A Microsoft MVP’s 5 steps for passing certification exams

Pluralsight blog

A Microsoft MVP’s 5 steps for passing certification exams
By J. Peter Bruzzese
So I was at TechEd 2013 in New Orleans last week and decided to take a Microsoft exam (because apparently I didn’t have enough to do with speaking at the event, writing up my weekly column for InfoWorld, attending sessions from the Exchange team and others, waiting in line for three hours for my $99 Surface RT and engaging in the largest meet-and-greet session of my year).

I took the 70-341 Exchange 2013 Core Solutions exam and passed, and TrainSignal said, “Hey, it sure would be great if you could tell our readers how you did it!”

Basically, when in doubt, always choose C.  I’m kidding (although I’m sure there is some truth to that).  Let me tell you honestly how I make the magic happen with passing Microsoft exams.

1. Lab work
You need to play with this stuff, folks. Watching video training is a great substitute if you cannot set up your own lab, but the best prep is when you can personally work with the solution you are testing on. And it isn’t enough to work with it in a job environment alone. That’s assuming the questions port directly to real-world scenarios, and they don’t always. Sometimes the questions are little obscure points or aspects of the solution you never, ever use in a production environment (and maybe nobody else does either).  So the personal lab work is key.

2. TechNet
Everything you need to know is already mapped out in TechNet. In fact, when an exam question creator is looking for something cool to put in a test question, they troll TechNet articles on the subject seeking the obscure. You can do the same to prepare for those types of questions. In addition, TechNet is an organized way to study by subject and see the PowerShell command stuff along with the topics (which is becoming more necessary for modern exams).

3. Testing software
Personally I like to use both Transcender and MeasureUp for my test prep.  Yep, both of them. Transcender has long explanations that teach and review material as you read why an answer is right or wrong, plus it has a cool flash-card-like tool. MeasureUp has shorter questions and explanations, but I feel like it mimics the exam better and gives me that visual correspondence to the real thing, plus it offers a cram PDF to download that is great for review.

4. Confidence metrics
During the test, I like to keep track of how many questions I think I answered correctly. When I press “Finish,” I like to know (to a degree) if I passed or failed based on those numbers.  I find that I’m usually wrong in my favor (meaning the ones I thought I had wrong I may have guessed right on).

5. Review sites
I look for folks who have already taken the test and are willing to offer helpful advice within the parameters of the disclosure they agreed upon when taking the exam.  Braindumps and such are discouraged big time, and they can actually get your certification revoked, so stay away from those.  But if you can find folks who can give you some helpful feedback, that is great.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Even with all this prep, I fail exams at times. It happens, especially when there is no testing software available for it (as was the case with the one I took).

The biggest reason for a failure though is lack of preparation. When I first started taking tests, I was so prepared there was no question that I was ready. But after 30, 40, 50 tests, there are now times when I just don’t prepare enough or feel more confident than I should, and I end up seeing a red bar at the end rather than a green one.  It hurts, and it’s an expensive lesson. But I schedule the retake immediately (sometimes the very next day) and jump right back after it.

Hopefully these tips can help you to prepare for your next certification exam challenge. If you have additional tips to add, please convey them in the comments section below.

Happy testing!

Want more advice on how to pass your cert exams? Sign up for TrainSignal emails and get access to The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for IT Certification Exams.

About the Author
J. Peter Bruzzese

J. Peter Bruzzese (Exchange MVP, Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Enterprise Messaging 2007/2010) is an author with over a dozen titles sold internationally. He has written hundreds of articles, speaks at a variety of technical conferences held by Microsoft, 1105 Media, WindowsITPro and others and is the Enterprise Windows columnist for 3+ years for InfoWorld. Most notably, J. P. B. is a member of the Train Signal family and is our very own Exchange instructor.
©2015 Pluralsight

Taining for VCP5-DCV

Now with the announcement of vSphere 6.0, I have to take this exam.

Sites that I need for preparation for the exam officially from VMware.  In this post, I have included other training resources.

Paths to becoming VCP5-DCV

VMware Mock Practice Exam VCP5-DCV

VMware VCP Forum


VCP5-DCV Exam Blueprint v3.2

VCP-DCV Official Cert Guide

VMware Official Practice Exams by MeasureUp

Practice Exam Comparison Matrix

VMware Certification Roadmap 2014

VMware Certification Roadmap for 2015

VMware Video List- VCP-DCV Certification – Mostly talks about the benefits of the certification.

VMware Video – Certification Overview

Self Paced VMware free eLearning

Free Self-paced eLearning

VMware currently offers free eLearning courses in the below languages, with more releasing soon.


Free VMware Education Services

Free VMware Instructional Videos Delivered by our Education Instructors at www.vmwarelearning.com

Product Chalk Talks

 VMware vCenter Log Insight


vSphere Data Protection 5.5

Link to following video


VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi)

VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager

VMware vSphere Storage Appliance

Software-Defined Data Center


Horizon Suite

VMware Horizon View

VMware Horizon Mirage

VMware Learning Zone

VMware Education has 3 free courses as of this blog post. Enroll now, it is good for one year.

vCloud Air Fundamentals

VMware vRealize Operations Manager Fundamentals [V6.0]

vRealize Operations Manager What’s New [V6.0] Fundamentals

(I do not have access this training, but I would love to check it out.)

The VMware Learning Zone is a new subscription-based service that gives you a full year of unlimited, 24/7 access to official VMware video-based training.

Top VMware experts and instructors discuss solutions, provide tips and give advice on a variety of advanced topics.

List Price:
1-9 users: $1,000 each
10 or more users: $900 each

Outside of VMware, there are other resources that I utilize


BLOGS – Real world issues.  Just double check that the blog writer scenario pertains to your environments.Blogs are also valuable learning resources.  I will post some blogs that I go to in a separate post.

VCP-DCV information on VMware Certification from VMware website

VCP-DCV Study Guides & Practice Exams

In addition to the recommended training courses, VMware also offers official study guides and practice exams to help you prepare for the VCP5-DCV certification exam.

Free Practice Quiz
This 30 question quiz tests your understanding of the VCP5-DCV exam topics.

VCP-DCV Official Cert Guide
This guide includes a practice test and provides exam preparation hints and test-taking tips, helping you identify areas of weakness and improve both your conceptual knowledge and hands-on skills. Material is presented in a concise manner, focusing on increasing your understanding and retention of exam topics.

VMware Official Practice Exams by MeasureUp
Using MeasureUp’s proven content development method and innovative testing technology, this is the most comprehensive practice exam on the market. Extensive explanations for all answer choices come standard with multiple reference sources while also reinforcing knowledge using missed question mode. Simply, this official practice exam builds readiness and confidence for the VMware exam.

Program Overview

Three Available VCP5-DCV Exams

Not sure which practice exam is right for you? Compare the differences.