Recently I studied and sat a Microsoft Certification for ASP.Net 4.0 and MVC. As much as some people on the web cause grief to anyone who’s interested in certifications I must state that I actually did learn a lot about other parts of the framework that day-to-day I never touch. The great thing about this experience was that while yes I did learnt about some parts of the ASP.Net framework that I’ll never touch because in the real world you wouldn’t use them, I also found I learnt about a number of other parts of the framework that I didn’t know were there and these new bits of knowledge will help me daily.
Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
A year and a half ago I started studying for the certification 70-562 because my old employer needed a few more developers to get certified to maintain their Microsoft Partnership level (as some members of staff that were certified had left). The 70-562 exam covers ASP.Net 3.5 from a more classic approach, learning about how to use lots of web controls to do everything, and at the time it felt a little dated as nearly everyone i knew working with ASP.Net was from a “I can code HTML blindfold and prefer having control over things” background and therefore wrote their own HTML without the need to use controls to create mangled HTML or use tables for things on their behalf (I kid… I kid…).
The 70-515 exam feels a lot more grounded in the real world that we all live and work in though, as it covers all the ASP.Net 3.5 controls etc. with a little less importance placed on them and also includes ASP.Net MVC 3 as well – which seeing my work mostly consists of only ASP.Net MVC this addition made me feel like I could really get value from the training and study that comes with doing this certification.
Microsoft recommends that developers wanting to sit this exam have the following experience:
Candidates for this exam are professional Web developers who use Microsoft Visual Studio. Candidates should have a minimum of two to three years of experience developing Web-based applications by using Visual Studio and Microsoft ASP.NET. Candidates should be experienced users of Visual Studio 2008 and later releases and should have a fundamental knowledge of the .NET Framework 4 programming languages (C# or Microsoft Visual Basic). In addition, candidates should understand how to use the new features of Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.
Candidates should also have a minimum of one year of experience with the following:
- Accessing data by using Microsoft ADO.NET and LINQ
- Creating and consuming Web and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) services
- State management
- ASP.NET configuration
- Debugging and deployment
- Application and page life-cycle management
- Security aspects such as authentication and authorization
- Client-side scripting languages
- Internet Information Server (IIS)
- ASP.NET MVC
- Configuring and Deploying Web Applications (10 %)
- Consuming and Creating Server Controls (20 %)
- Working with Data and Services (17 %)
- Troubleshooting and Debugging Web Applications (16 %)
- Working with ASP.NET AJAX and Client-Side Scripting (15 %)
- Targeting Mobile Devices (5 %)
- Programming Web Applications (17 %)
From the above topics about the only thing I think I have no use for and will probably die without ever putting the skills I've learnt into practice are the sections on SharePoint Web Controls. I won’t go into why I feel this is the case as there are enough people on the interwebs bitching about Sharepoint without me adding my 2c.
I spent about 3.5 months studying for the exam and based my study around the following routine:
- Studied and took notes from one chapter of the 70-515 Microsoft Training book a week including doing all the example tutorials and quick-quizzes.
- Used study-mode on the Microsoft training book software (useless and full of wrong answers).
- Used study-mode and certification mode on the MeasureUp training software for 70-515.
I must share my opinion on a few things;
The testing software that came with the training book had around 30% wrong answers for the questions on it. That’s right 30%! It also only has a total of 55 questions on the CD – to put this in perspective my actual exam was 76 questions long, so I didn’t feel the software could possible cover enough areas to gain much value from them. I almost recommend that anyone purchasing the training book literally throw the testing software CD in the bin. It’s that bad. The software is also quite buggy as it crashed on me a few times.
Why care about Testing Software?
A lot of people recommend against doing any training example questions as part of your study and prefer that you just “know the material like the back of your hand”. I disagree with this, as I think it is quite important to be familiar with the format that you sit the exam under as it simplifies the process of you sitting it by bringing it down to just having to know the correct answers instead of having to take in the exam process on the day as well. I also think that if you’ve never sat a Microsoft or Cisco etc exam before that it is important to familiarise yourself with the style of questions as they nearly all are asked in a sneaky way to usually test you on more than just common knowledge (i.e. showing you 3 correct answers but only one truly correct one based on the context of the question).
When I started to use the trial exam software included in the Microsoft training book I instantly felt I was wasting my time. A large number of the questions on the CD either had small mistakes in their code samples that would mean that in the real world they wouldn’t compile, or had blatantly incorrect answers.
This made me want to find a more reliable source for training questions.
The options I looked at where:
Measure Up 70-515 – 150 Questions – $109.00
Transcender 70-515 – 114 Questions – $139.00
They both have trial software that allows you to get a feel for their products. The Transcender software definitely feels more thorough as a software product (the MeasureUp software feels like it was written before the end of the cold war – maybe an over exaggeration but it definitely feels dated) however for the price versus number of questions I took the MeasureUp software as i felt it would probably give me a greater variety of questions and therefore I’d get more value out of it.
In the end there were actually around 5 questions in the MeasureUp software that had similar issues to the Microsoft training software in that there were small errors or code that wouldn’t compile. Other than this though I did feel that the MeasureUp software did help me greatly in refining my speed in being able to deduce what was really being asked in the questions, because as previously mentioned, the Microsoft style of asking questions is often quite deceiving – MeasureUp’s software replicated this quite well.
I must also add that on emailing MeasureUp informing them of the questions that had issues, they refunded my entire purchase price and released a new version of the question pack (the software checks for updates every time you load it) within a short time frame – this is quite commendable as it shows that they both care about the quality of the questions and also care about their customers.
How I found the certification test.
The test that i sat on the day was 76 questions over 3 hours. There were a number of disclaimers I agreed to before sitting the test and one of these was that some of the questions where un marked to test upcoming questions for future exam participants and because of this I am unsure how many where actually scored. All the trial exam software I sat always talked about the test being 54 questions, so the answer to how many questions were actually tested lies probably somewhere in the middle.
Overall I found the exam quite balanced to the split that I showed it to be testing above in this post, however I found it interesting that a number of the MeasureUp trial exam software questions where actually in the real test which added a little relief. Apparently the exam questions are randomly pulled from a large question pool for each participant, which makes me think that if this is the case that i must have had a lot of luck getting questions i had already studied.
I did find the test to definitely not be a walk in the park. I consider my knowledge of the ASP.net framework to be quite high and I was definitely slowed in my answering of a number of the questions. Because of this I recommend studying the material very thoroughly if you have not being doing ASP.net for as long as they recommend.
My moment of anxiety
On the day of my exam I sat my test at a Prometric testing centre on Market street in Sydney. Upon completing the test it congratulated me on passing and then asked me to wait while my score was submitted. Halfway through this wait, the testing software crashed and a Modal window told me to speak to a Prometric customer support member. This completely freaked me out as I instantly worried that my score wouldn’t be recorded and I would have to sit the test again. I was told all was fine however they were unable to give me a score print out and that Microsoft would contact me once the test result had been processed which could take up to a week. When my colleague who’d sat the test on the same day received not only his print out on the day but also was contacted by Microsoft the next day I definitely had a day or two of rising fear of being “lost in the system” – happily I have since received my notification from Microsoft, but the wait definitely didn’t make my day :-)
Overall I found the certification a good test of broad skill and knowledge in the ASP.Net framework and would recommend it to other developers who want to not only add another piece of paper to their resume but also because i feel I learnt a number of things i wouldn’t have learnt through my day-to-day job that i can both put to use and also add to my confidence in knowledge of ASP.Net.