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How to pass BizTalk certification (70-595)

As you may know, there is an MCTS-exam called 70-595, for us that work with BizTalk. The formal name is: “Developing Business Process and Integration Solutions by Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010”. Many seem to think that passing this test is hard and also a challenge, but if you do pass, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. You have also received a sign of approval from Microsoft about your knowledge and abilities. If you are lucky, and work for the right employer, you might even receive a bonus for passing.

How do I book a test date?

clip_image001Firstly you need to find a Prometric-licensed test center. Microsoft works in collaboration with Prometric worldwide and they are responsible for making sure that everyone gets to take the test under the same conditions. They, in turn, certify locations (or test centers) all over the world. You need to find one of those. If I were you I would check the local education center that your company usually uses.

If you live in Sweden I can recommend AddSkills. You can book a date right from their site, and even send the invoice directly to your employer. The cost for taking the test varies, but at AddSkills the current rate is 1 950 SEK for the Gothenburg and Stockholm test centers. Others might be more expensive.

Is the test hard?

clip_image002Yes, it is hard. The point of the test to show that you are better than a beginner and that you also have some working experience with the product. I have heard different rumors about different Microsoft exams. Some seem to be easy-peasy, and others are hard as nails. This might be the case but I can tell you that the BizTalk is in the latter category rather than the former.

What is the process of the exam itself?

There used to be practice tests available, that closely mimicked the actual test’s process. I have not been able to find any tests for BizTalk 2010 but I will assume that, since they were available it is OK for me to write a bit about the process.

clip_image003Most importantly: No cheating! If you are caught cheating, you will be banned from taking further tests and the community will shun you. You will be forced to live out in the forest with only the birds and the voices in your head to keep you company. So please don’t cheat.

You will be placed in front of a computer configured to conform to some sort of minimum standard. You are only allowed to use the tools that the computer supplies and also a scratch-pad, provided by the test center. You are not allowed to bring anything but yourself into the test room. To further reduce the risk of cheating the testing room will be monitored via CCTV.

The test is entirely based on multiple choice. Some of the questions have answers in the form of RadioButtons (one correct answer), and others CheckBoxes (more than one might be correct).

There is a “mark for review” system. This means that you can mark a question for review, if you feel you might want to rethink that later. After you have answered all the questions you have an opportunity to view all the questions again. The ones you have marked for review is very clearly marked.

clip_image004The total time for the test is two and a half hours, which is ample time in my view. If you are worried that you might not be able to finish on time, you can use the review-system to mark questions you are not so sure about or you feel might take a long time to answer. Then run thru the test once and answer all the “easy” ones. This way you know that you will at least get those.

My method has been to take one question at a time and really focus on just that question. Read it, analyze it and try to get to the bare bone of the question. Give it the answer you feel is the best one and if you are unsure; mark it for review. Then drop that question and focus hard on the next one. I run thru the test in this manor until there are no more questions. By then, I am ready for a short break. After the break I review all the questions marked for review. This time, focusing even harder on the text and the different answers, as there might be pitfalls. Personally I don’t believe in reviewing all the questions, it’s just a waste of time.

clip_image005When you are done, you submit the test and after 10 agonizing seconds you will receive your score: pass or fail. If you pass, don’t forget to pick up your test result sheet from the test center. This paper will tell you your score and how well you performed in the different categories (see below).

In case of success, don’t forget to celebrate and treat yourself to something as a reward for all that hard work.

What do I need to study?

That actually has an official answer from Microsoft located here. I heartily recommend reading that article thoroughly and several times. Note that they have used the wording “including but not limited to”, so even if the list of things to know might be long, it might not be complete.

Here it is, together with the relative percentage of that subject compared to the whole exam.

  • Configuring and Architecture: 20 %
  • Developing BizTalk Artifacts: 20 %
  • Debugging and exception handling: 17 %
  • Integrating Web Services and WCF: 14 %
  • Implementing extended capabilities: 13 %
  • Deploying, tracking and supporting: 16 %

Something worth mentioning is that there is a lot of focus on Web Services and Wcf. It is about as important as developing BizTalk artifacts, which is pretty darn “core BizTalk”.

Something else worth noting is the point called “Implementing extended capabilities”. That is worth 13 % but includes RFID, EDI, BRE and BAM. It is safe to say that you might not have to know all the ins and outs of BAM or RFID to pass, but to dismiss them altogether is naïve.

My advice

The best advice I can give you about what to focus on when studying for the exam is this:

  1. Read the book Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 (70-595) Certification Guide, by fellow blogger Johan Hedberg. 
  2. Read the article from Microsoft once more and note all the concepts listed under each category (like what core adapters are mentioned or that you must know how to configure basic tracking).
  3. Divide all the concepts into three categories:
    1. I have heard/not heard of this and have only a vague/no idea of how to use it (like RFID perhaps).
    2. I have a fairly good idea of how to use this but feel I might need to know more (like Role Links).
    3. I know this and feel I really don’t need to study for it (like configuring a FILE send port).

How do I study for the exam?

Purchase Johan Hedbergs book and read it. Know it by heart.

I also recommend this summary, found at Microsoft. It is made by the ever productive Steef-Jan and lists all the free available resources that Microsoft has put out.

I would also recommend the book Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 Unleached. You should, of course, read the book from cover to cover but if you are more target oriented you can obviously skip the more extensive aspects about BRE, everything about Windows Azure and the short part about the ESB toolkit.

In closing…

I passed my test. Will you prove yourself? Just kidding! Have fun studying; you will learn a lot of useful things about our favorite product.

Also, please provide feedback if you disagree or feel I have said too much about anything. I am only trying to help, not violate the NDA.