A crucial part of any IT Pro’s job is to be a reliable source of information for a given platform; proving that you are this reliable source can be difficult for any number of reasons:
- These platforms are often new (sometimes to the point of being partially incomplete)
- Studying for one or more tests can be time consuming
- Taking and passing the test can be a positive/negative experience, based on the outcome (pass/fail)
Individuals seeking to certify in the SharePoint platform often find that the test covers items which generally fall outside the scope of their regular activities. Familiarity with platforms such as Windows Server and SQL Server often come into play, as do some light-duty development topics. These topics were further expanded in 2013, to include a baseline coverage of Office 365 and hybrid discussions.
With the release of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016, IT Pros found themselves presented with a fairly new concept; the SharePoint Server 2016 platform would be created “cloud first”, meaning that on-premises SharePoint functionality would be derived from components found first in the Office 365 platform. As the online version changes, these changes are bundled up and released as updates to the on-premises version.
Creating the new Exam Ref Book
When SharePoint Server 2016 reached Release Candidate status, Microsoft contacted me to ask if I would write the new version of the Exam Ref book (for Exam 70-339). The new book would address the single IT Pro test, which replaced the previous two versions of the test (for SharePoint Server 2013):
- 70-331: Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
- 70-332: Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013
Creating the new book was a bit of a challenge, specifically because the new test covered a broad spectrum of skills and configurations within the SharePoint 2016 platform; some of these items had not yet been documented in the platform, while others had not yet been released (for example, Insights and Telemetry). The new book would have to cover topics present in both 70-331 and 332 while also introducing topics to describe new functionality. Fortunately, I had a resource that I can share with you – the Objective Domain.
Anytime you are trying to decide if a Microsoft test is for you, I recommend that you check out the Objective Domain (OD) for that test as a first stop. This OD provides a framework which is used for certification materials and the certification itself, while also providing information about the weighting of scores within the exam.
For instance, shown below is the OD for Exam 70-339: Managing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016, which can be found at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-339.aspx.
There are seven major sections covered, each representing between 5 and 20% of the test. Expanding any of these will show details about the items covered in each section (and there are quite a few!). If you use the Exam Ref guide, you will find that its outline follows this layout verbatim, allowing you to refresh your skills in areas you think may be an issue.
This book weighs in short of 500 pages (464, to be exact). As such, it is an effective reference, and points the reader to more extensive documentation from MSDN, TechNet, and other sources on the internet. Reviewing this content allows the user to deep dive into topics which may be of use on the test.
What the book is:
- A technical reference – Much as a dictionary and its definitions are useful to a language, the topics and descriptions in this documents are self-contained groupings of knowledge around a particular topic.
- Built with the test in mind – The topics in this Exam Ref match line for line with the topics found in the Objective Domain.
What the book is not:
- A training manual – Although there are sections within the book where you will see a series of steps toward a particular goal, the sheer number of topics prevent the book from being a comprehensive training manual.
- Everything you need to pass the test – When the book was written, items such as the November Cumulative Update (featuring changes to MinRole and Insights/Telemetry, among others) had not yet been created. It is usually the case that the certification test is updated to match the current state of the SharePoint product.
- A complete summary of any given topic – You will find that the Exam Ref books provides many links to external sources for in-depth discussions on a given topic (such as SQL Reporting Services integration with SharePoint). Plan on spending quite a bit of time reading through and playing with these items.
Planning for the Test
If I could give one piece of advice to someone looking to pass a Microsoft Certification Test, it would be – schedule the test. Scheduling your test will give you a goal to shoot for (you can always reschedule, if you run out of time). In the meantime, keep an eye out for Microsoft Exam Replays; these are offered from time to time, and give you the opportunity to take the test once, and then take it again (if you happen to fail the first time). Microsoft posts all Learning Offers at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/offers.aspx.