality of Microsoft exams has improved much over the last 5 years. In previous years, the detractor answers could include choices that are logically impossible or even utter nonsense. These days, all choices you will be presented with must at least be viable areas of SharePoint’s object model or platform. However, they still usually put in 1 or 2 daft choices that you can usually eliminate easily.
- Look out for trick questions. Sometimes they put in choices that are more applicable to a previous version of a product or technology, but which would not work on the new platform. I’ve seen this tactic in both Administration and Developer exams before.
- Think “What Would Bill Do?” Don’t go the trouble of tattooing WWBD onto your knuckles, but try and remember that products are meant to be easy to administer, and object models are meant to be expressive and easy to use. If you find yourself genuinely stumped, try and reverse the situation and ask yourself “using best practices, if I had to design an API or command line interface, how should I do it?” Often the most cumbersome-looking choices are incorrect. Beware though. Sometimes things are just difficult to do. In other words: it’s usually the simplest answer… except when it’s not!
- Don’t forget everything you already know about IT! You walk in to the exam room with potentially many years’ experience as a developer or IT Professional. Principals of software development and IT infrastructure knowledge should not be knocked out of your head simply because we’re now building with SharePoint.
So, whatever your chosen methods for preparing for SharePoint exams, whether it’s Accelerated IT Learning or experience from the field, I hope you’ll find these exam tips useful.