Exams vs. the Real World | SQL Server Performance Forums
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Exams vs. the Real WorldThis morning I sat my first Microsoft Exam for about six months and I have to admit that it got me thinking about the whole exam process. Often, I come across DBAs and developers who have an extensive list of Microsoft certifications; however, their skills do not match the number of letters that they put in their e-mail signature and on their business cards. I am not trying to discount the Microsoft exams; I just don’t think that exams necessarily correlate to real world experience. I think Microsoft exams have a place, but like any qualification, it does not equate to experience.
I have a few friends who are network engineers and some of them have sat the premium CISCO certifications. In these certifications there is an exam component as well as a practical component. Meaning that someone has to not only demonstrate his or her understating of theory but also be able to apply this theory in a practical "real world" scenario. Imagine the scenario where an exam candidate was provided a SQL Server database where a corruption had occurred and they needed to restore the database. There is a big difference between someone who can diagnose and the resolve the issue versus someone who can answer restore backup and roll forward transaction logs. Do you think that the current Microsoft certification process accurately measures the skills of a DBA?
– Peter Ward
Peter -I could not agree more (as I have attested to this same topic on other sites).However, I’m not sure that even a vendor as broad and deep as Microsoft is has the ‘real-world’ experience in its sales/marketing/developer/education staffs to create a ‘practical’ exam portion.I base this on my experience(s) sitting for Teradata exams.There were several instances where my boss, a certified Teradata Master proved (and even had Teradata developers agreeing with him) that answers on exams were incorrect. However the exams stood as they were because the ‘education experts’ has information ‘proving’ their answer to the disputed question was ‘correct’.Here is my take away from the certification racket. NO EXAM can measure real world or practical application experience. The best it can do is test knowledge and understanding of things like system administration or SQL syntax and usage.Companies that place the bulk of their hiring decision on certification are making a mistake if they think this guarantees a quality hire.My own test as to the importance a company places on any particular certification is simply this – If I don’t have it, and my (prospective) employer wants me to have it and will pay for it, then I’ll pursue it; otherwise it really isn’t a requirement for the job as much as it is an excuse to exclude a candidate during the job screening process. If I should ever wind up not being selected due to a lack of certification(s) (and to my knowledge I have been on one occasion) my view is I wouldn’t be happy working there anyway, and they probably couldn’t pay me enough.
I agree as well. Here’s my dilemma: I have 19 years experience with no certifications at all. Can I get hired? Not likely. The Certification helps a great deal when interviewing over the phone, but when I’m working on a real world problem, the nuances of the db and the OS require knowledge that no exam can provide.
the exams are made to test the test world and not real world. most people don’t use all the features of SQL or use a lot of third party products for things like backup. i use Veritas Netbackup and we have an EMC SAN that automatically makes copies to another server and some db’s get a full backup every day. the rest I let veritas worry about how to do full or diffs and don’t really care about the syntax for formatting a tape or where the backup goes. the veritas client takes care of that.i can spend 20 minutes playing with a query to get the right syntax, but not so on the test. i have to pick the right choice the first time.we have srdf so i don’t really know mirroring or log shipping. a lot of fortune 500 and up companies that MS wants to sell SQL to use this tech from EMC and won’t bother with mirroring. does this mean half the people that use third party solutions for some things MS built into SQL are not supposed to get certified?the real world MS products work alongside non-MS. the test doesn’t include that. You can build a network with only Cisco products, very hard to do this with software.
I agree that the exams do not replace the real world experience. I started out as an Oracle DBA and gained my experience from hard work, mistakes that I learned from and lots of testing in my DEV environment. I did not take any Oracle certification exams. But where I do see the exams helping me is that now I am learning SQL and only have a couple of years experience, it is helping me to get the knowledge of how SQL works and all the components and then I apply this knowledge to my current SQL environment. I have passed the 70-431 MCTS exam and I am currently studying to take the 70-443 and 70-444 exams next week and it is really helping me to learn more about SQL than I would have just trying to do my job. Now I am taking what I am learning and applying them to what I am doing. I agree that answering a question regarding backup and recovery is completely different than knowing how to restore a database when the time comes so I personally like the balance of both: using the certification exams to force me to study and learn and then applying those concepts to my real world situation. I learn better that way and could have used some of that back in my Oracle days. I am the type of person that although I do learn about something by studying and reading books, I don’t fully grasp the concept and really understand it until I actually get on the computer and do it. Then when I see what is happening and how it gets done, it sinks in and I see the light! One thing bout getting certified is that you get to put all those fancy letters after your name but that is not an incentive for me at all. I personally feel that you cannot know everything that the exams cover 100% and I would’t feel right about including those letters after my name until I feel like I have mastered an understanding of it all and that won’t happen until I get out there and use it. Until then I will feel good about my certifications (if I pass!) but don’t find the need to display them on my name. I just want to be a better DBA and try to use as much as I can to help me achive that.
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