This post is my review of Microsoft Press Training Kit for Exam 70-461 Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012. The authors are Itzik Ben-Gan, Dejan Sarka, and Ron Talmage.
I’ve been taking Microsoft SQL Certification Exams for a while now. For whatever reason I’ve fallen into a pattern of taking them every second release; I took a few for SQL 7, skipped SQL 2000, renewed with SQL 2005, and mostly missed SQL 2008 and R2 (70-448 on Business Intelligence was the exception). Now with SQL 2012 Exams being live it’s time to hit the books again.
The 70-461 exam is required if you’re going for a MCSA: SQL Server 2012 certification. And the MCSA is a requirement if you’re continuing on to either the MCSE: Data Platform or MCSE: Business Intelligence certs. There are four main objectives to the exam, each comprising roughly about 25% of the total. You can read more about the objectives on Microsoft Learning’s 70-461 Exam page.
If you’ve read any of the other MSPress training kit books you’re familiar with how the book is laid out. The chapters and lessons are written to address the exam objectives, and there’s a handy guide in the front that maps the lessons to the skills being measured in the exam. Each lesson in a chapter has a small set of questions based on the material just covered along with a lesson summary. At the end of each chapter are case scenarios that present a problem you might face as a SQL developer and you’re asked questions that re-enforce the chapter objectives. In addition the book comes with a testing engine you can install to take practice tests.
This TK for 70-461 is one of the best TKs I’ve ever used to study. The authors have done a great job in laying out the material and giving you examples to make their points. I really like how they ask the questions at the end of each lesson. Instead of just saying type this to get that, they give you a snippet that almost does the job, and you need to find out what was missed and how to fix it. I think this style helps reinforce the material.
My favorite chapter was the very first one, Foundations of Querying. It explains the difference between the standard SQL and T-SQL languages and where they’re different. A great example the authors state is using CAST or CONVERT. CAST is standard and CONVERT is not. You should always use the standard, unless the alternative allows additional needed functionality. CONVERT allows for the use of a style argument.
This is definitely a book you should get if you’re studying for the 70-461 Exam. Since I haven’t taken the test yet, and everyone has a different level of knowledge, I can’t state that this can be your only resource. But I think it should be your main one. I know it will be mine, once I decide to schedule the exam.