Getting MCSE certification: How to become a Microsoft Certified Expert, Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed how to identify the exams needed to reach a certain certification. I also looked at the tools that can be used to do this. I also briefly touched about how certification has changed in the Microsoft world lately, as well as the importance of using new skills in day-to-day business. In this part, I will review the materials listed by Microsoft to study and pass MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification. In Part 3, I will examine where you can get additional information and what I recommend as the best way is to prepare yourself.

MCSE: Server Infrastructure

As explained in Part 1, I already have some prerequisites necessary for my MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification and I need to take two exams to achieve this certification. The two exams I need to take are 70-413 and 70-414.

As you can see (at least most of the time) on these pages, resources you can use to start studying for these exams are listed. Let’s have a walkthrough what is listed for Exam 70-413.

First, take a look at what Microsoft has listed as the content you will be graded on:

  • Plan and deploy a server infrastructure (20-25%)
  • Design and implement network infrastructure services (20-25%)
  • Design and implement network access services (15-20%)
  • Design and implement an Active Directory infrastructure (logical) (20-25%)
  • Design and implement an Active Directory infrastructure (physical) (20-25%)

Now let’s take a look at what Microsoft proposes as training material:

While it is good that Microsoft takes the effort to provide you with learning material (both for purchase and free), it is my experience that not all of the material is that good or up-to-date, and the content isn’t enough to succeed in the exam.

Instructor-led training.

As stated, you can follow Course 20413, which is a 5-day training that can be taken in a Microsoft-certified training center. If your boss thinks you should follow this, I believe you certainly should take advantage and follow the course. Unfortunately, that is not always possible because:

  • There may be no budget to follow the course.
  • You would have to be away from your job for 5 days, which isn’t always opportune.
  • To get to MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification in our example, you would be away for weeks just following courses.

I also want to stress a few other items about instructor-led training. In most cases, this kind of training is great for people who have limited experience or who are just starting out with the specific technology or solution. If you are already working for a longer period with Windows Server 2012 (R2), you probably won’t gain that much additional knowledge.

But for the record, I am certainly NOT suggesting you skip the instructor-led training. I only advise you to look at your situation and determine if this would be the most valuable use of your time.

Exam-prep video

This video is a certification preparation talk, where you won’t learn you much. However, since it is rather short, I advise you to quickly look at it because (in this case), Rick will run over what you need to know or tell you what you should learn for this exam.

Self-paced training

In this training area, you’ll find recorded movies from the Microsoft Virtual Academy website. I highly recommend that you take the time to watch these movies, especially if you are rather new to a specific subject. Also, after watching a movie or presentation, download the slides, review them and try to take the practice test. This test will give you some direction for the exam (although it is still different from the actual exam), and you’ll likely understand better where you are knowledge-wise. We will examine this further in Part 3.

Practice test

If you want to know what an exam will look like, then this is a good thing to purchase. Even though there is only one example of a practice test here, there are others that you can also purchase. One of the nice things about these practice tests is that they’ll help you figure out which topics in the exam need more of your attention.

NOTE: Don’t take the practice test first. Instead, make sure you study first, and then see how well you do and which specific topics you need to dive deeper into.

From the community

This is (mostly) interesting information. In this case, there is a Wiki with many good links to TechNet material, a forum where users share their experience on exams they’ve taken and additional links.

Don’t spend too much time in the forum, because sometimes people can be annoyed when they fail and start putting bad things out there. A quick read-through, however, should get you some more information before you start.


I have mixed experiences with books that are called Exam Ref or Exam Prep. I’ve had excellent books and books that were not nearly good enough. Most, if not all, books will give you some basic starting knowledge, but almost none actually succeed at putting all of the necessary information to pass the exam. Read reviews of a proposed book and search for other books if the reviews are bad. And be aware that you will need more material than books to actually pass MCSE: Server Infrastructure certification and these kinds of exams.


Microsoft is already providing you with resources that you can use to prepare for the exam. From classroom training to free presentations, to books and community effort, depending on your needs, you can take your pick. Yet, it will still won’t be enough to actually pass the exams. In Part 3, I’ll look further into what else you can do to pass an exam.

See also

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