Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tips and tricks on taking the 70-536 Microsoft .NET Framework – Application Development Foundation exam

One thing I noticed in this exam is that the details of the exam can save you from failing, and the details actually make it easier for you to guess correctly if you don’t know the answer for a question. These are things you would easily notice if you did the exam without a time limit and in your own living room, but as soon as you’re a bit stressed out they’re easy to ignore.

These examples might help you out if you’re absolutely stuck on a question and don’t know what to do.

Example #1:
All the answers for a question look similar, but if you take a good look at them you’ll see that one or two of the answers have nothing to do with the question whatsoever. Let’s say all the answers are lines of code containing a method, and inside the method something is done (it doesn’t matter what). The natural thing to do is to focus on what is done inside the method and how the method is declared, that’s where you assume you’ll find the answer.

But what about the name of the method? I know for a fact that I usually don’t pay attention to the method name unless it’s in a larger context, but you really should. What if, in one of the answers, the method is called SerializeDataSet(…) and the question has nothing to do with serialization? Then you can probably eliminate this answer and you’re one step closer to where you want to be.

Example #2:
As far as I’ve seen, this exam does not contain any trick questions (questions that lead you in the wrong direction). So if a question tells you that you have a variable ‘x’, and one of the answers does not use this variable, you can be pretty sure the answer is wrong.

Example #3:
Make sure you read the questions carefully and more than once. If a question states that a collection should be strongly typed, make sure the answer you choose in fact is strongly typed. If a question asks you to encrypt a file, make sure you choose the answer that encrypts (not decrypts) it. If you’re in a rush, details like these may be easy to ignore.

Last but not least, mark all the questions you are unsure of for review. The other questions in the exam might give you a clue on the way, so you should always go over the questions more than once. And if you don’t know the answer for a question, and you’re not able to eliminate any of the answers, go with your first hunch. Statistics show that your first hunch is more likely to be correct than choosing an arbitrary answer.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to study for the 70-536 Microsoft .NET Framework – Application Development Foundation exam

As I passed my 70-536 exam today, I thought I’d write this blog post to try to help out everyone else out there studying for the exam. Before starting though, remember one thing: This way of studying worked for me, it might not be the best way for you!

Also, Microsoft states that “Candidates should have at least two to three years of experience developing Web-based, Windows-based, or distributed applications by using the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.0, the .NET Framework 1.1, the .NET Framework 2.0, or the .NET Framework 3.5.

That’s really not necessary, I have 6 months of experience and I managed to pass it without too much hassle. It will save you a lot of study time if you have more experience than me though!

Before you start studying you should get an overview of the ‘Skills measured’. Highlight all the topics you know you’re unsure of, and be honest with yourself! If you find yourself thinking “I might know this”, you should assume that you don’t know. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.

Do the same thing with the contents overview in the Self-Paces Training Kit.(Mind that this exam is exactly the same for .NET 2.0 and 3.5)

After doing this you’ll have a good overview of what the exam covers and how much you know.

The next part is where you need some self control: the studying itself. In my world there are two ways of doing this:
  1. First study for the topics you don’t know, then have a look at those you do know (just to check that your knowledge covers everything)
  2. First have a look at those you do know, then study for the topics you don’t know
If you go for #1, by the time you’re done studying for the things you don’t know, you’ll probably be sick of studying and skip the part where you have a look at what you actually know. So #2 is the best way to go (trust me!)

When having a look at what you do know, quickly browse through the relevant topics in the book. If you see anything you don’t recognize, read it. If you don’t understand it after reading it, you should put it on your ‘Don’t know’ list.

So now you’ve covered everything you do know, and it’s time for the time consuming part: Learning what you don’t know. Read the highlighted topics, and if you don’t understand what you’re reading Google and Bing are your friends.

Each time you’ve covered a new topic, test your knowledge by doing a MeasureUp test (in custom mode - selecting the relevant topic)

And finally, when you’ve covered all of the topics: Do the MeasureUp test in the certification mode. If you don’t pass, you’ll get a nice overview over which topics you don’t know well enough and you can have a look at these topics again. And surprise, surprise: This step repeats itself until you know all the topics well enough!

And one last tips for all the procrastinators out there: As charming as procrastination is, it’s not very helpful. Make a schedule and stick to it! Some blood, sweat and tears later, and you’ll be certified :)

Next time: Tips and tricks on doing the exam itself