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Kent Brown Keepin It Real

I just took (and passed!) the  74-135 Developing E-Business Solutions Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 Partner Competency Exam

This exam has a bit of a reputation of being hard, probably because BizTalk has such a broad range of technologies packaged together and because there are no Transcender-type practice exams to be had.  A search on the internet for how to prepare for this exam will leave you frustrated.  The answer is basically: “Know the product inside and out and have lots of real-life hands-on experience with it“.

I'm afraid I can't add much, because you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you take the test that certainly makes it sound like they can hang you by your toenails, pull out your nose hairs, and  threaten to do the same to your kids, if you reveal anything about the questions on the exam.  However, that doesn't stop me from making some general observations and describing what I did to prepare.

How I prepared:

  • Spent about a month preparing, mostly a couple hours a day during my train ride to and from work.  Then I crunched the final weekend.
  • Attended the Deep Dive Training about a year ago.  It would be better of course to take it closer to exam time.
  • Read the BizTalk Server 2004 Unleashed book cover to cover.  Like most books written by a collection of authors, there are sections that are not as readable as you would like, but this book is actually very good.  The downloadable samples are very helpful.
  • Worked through the tutorials and online labs.
  • Read pretty much all of the BizTalk 2004 MSDN White Papers .
  • Watched several BizTalk-related MSDN web casts.
  • Immersed myself in the matrix of excellent BizTalk Blogs.  (As Bilbo Baggins says: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. Your feet hit the road and if you’re not careful there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.")

How it went:

When I went through the the questions the first time, I was a little worried, as they weren't all slam dunks.  But with the solid prep and some good  test-taking, process of elimination, skills, I managed to whittle it down to a handful of questions that were 50/50.  The final score was something like 864, 700 being required to pass, so in the end I solidly passed.

I have mixed feelings about this test.  Like all certification exams I have taken, you could pass the test and not be a very good BizTalk developer, or conversely you could be a great BizTalk developer and not pass the test.  Because BizTalk is so broad, there are only a couple of questions on each topic.  You could know the topic pretty well (for example Human Workflow Services) and not know the specific question asked.  The test questions are very evenly spread over all possible topics - BizTalk functional areas (Messaging, Orchestration, BAM, BAS, HWS, SSO, Adapters, etc.) as well as disciplines (development, configuration, management, debugging).

The ultimate value of preparing for and taking this exam is that you end up knowing all of the features of the product inside and out.  Not having a practice exam, forces you to be very thorough and therefore to be familiar with the non-mainstream areas of BizTalk.  This is a good thing, because you can make better design decisions when you are fully aware of the options.  I wouldn't make it a pre-requisite for a BizTalk Developer, but perhaps would for a BizTalk Architect. Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2006 8:01 AM BizTalk , Rant | Back to top


Comments on this post: (Non) Trivial Pursuit - Taking the 74-135 BizTalk 2004 Partner Competency Exam

# re: (Non) Trivial Pursuit - Taking the 74-135 BizTalk 2004 Partner Competency Exam
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Hi Kent, I was searching for your user group site and came across your blog. I hear the topic is going to be Generics this monday which should be great. Anyhow I like the tips you give on preparing for Exams. Currently I am preparing for the MCAD Web application development exam C# track. Oh Chuck said hello from the office...his blog site is
charliedigital.com if you want to reach out to him.
Left by Randy Ainsworth on Feb 10, 2006 8:11 PM

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