MCTS in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration (MB2-866)

MCTS in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration (MB2-866)

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I passed this exam today, on my second attempt. MS description is here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/exam.aspx?ID=MB2-866. It's actually my first Microsoft certification. Getting to these exams is something about which I have had great intentions, but have procrastinated for years. Sparked by a work conversation on the last week in December I decided to go for it and booked the exam for January 14th. I didn't give myself much time as figured as I have done a fair bit of CRM customization along with plug-in development etc... and that I was really looking at revision instead of new learning, but still it meant I was under a little pressure.

So how to prep for such an exam?

Examination format

This one has 75 questions and you are given 2hours and 20 minutes to complete it, but on both occasions I was done well before that - it's multiple choice so really you either know the answer or you don't. But in saying that you can mark questions for review and double-check them at the end. I have discovered that one of the most important aspects of these exams is actually their format. I think for a lot of us (or maybe I'm just older) that this is not a familiar experience -  the multiple-choice format exam is delivered on a PC in a cubicle in the examination centre. I don't think it's a mainstream academic examination just yet either - I completed a masters degree in 2011 where the examinations were all coordinated and invigilated as they were "back in the day" (read paper-based). Of course I know folk who have taken shorter technical courses and who had been examined in the PC-based  manner and I have done a few shorter tech screens for jobs like this too, but for some reason this one held a fear factor for me. So I was pretty nervous entering the exam centre the first time, but I can say that the only cure for this apprehension was just taking the test. As all of the MCTS, MCSD etc... exams are done this way it is just something I must get used to if I wish to get those certs.

The questions are extremely specific, often with multiple "nearly right" answers. I actually think this method of examination does prove a fairly in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, but it also demands knowledge of the kind of minute details for which as an actual  CRM developer and customiser I would almost probably rely on online references when the need arises. For example you may roughly know the applicable properties or settings in some area of CRM, but for this kind of test you may need to know the exact list by name and therefore be able to discount an answer which looks and sounds just like one of the real ones. But I wanted the qualification, so I had to get used to the methodology and learn the specifics,. I do certainly think, now that I've completed one successfully that I will probably do more, and that the next one (and the one after that) will seem much easier now that I know the process. Watch this space!

Topics to study

I started off by re-reading the very useful book "Working with Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2011" by Mike Snyder, Jim Steger, Kristie Reid. This book covers pretty much everything, but you should have a CRM deployment to hand to run through the exercises. I also found the tips in Richard Knudsons blog post very useful: http://www.dynamicscrmtrickbag.com/2011/09/12/preparing-for-exam-mb2-866-microsoft-dynamics-crm-2011-customization-and-configuration/. The MS exam page "Skills Being Measured" gives break down of the areas you should know and he give some advice son each area. For the record they are:

  • Configuring a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Organizational Structure (15 percent)
  • Managing Users & Teams and Security (15 percent)
  • Customizing Attributes and Entities (16 percent)
  • Customizing Relationships and Mappings (15 percent)
  • Configuring Auditing (9 percent)
  • Managing Forms, Views, and Charts (17 percent)
  • Implementing a Solution (13 percent)

The exam covers basically all the customization you can do through the web UI  - so while for example you need to know how to create and use a web resource you won't be asked how to write javascript. There is an MS E-Learning course which you can get (it's on PartnerSource/CustomerSource for partners/customers). It's tagged as "80294AE: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration". Officially this course will take you 14 hours to work through, but if you know MSCRM you can fast forward the intro pieces to most sections and reduce this considerably (I didn't actually time myself taking it but it was probably a third of the official time).

 

Practise tests

Unfortunately there are no MS supported vendors (at least I could find none) offering practise questions for this particular exam. There are of course so-called brain-dump sites where people have used the exam to try and memorise the questions and answers, but these are a) notoriously innaccurate and b) illegal - Using them will actually void your achievement - when you agree to the terms at the start of the exam one of those terms is that you will not disclose the content of any questions and have not used any such sites/material while preparing for the exam.

The e-Learning course has questions at the end of each chapter and these were great and similar to the exam style. I found these useful - could revisit the chapters and go straight to the question to test my knowledge. I also found this prep book on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Customization-Configuration-Certification-ebook/product-reviews/B009MATS16/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1) which has a set of practise questions.

 

Registering for the exam.

This was the easy bit. So if you can get a voucher code from your company, use that else you'll need to pay but you basically either follow the link to Prometric from the exam details page (at the top of this post) or go to www.promertric.com, sign up and locate your local test centre (they seem to have partners in most parts of the world). You can schedule a time an date (and this can be rescheduled once you do it far enough in advance - check the centre policies to make sure you don't incur a reschedule fee. You need to bring two forms of photo id on the day and in Dublin at least I could bring almost nothing else - i.e. they did give you a locker for your belongings but it's small  - would not fit a laptop. You should check the storage limitations at your test centre if for example you intend to take the exam on the way to work.

 

This exam required a passing score of 700. On my first attempt I got 622. Dissapointed but the experience stood to me - I went through the e-learning course again and took it just over a week later and hit 842. That's it - done for now.

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