For some time ago an opportunity came up to do a review of a new book written by MVP Julian Sharp. I took that opportunity and lots of good things came with it – one thing being inspiration for writing new blog posts. I will dedicate a whole future blog post to Julian’s book – stay tuned! Until then, I’ll tell you a bit about my experience from taking Microsoft certification exams. I have taken a few exams over the years. I am far from being a collector of Power Platform Certifications, but recently I took one (thanks to Julian I scheduled for the exam PL-200) and I consider that as a start. In the end of this blog post you’ll find information about my exam history. More importantly, here follows a vocabulary as well as some dos and don’ts from my perspective. This includes what certification exams to take, how to best prepare for exams and things you want to avoid.
It can be a bit confusing with the vocabulary. You can read about certifications and you can read about exams. What is what? You can schedule for a certification exam and hopefully you pass that exam and then you earn your certification. E.g. this is a certification exam: Exam PL-200: Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant and this is a certification: Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate. Sometimes when we talk bout it we say the certification PL-200, but that is the exam. Not that important, but good to know what is what in Microsoft terminology. Here an example:
Here follows a Microsoft Certifications Glossary.
Badge – When you have passed an exam you will get a badge you can use e.g. on your website if you want to to that. You’ll access your badge on this page.
Certification – When you have passed an exam you will earn a certification. You can see your certification on that same page as mentioned above.
Exam – You schedule for an exam and hopefully you pass the exam.
Exam Providers – Where you can schedule for taking an exam. You can schedule for taking an exam at an exam provider (in their location on their computers) or with an exam provider online and you can take it from home.
MC ID – Microsoft Certification ID – An identification number for your certification profile. You only want one one these, read on and you’ll understand what I mean. This is yours personally, but can be linked to your employer and your employer will benefit from your certifications.
MCTs – Microsoft Certified Trainers You can become a Microsoft Certified Trainer. The MCT program is for people who deliver training on Microsoft technologies, read more about it here.
Transcript – Your Microsoft Certification Official Transcript contains all your active certifications and the achievement dates as well as your certification history. It also contains the exams you have taken and what date you took the exams. You’ll find it on the same page as your badges.
Do find out what certifications to take
As usual you can find lot’s of information in MS Docs and MS Learn. There is a place to go where you can get a great overview of available certifications. It is a really great starting place for learning more about what certifications to take. You can find it here: https://aka.ms/TrainCertPoster. You can also click on the different certifications and you will reach the information page about that exam and you can read about what areas it consists of, what knowledge that is measured.
Do make a plan
There might be different reasons for you wanting to schedule for an exam. Perhaps your employer wants you to take it as part of your learning path forward – great. Take this opportunity, prepare for it by reading the information page and make sure you either have knowledge about the different areas or make sure to study and do labs in order to gain that knowledge. Perhaps you are curious about if you already have the knowledge and you want to test your knowledge. Perhaps you are an exam collector, with the desire to catch them all? 🙂 Either way, you should make up a plan for what exams to take and make sure you have some time for studying. I need to make a plan for my own and for taking more Power Platform exams! Without a plan – you might find that time flies and you have not yet scheduled for the first one!
Do schedule for an exam
Don’t wait for the perfect timing, stick to your plan and make sure you schedule for the exams. Here follows information about scheduling for an exam. Don’t miss the Certifications Don’t chapter which contains valuable information related to scheduling for exams!
If you want to schedule for an exam you can go to this place and logon with your account (or create a new account if you do not already have one). From there you will have the option to find an exam to schedule.
Do prepare for the exam
So you have scheduled for an exam, great! Now you need to start preparing for taking the exam. Start with the information page about the exam. Are there areas that are new to you? Find out if there are any labs to take. Look for others who have taken the same exams and written about it. E.g. MVP Carl Cookson has done mindmaps for the exams he has taken and he has also written articles about them. Power Wiki contains some other community resources as well for some of the Power Platform certification exams (here) and I have an ambition to give it a better structure as well as more information too in the future. Please let me know if you have any input!
Don’t think of certification exams like Q/As
Don’t have the mindset that certifications are nothing more than a set of questions and answers. The certification exam might be, but you’ll gain so much more if you study for real and make sure you either have work experience from the different areas which are included in the measured knowledge or that you have done labs and explored the areas by yourself. This is your chance to learn about something new. In my opinion, having a certification does not mean that much. It differs from person to person. If you have prepared for it the right way – made sure you are familiar with the the different concepts and you have studied and explored those areas that you are not familiar with – then it means you have learned something new. That means your certification has more value than if you had the mindset that you just wanted to pass the exam. In my opinion, making a plan for taking certifications can be equivalent to making a plan for new things to learn, you just have to make sure you study the concepts, do labs and explore the content behind.
Don’t use your company/employer e-mail address when scheduling for an exam
You might be super happy about your job and where you are today, but you do not know what happens in the future. Use you own private e-mail account when scheduling an exam for the first time. Otherwise you will have a problem the day when you change employer.
I have actually done this mistake in the past. When I changed to a new employer, I had to create a new account and then figure out how to get my exams taken with the old account to me moved to my new account. I now know how you can accomplish that (see Schedule exams with different Microsoft accounts) but it is much better to do it right from the first time! So make sure you use your own personal e-mail address for your training profile (and all other community site too).
Don’t schedule exams with different Microsoft accounts
As already mentioned, if it is the first time you schedule for an exam, don’t use your company/employer account. If it is not the first time then there is another thing to watch out for – make sure you use the exact same account as you did the first time. This one is very important! I have done this mistake as well. It will mess up your MC IDs and you will have you exams and certifications split up over different accounts (and you can only link one account to your employer).
If you end up there anyway, then go to this page choose Microsoft Certification and choose to ask a question. Registered a new question e.g. “Help with merging MC ID accounts” and you will get great help.
Don’t wait, wait and wait
Don’t wait until your feeling is “now I’m ready to take this exam”. Just schedule for an exam, set a date in the future, make sure you have some time to prepare for it and make sure to study and prepare for it.
My experience from taking exams
In February I passed the PL-200 exam, Last time I took an exam was in 2017, when I took MB2-715, MB2-716 and MB2-717. All three have been retired now. MB-715 and MB-717 were both retired on the 30th of June 2019. MB2-715 was replaced by MB-200 and MB2-717 was replaced by MB-210. Now PL-200 is the replacement for MB-200. When it comes to MB2-716 it was retired on the 31st of January 2021. However it actually still counts in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) program.
So what about my even earlier experience from taking exams? Before I took these I also took one for CRM 2011: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration and three for CRM 4.0: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Applications, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Customization and Configuration and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Installation and Deployment. Believe it or not I also took Installation and Configuration in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009. The very first I took was Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Implementation and Maintenance. That was the entire history of me taking exams. Time flies by so fast!
For 4.0 I studied by reading books and playing around with on-premise installations and I did not have much experience with the platform other than working a bit with version 3.0 and doing an upgrade to version 4.0 at the company where I worked at that point in time. When I took the exam for 2011 it was easier because I had gotten some experience. The platform has evolved though and now parts of Power Platform are also included, so many new things to learn! You really need to have a mind-set like “learning never stops”, that goes both for taking exams and especially for working with this platform!
In the next blog post, I’ll tell you all about my experience from preparing for and taking the PL-200 exam.