After sitting my first Microsoft exam and completing my first Microsoft Certification I thought I would share how I approached it in all it’s glamourous glory. From the rescheduling to the cramming to sitting for the exam in my bathroom. Yes, I sat the exam in my bathroom.
The whole process of studying for and sitting for a certification was pretty daunting for me. I had wanted to for years, but had put it off. It felt like a stretch goal that needed a little more technical knowledge than felt necessary for my day-to-day job.
Now, working for a consultancy, it definitely helps to have more of a technical understanding and we are supported to study for and take the exams. So when I started at Avanade in November I started scouring our intranet and the interwebz with the goal of sitting the MS-900 Microsoft Fundamentals exam.
The thing that I am most grateful for is people who I spoke to and real resources that are available on sitting exams. While it did cause me to be anxious about failing (for justifiable reasons) it also meant that I was prepared for things which would never have occurred to me. I have sat plenty of exams in my time, and even recently being back at University, but the proctored Microsoft exams were a whole new experience.
Choosing a certification
I chose MS-900 because it seemed the closest to the skills I already have and the Microsoft products I have worked with. If, like me, you don’t have a certification yet the fundamental options seem to make sense.
Schedule the exam
I scheduled my exam for about 4 weeks from when I first started studying or it, in November 2021. I think I rescheduled it about 4 times. Work became busy, I had Uni exams, client work would conflict with my exam time. All the things.
As long as you reschedule the exam at least 24 hours in advance you or your company wont lose the fees for the exam.
I had intended to reschedule mine again, having had a massive week with work, uni being back and training I was doing I had not studied for ages. But, I forgot and figured I would be better off at least sitting it and failing to get the experience of the exam, than cancelling completely or skipping it.
I did start studying in November and used a few resources which I will list below. I also spent the day before the exam cramming and finishing some of the online learning that I had started. I don’t necessarily recommend that approach, I would have preferred to have been reviewing notes.
These are the resources I used to study for this exam:
Microsoft Learn (Free)
Pluralsight (Not free)
LinkedIn Learning (Also not free)
There are many other great resources available (if you have favourites let me know) but these were the ones I used.
To get a feel for what the exam questions would be like, and to see if I had any chance of passing I completed a few practice exams through MeasureUp.
This is why I was quite sure I would fail because I sat 3 practice exams before the real one. Two the day before and one on the morning of.
Given that to gain the certification I needed 80% I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to pass the real exam.
The practice exams are great because the questions are very much like what you get in the real exam. But the low results gave me no confidence. If I had not forgotten to reschedule I would never have sat for the exam with those results.
Knowing what I know now, I would not have put off sitting the exam for so long. Hindsight is 20/20.
Exam space and system test
I sat the exam in my bathroom.
I came to this decision after watching Lisa Crosbie‘s awesome video on exam tips. Because I was sitting the exam at home and not in a testing centre my space and my computer needed to meet strict requirements which would be checked by a proctor on the day.
Even though Pearson Vue give clear instructions on what your exam space should and shouldn’t have and what you can and can’t have on your device, watching Lisa’s video helped highlight some really important stuff that I would have glossed over or taken for granted, and would have left me stressed or even unable to sit the exam on the day.
With my desk set up and studio/office space crowded with posters and books and knick-knacks it was easier for me to set up a makeshift standing desk in my bathroom and put up a sheet than it was to cover or take down all the stuff around my desk.
I did a system test the day before and on the morning. This meant the software was ready to go and I had all my apps closed and unpinned.
Sitting the exam
The exam opens 30 minutes before the scheduled start time, and I knew from the advice of someone at work that I should get in as soon as it opened. I had to take a selfie, a pic of my ID, and photos of my room (bathroom). Then I was in a queue of 24 waiting to be checked by the proctor.
When my turn came I had to show the ‘desk’ space with my webcam so they knew it was clear, no notes or food or things. After they checked I could go in and start the exam.
I was able to set the exam software to dark mode but the text was a bit small (and didn’t seem adjustable). It was offputting having to lean in to read because I could see myself in a tiny video screen which the exam proctor was watching.
I knew they would be watching to make sure nobody came in and listening to make sure there were no sounds. Warnings are given for things which could be seen as a breach of exam conditions which I tried very hard to avoid. Not allowed to read questions out loud for instance. However, I discovered that even looking up while thinking was not allowed because I got an alert from the proctor. Adding to the stress of an exam I was sure I would fail, I had to worry about unintentionally glancing up and getting kicked out of the exam.
I got to the end of the exam. I reviewed some questions I had flagged to double check if I had time, then I clicked to finish. Completely expecting a fail screen I was shocked that my results were a pass.
I wish I had taken a screenshot but I was wasn’t sure if it was allowed. I got a confirmation email not long after and a hearty ‘told you so’ from my husband.
The results were available straight away and I was able to share my shock and joy on all the social media spots via Credly.
I expected this to be a blog post about failure and being more organised and the value of sitting the exam for the experience.
Instead it’s a blog post about being more organised, not putting off exams and definitely about the experience.