Open Source the MCM Questions and Lab - by way0utwest

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ID 859583 Comments
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Type Suggestion Repros 0
Opened 4/23/2014 8:16:56 AM
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Since the MCM program has been discontinued, the labs and questions used in this program represent a valuable set of knowledge that could be useful to educate the community and help them to build better applications on the platform.
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Posted by way0utwest on 5/20/2014 at 9:21 AM
Thanks for the update. I understand publishing can be troublesome and complex. I hope that you can use some of this content to help people learn, and guide their knowledge to build better SQL Server applications.
Posted by Microsoft on 5/20/2014 at 8:42 AM
I have been able to contact the MS Learning team and they have given me some information about the content. My restatement of that, is that the ownership of the content is a bit complex. Some content is owned by other groups at Microsoft and is being repurposed for delivery in other workshops. In some cases the content is canibalized into a substantially different form. In some cases content was paid for and licensed content for a specific use, and it can't just be reissued. At any rate, Microsoft doesn't want to waste the money spent on it, and efforts are being made to use it in some manner. But you won't see a consistent publishing pattern.
Posted by Microsoft on 4/30/2014 at 1:16 PM
An interesting idea. There might be a bunch of legal issues around that IP, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I'll forward this request on to them, and see what they say. Rick Byham
Posted by way0utwest on 4/24/2014 at 9:08 AM
I posted this request, not as a personal request, but as a way to help improve the knowledge and skills for the members of the community. Anyone can read about SQL Server and practice specific skills, but having a way to actually test multiple pieces of knowledge in a complex scenario is difficult for an individual to mock up. There are certainly people that could do it, and many of them probably proudly wear the MCM badge, but there are thousands more that could benefit from working through the scenarios at their leisure.

There is no way this diminishes the value of the MCM certification, unless the scenarios are shown to be easier than implied. Anyone that reads through these questions or uses them to guide their acquisition of knowledge, will not be duplicating the pressure and work of MCM candidates or awardees. They would only be improving themselves.

In terms of noting the study material is available, that is true. However one of the problems today for many people is that there are little guidance in terms of how to work through material. For the highly accomplished, this might seem easy, but for many SQL Server professionals, the guide, or even the goal of having a scenario to solve, provide important boundaries for the journey.

The intent here is not to shortcut the journey, but to allow people that need to work in a particular niche in SQL Server, or with a desire to understand what a complex environment looks like, which they may not have, to have a bit of a map on their journey. The release of this material isn't intended to replace the exam in any way. It's to help others understand what skills and talents they should aspire to on their journey.

As far as another premier certification, I doubt that MS will do this, but they could. Assuming they would, I agree that knowing specific questions might compromise some of these. However if I understand the MCM lab, the difficulty was in putting together lots of bits of knowledge, under pressure, and having that knowledge handy in your mind. Any new program will be 3 versions past the current MCM questions (R2, 2012, 2014) and potentially 4. New features will need to be incorporated, and twists could be added to existing scenarios that likely wouldn't substantially increase the investment in the newer certification.

Again, this request isn't designed to replace the MCM, nor allow general SQL Server professionals to duplicate the effort. It's to help them improve their skills in a more targeted fashion.

Posted by retracement on 4/24/2014 at 8:23 AM
Thanks again Kenneth. Actually I totally agree with your reasons and sentiment for certifications. That is exactly why I like them too, MCM is different though.

Without breaking the NDA I will tell you though that the MCM was never like a traditional type of MS certification path or exams and I guarantee that if you were given visibility to it all you would gain far less from the experience by seeing the exam, content and labs before you study. For around 15 years I have been a huge fan of Trancenders/ Selftest and have used them extensively to "fill the gaps" in many different disciplines. These will give you what you want far more than the MCM ever could. The journey to an MCM does something different to that. Leaning on what Uwe said a little, the MCM will encourage a passion in you regarding SQL Server Internals. The MCM lab also gave you worst case real world experiences. Once described to me beforehand as "Imagine your worst day ever, when everything goes wrong, project managers are demanding things, and you are expected to deliver everything...".

Now if I told you to go and take that last statement and prepare for that eventuality one day in the future, and start studying in readiness for that eventuality, what are you going to do? Your road to MCM begins now....
Posted by Kenneth Fisher on 4/24/2014 at 8:01 AM
Thanks for the response retracement. Actually I covered that (admittedly very briefly) with the comment that it becomes a practice exam. And as a practice exam it allows you to target your studying. One of the reasons I like certifications is that they force me to become familiar with parts of the product I wouldn't have ever seen otherwise. When I take a practice exam and get a question wrong (partitioning for example) that tells me that I need to go back and review that feature. The question itself is a single fact and as such has limited usefulness, but it points out that there is something that I missed.

The MCM exam was at a much higher level than any of the other exams that I've taken. It would be valuable to me not because I'll learn anything from it (although I'm sure I will) but because it will highlight what areas of SQL Server I'm strongest in, and what I'm weakest in at a very high level.

There is also something to be said for it being a confidence builder. If I take the MCM exam and get 50% then I gain some additional confidence in my abilities .. and some additional drive to try to get to that passing level. If I actually manage to pass then I know that if the MCM (or something similar) program comes back then I am ready to update my knowledge (new features) and attempt it. And of course if I'm horrible across the board then I know I need to go back to the basics and start again.

This does not in any way detract from the respect given to the MCM community. If anything I would think it would enhance it. "Wow they passed that!?"
Posted by Jason Brimhall (MCM) on 4/24/2014 at 7:55 AM
Thanks for the summary Kenneth. An important debate item left out was what boB Taylor said.

MS did say there would be a new "PINNACLE" certification. If/when that happens, the material from the MCM/MCSM would be the basis for the new cert. While the MCM has been retired, having access to the questions/scenarios would in fact devalue the future certification or require a significant development effort to create new questions. That cost for re-development is quite high.

Another important piece of the puzzle was the conditions and the environment. Having just the scenarios without the entire environment would provide little benefit when trying to gauge one's competency level. I doubt MS would release the entire lab environment.
Posted by retracement on 4/24/2014 at 7:26 AM
Hi Kenneth, thanks for adding to the debate. I think you really miss the main point (or my main point at least), that the purpose of the MCM program (imho) was the journey not the destination. It MADE you read all sorts of literature that you wouldnt normally or might actually have been unnecessary for the exam. Therefore when MCMs actually came to do the test, it was almost kind of irrelevant whether at that stage they passed or failed because the study was a bit like someone rowing across the ocean and the exam was a bit like trying to moor the boat in the harbour. The last thing might not go so well, but it would be fairly trivial for someone of MCM standard to try again.

All the above can be achieved (minus the "mooring the boat") without visability to anything. Obviously non-MCMs would want visability to all this material (I think I would if I hadnt made the effort myself), but it hugely misses the point in my opinion.
Posted by Kenneth Fisher on 4/24/2014 at 6:58 AM
I'm a little surprised at all of the negative reaction to this. The benefit is not in gaining knowledge it's in testing it. Like any practice exam (which is in essence what this would be) testing yourself against these questions would be a way to see how far you have come with your skills.

If I'm following the arguments correctly they are:

It would be like a "brain dump"
    Yes but for an exam that is no longer available
There is lot's of other training material out there
    A practice exam is not training material. You learn where you are in the process and where you need work.
It will devalue the current MCM certification
    In what way? Time will devalue it somewhat but allowing people to see just how hard the exam was should do nothing but increase it's value.

By allowing someone access to these high level questions an individual (such as myself) who never took the exam gains the following benefits.

I get to see where I have deficiencies that I need to work on.
I gain confidence to take the high level cert exam if one ever does come back (and lower ones for that matter)

There is the argument that someone might say "These questions are easy! I could have easily been an MCM!" However these people are also probably the ones who don't consider the MCM that big a deal anyway.
Posted by Uwe Ricken on 4/24/2014 at 5:47 AM
Hallo DBA_Andy,

I don't think it will be a "benefit" - all you need to know about SQL Server can be achieved by the public training material, BOL and other fantastic sources (videos / PASS Summit / SQL Saturday / ...).
What do you think is the reason why MCM are very renowned SQL community members?

In my opinion there are three essential points which makes a MCM a real specialist:

- you can be sure exam wasn't cheated by brain dumps
- a MCM has real deep knowledge about the SQL Server internals
- a MCM is a passionated advocate for SQL Server
Posted by bobtaylor29708 on 4/24/2014 at 2:56 AM
I would absolutely not support this... The value of the MCM would then be diluted with no real benefit.
The plans (as I left the program) was to revisit a new pinnacle certification. The current material would be the basis for that, as the development costs were quite high.
Posted by retracement on 4/24/2014 at 2:23 AM
Hi Steve. Interesting point, and this Connect was mentioned on the MCM email group for our discussion. Below is essentially my contribution to the discussion, I have changed it to the first person so it reads as a direct reply to you. I would be particularly interested in your response to my comment why didn't you make the "MCM journey" when you could have? :

"I'm not crazy about the idea and think that the important thing about the MCM was the journey not the destination. All training materials are still available AND the MCM videos give a very good idea of what to expect in the exam/s. So I don't quite think releasing anything is going to achieve much beyond fostering a lazy acquisition of a subset of that knowledge we all gained from our own personal journeys.

Furthermore it is not like the MCM was a restrictive programme to people such as yourself, who probably (more than most people) would have had access to resources and investment to achieve the MCM when it was available. If you feel the NDA material could be so valuable to people now then I cannot quite grasp why you didn't achieve it when you was able (I am assuming you just didn't attempt to). At least you would have more of a vested interest and insight before suggesting this stuff should get published for free?!

I also believe doing so would diminish the importance of the MCM beyond repair and as someone (a small consultant) who has invested significant amounts of time and money into obtaining the certification (like I know many other MCMs have also), should Microsoft ever do this, my company would seek to get those costs reimbursed.

Apologies in advance if my opinion is not commonly shared, but I feel it is important to speak out if I disagree rather than stay quiet. If nothing else it may help to balance the argument."
Posted by Ian Allchin on 4/24/2014 at 2:17 AM
I have been sworn to secrecy as a candidate and I expect Microsoft to keep the exact details of the exams secret themselves. The videos, training courses and reading lists give enough public information, in my opinion.
Posted by Andreas.Wolter on 4/24/2014 at 2:09 AM
On the other side it may leave those who paid a lot of many to take and / or re-take the exams and invest time to solve them under pressure with a strange feeling...
besides: the most important part is the knowledge: which can be found in all the available resources already. the exams do not contain anything that's "out of this world"
Nevertheless they are NDA
Posted by Robert L Davis on 4/23/2014 at 3:13 PM
If they just want to release them in raw format, sure, the cost would be basically nothing. The cost I was referring to was the cost the exam provider wanted to charge for online delivery through their system. We wanted to make the testing experience something that could be practiced, not just hand out the questions. The provider wanted to charge full price for delivery of the practice exams.
Posted by way0utwest on 4/23/2014 at 1:45 PM
I'd call BS on the cost. Anyone that says otherwise hasn't examined it, or they're looking for a typical engineering 100% solution. Just release the text of the questions on a blog (very easy) and get a few hours of legal time to dissolve the NDA. They could even re-use some of the work probably done in releasing DOS.

No need to let VMs go, let the community and current MCMs fill in the VM setup.
Posted by Robert L Davis on 4/23/2014 at 12:15 PM
When I was the PM for the SQL Server MCM program, we tried to release the old multiple choice exams as practice tests, but the cost was prohibitive. This was something we wanted to do with older versions even when the program was still running.
Posted by SQLMCM on 4/23/2014 at 10:18 AM
Plenty of information was published here:

Posted by DBA_ANDY on 4/23/2014 at 9:06 AM
It would definitely be beneficial as a knowledge tool for all levels of DBAs to learn the product and be more effective. It would also garner goodwill for Microsoft within the SQL Server community.