One of my favorite colleagues recently asked me an interesting question: what is the most important thing to know when preparing for a Microsoft exam?

The immediate answer is to use the training materials at ine.com, but that would be a pretty shameless (or bold?) plug. As it turns out, aside from recommending using INE material, I can't really answer that question. Not because I lack suggestions - rather, because there are two equally critical strategies necessary to make the most out of your Microsoft exam prep.


The first key to preparing for a Microsoft exam is to utilize the exam objectives. Every journey to earning a Microsoft certification must start there. Microsoft publishes the objectives and consistently updates them as products and requirements evolve. The easiest way to find the objectives is to fire up your search engine of choice:

(Yes, I use Bing, don't judge).

Make sure to go to the page on Microsoft.com. Remember, you're looking for the exam objectives at this point, not training. (Besides, I already told you where to find that).

Once you're on the exam information page, look for a link to the exam details. They change the layout and presentation of this information, but it's always there somewhere, like Waldo:

The Exam Skills Outline, as it is currently called, has the detailed objectives you will be responsible for knowing in order to pass the exam. Above anything else (even INE content) this must guide your preparation. Recall that Microsoft updates the skills list periodically, so be sure to check it again when you are close to taking the exam.

When I'm preparing for an exam, I copy this information into an Excel workbook and it becomes my study guide. I mark off topics I am comfortable with and hit the other topics hard.

This isn't a sophisticated process, nor is it difficult. However, I've never failed an exam when I started my preparations with this list.

Microsoft.com is Your Friend

The second recommendation that's proven to be critical to the process is to use docs.microsoft.com for your research. This is the only website that I use for exam prep (not training!). There are a few reasons for this:

  • The material is written by the Microsoft product teams who created the software. You'll be studying information provided by the primary source.
  • The exam questions come from the material on docs.microsoft.com. I always find a few questions on every Microsoft exam that I recognize from the question scenarios included in the docs.microsoft.com materials.
  • The material makes for efficient studying. You will often find everything you need to know about a topic on a page that will take less than 10 minutes to read.

When I'm studying, I always start with the overview page for a given topic. It's not going to change your life or anything, but it often has great information. From there I can click through the documentation and pull any additional information I need.

Study Well, Train Well

When I've combined these two techniques with a few others I've developed over the years, I've never failed a Microsoft exam. If you're interested in more, high-quality study materials take a look at what we have on ine.com. We currently provide several complete Learning Paths for Microsoft exams, with more on the way. We also frequently host webinars with more study tips for a variety of exams.

There's nothing to be afraid of when taking the Microsoft exams. They're valuable challenges ensuring that you are able to produce your best work consistently and thoughtfully. If anyone can accomplish it, it's you. Go get 'em.


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Tracy Wallace
About Tracy Wallace

With more than 20 years of experience, Tracy brings a treasure trove of Microsoft knowledge to the INE team. Certified as an Azure Solutions Architect Expert and Azure Administrator Associate, as well as in MCSE Cloud Platform & Infrastructure, MCSD App Builder, MCT, and MCSA: SQL Server, Tracy’s skills cover multiple facets of the Microsoft field. He holds a BA in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and stumbled upon his career in technology by accident, after working as an Economic Consultant. Realizing that his favorite thing to do within any job was to work with computers, Tracy decided to follow his passion and hasn’t looked back since. Besides being a Microsoft expert, Tracy also enjoys hiking with his two children, playing disc golf, and traveling with his wife. You may contact Tracy Wallace at twallace@ine.com.

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