Study resources for the MCSA on Windows Server 2012
Many HR departments still do not know about Microsoft’s MCITP certifications. Microsoft must have realized this as they recently discontinued this program in favor of the “old” MCSA and MCSE, though the acronyms now stand for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, respectively. These new certifications are still new and the resources available to study for them are limited. Here is a rundown of some of the resources you can use for the new MCSA certifications.
The first and most obvious choice to prepare for any of the new certifications is the official documentation which can be found in the TechNet Library. The new certifications focus on Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012. Check the blueprint for the exam you’re considering and study the appropriate TechNet articles. TechNet is free and the material is accurate, but it can be terse and difficult to comprehend, and there won’t be any practice questions as it is not meant to be a study guide. Luckily there are many lab scenarios which is the most important aspect of studying for most IT certifications including those from Microsoft.
There are currently three new MCSA certifications, of which I’m interested in two: MCSA: Windows Server 2008 and MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Currently I have the MCSA: 2008 because it is granted to anyone with the MCITP: Server Administrator or MCITP: Enterprise Administrator (I have both). As Server 2008 has been on the market for several years there are many excellent resources available. I personally used study guides from Sybex to prepare for these exams, but I took them before they were updated for Server 2008 R2, so unfortunately books I used are outdated. Sybex released an updated study guide that covers the MCTS exams (70-640, 642, and 643), but apparently there is no updated study guide for 70-646.
If you use the Sybex book for 70-646, you should review Server 2008 R2 resources such as TechNet articles and the free Introducing Windows Server 2008 R2 eBook. Passing 70-640 and 642 before taking 70-646 may provide enough exposure to Server 2008 R2, but I cannot say for sure. Microsoft has updated some of their own study guides and they have a 3-pack available for the MCITP: SA (and thus MCSA: 2008).
The exams for the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification, 70-410, 70-411, and 70-412, are still in beta, but there are no study guides available anyway. There are a few options if you want this certification. You can use TechNet as previously mentioned, which could be a good option if you already have a certification with an upgrade path to the MCSA: 2012. Also, you can wait for study guides to become available, or get a book covering Server 2012 in general such as the ones being released by Sams and Sybex. I’ve never been let down by any book in the Sams “Unleashed” or Sybex “Mastering” series, so I’m sure these will be excellent.
Update – 26 Dec 2012: The exams are out of beta, but study resources are still limited. The Microsoft Press book for 70-410 is available, while the books for 70-411 and 70-412 will be available in a few months. If you don’t already have the MCITP: SA / MCSA: 2008, you can start on 70-410 and continue with 70-411 and 70-412 when the guides are available.
Update – 4 Jun 2013: The Sybex study guide for 410, 411, 412, and 417 is coming out soon. It’s authored by William Panek so I’m sure it will be excellent.
If you are new to Microsoft certification it is a good idea to get one that can be upgraded to the MCSA: 2012 because skills for Server 2008 will continue to be in demand. Also, if you are currently working with Server 2008, a related certification will help validate your skills. There are quite a few certifications that can be upgraded to the MCSA: 2012 by taking the soon-to-be-released 70-417 exam. The MCSA: 2008 is one such upgrade-eligible certification and you can use available resources such as those mentioned above, or you can use the recently released Microsoft Press study guide. This is what I am currently working on.
Update – 24 Nov 2015: Microsoft updated these exams to include questions covering Server 2012 R2, so Sybex released an updated study guide.
If you are looking to take the fewest exams, one option is the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7, which only requires exams 70-680 and 70-686. However, I have the MCITP: EDA7 and found these exams to be fairly difficult. Personally I used TechNet articles to study for this certification, but I did not have much choice as I took the exams when no study guides were available (I took 70-680 when it was fairly new and 70-686 when it was in beta). I highly recommend using study guides for these exams.
Another certification you might want to obtain before upgrading to the MCSA: 2012 is the MCITP: Virtualization Administrator. This currently requires three exams: 70-659, 70-669, and 70-693. I have the MCITP: VA and I highly recommend using Mastering Microsoft Virtualization from Sybex to prepare. Besides being well written and a great read, it is an amazing deal as far as certifications go. It is perfect for preparing for 70-403, 70-652 (retired), 70-656, 70-659, 70-669, and 70-693! There are not many books that are good for up to six exams. I personally used it to pass four of those exams (I used the Sybex study guide to prepare for 70-652, and I took and unfortunately failed 70-659 when it was in beta, before the book was available).
Next time I will explore material available for some of the the new MCSE certifications. I’ve already taken the beta 70-413 and 70-414 exams and am awaiting the results (Update: I only passed 70-413). If you plan to take any Microsoft exams, make sure to sign up for the Second Shot promotion, just in case.