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I was wondering about the new MCSA certification on SQL 2012 and how it seems to be more difficult to upgrade your certification from 2008 to 2012 than to get the 2012 from scratch.

Reason I think that is true is because anyone with any MCTS SQL Server 2008 certification can upgrade it to a MCSA 2012 by passing 2 tests (457 and 458). If you try to get it from scratch, you need to pass 3 tests (461, 462 and 463 - which are pretty much the same as 432, 433 and 448 for SQL 2008).

But the thing is, even though its one test less to upgrade, all the skills necessary to pass 461, 462 and 463 are squeezed on 457 and 458 so, it seems easier to get from scratch than upgrade.

Any thoughts?

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closed as off topic by Walter, Jim G., gnat, Mark Trapp, ChrisF Oct 11 '12 at 21:44

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3 Answers 3

The amount of knowledge verified through the process of testing should be the same no matter what route you take: after all, the "upgraded" certificate certifies the same thing as the one obtained from scratch.

If you know your SQL 2012 really well, the smaller number of questions should make the only difference to you. If there are "blank spots" in your knowledge, you can certainly try to "game" the system by trying a different path to certification, in the hope that the alternative set of questions would "align" better with the areas that you know very well. However, it is counterproductive: a certificate is no substitute for knowledge - it may help you to an interview, but it will not give you a job offer. So the best strategy is to learn the items that make one certification route seem harder to you than the other, and then take the shorter of the two to save time you spend in the examination.

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I agree with Dasblinkenlight in that both finish lines should require the same level of understanding. But I'd like to offer a slightly different spin...

The path to becoming a subject matter expert (applicable to most domains) can be broken down into 2 general steps in a never-ending cycle:

  1. knowledge acquisition
  2. deliberate practice
  3. repeat (1)

Knowledge acquisition comes from reading books, blogs, whitepapers, watching instructional videos, attending conferences. This is an expansionary phase where new skills/knowledge is acquired.

Deliberate practice is applying what you've just learned in the most recent knowledge acquisition step, integrating it with knowledge acquired in previous cycles, and committing this new knowledge (or as much of it as possible) to longer-term memory.

So, from this perspective, while I can't argue that it will be more difficult to sit for 2 (upgrade) exams or 3 regular exams, my thoughts are that it is probably more beneficial for you to sit for all 3 because it will force you revisit and refresh certain topics that may have "faded" during your effort to expand your knowledge into other areas.

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Short Answer: I would go over all topics (461, 462 463) and cover them before shooting for MCSA 2012 certificate.

Keep in mind that certificates are useless papers without backing knowledge that we should learn/practice before attempting to pass them. Otherwise, even being able to pass exams without sufficient understanding of topics will heart your credibility in front of team-members. They are look good on resume and are bonus points being picked up as a candidate for position, however hands-on knowledge of topics is gained through practice.

In summary, get prepared for all mentioned three exams. And go for upgrade exams (457 and 458). It will save you time and money. In addition, look for second shot voucher promotions. Just in case, if you could not on your first try.

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