How to Pass the SQL MCM Exam

The number one question I hear from prospective Microsoft Certified Masters in the Yammer study group is, “How deep do I need to go on each topic?”

The MCM is a relatively new certification program (as opposed to the MCITP) so there’s no boot camps or braindumps.  This makes it tough for candidates to feel confident that they know enough to splurge on the written test.  After all, this is a hell of a tough test, and at $500 per take, it’s not cheap either.

Or is it?

What if, out of paranoia, you spend the next three months of your life studying furiously, trying to cover every base before you take the test?  You read every book you can find, digest every whitepaper, run every demo script, and sleep with our book under your pillow, all in the hopes that you’ll pass the $500 test on your first try.

To hell with that.

I’d pay $500 not to go through that ridiculous work.  Instead, pull up your resume.  Look at the first date when you started working with SQL Server.  If it was 8 years ago, get your credit card out, and register for the exam.  (If you haven’t taken both the MCITP DB Dev and MCITP DBA tests, do those first, of course.)  Don’t cram the night before, don’t consider it your first attempt, and don’t even dream that you’ll pass.  This is your sanity check about which topics you know well and which topics you need to study.

Although I'm not sure where my MCM beer opener went.

To the victor go the spoils

See, the MCM is different because there’s no structured study program, no simple 1-week course to take.  You have to make tough decisions about where you want to invest your prep time.  Make the best decision possible by taking the test and understanding your comfort level with the questions.  As soon as the exam is over, get a pen out and start writing down the areas where you weren’t comfortable, and spend the next couple/few months studying those areas.

After you pass the written exam, you still have to tackle the lab exam – no small feat.  I don’t recommend this same course of action on the $2,000 lab exam.  When it’s time to take the lab, read my thoughts on the MCM labs, and plan your attack.

You can do this.  I did.

9 Comments. Leave new

note: if those 8 years of SQL Server work is just backing up a database or troubleshooting a few issues…get ready to spend $500 on a practice test :)

Although this year (2012) will be about 7 years working with SQL Server for me, I don’t believe those 7 years or even 8 by 2013 will be enough for me to take the test…yet. I probably know more than I think I do, and once I figure that out I will probably be ready to take the test.


I’ve heard a good line that sums it up: some people have 10 years of experience, and some people have one year of experience 10 times. Make sure you fall into the first category.


Hey Shawn,

When I passed the MCM, I had just over 6.5 years experience with SQL Server and databases in general (to include Access). I am definitely an exception but you can do it. The only prep work I did was reading whitepapers as a general part of my DBA work the last 4.5-5 years, and I watched three of the MCM videos on areas I knew I was weak at before tackling the exams. You can do it, don’t second guess yourself.

February 23, 2012 12:57 am

Presently I am having 5.0 years of experience in SQL Server Technology, will MCM Team will consider me to take the exam.


Its so unfair that I don’t have any of those spoils after my pass :(

I do agree that people are over worrying about the Knowledge Exam which in comparison to the Lab Exam is a complete walk in the park. I really enjoyed taking the Knowledge Exam after all the questions about calling a web service from a SQLCLR trigger in the MCITP exams.


I like to think of it as the most expensive t-shirt I’ve ever bought, hahaha. It did pay for itself quickly, though. Congrats again on your MCM!


Ok Brent, you’re on! I’m going to schedule my knowledge exam now.


I definitely agree with this advice. The exams were designed to test experience. I also agree that the Lab Exam is something that you’ll want to do hands on prep for – focusing on the areas where you have the least amount experience.


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