I’ve Passed the 70-433!

MCTS DB Developer

I wanted to write up a post about passing my exam, and share everything I learned during this process.  I had considered drawing parallels between the certification process and the levels Jedi go through on their way to becoming masters.  I think I’m going to keep that one in my back pocket for a while and just put some thoughts out there on this exam.

As you already know I have attempted this exam before.  I was nervous during that first exam, there were a ton of unknowns to me.  I didn’t know exactly how the questions were going to be asked.  Sure I had spent two months reading the MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-433): Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 – Database Development and taking the practice questions included on the CD.

But the types of questions they asked weren’t all on the exam.  I had struggled with the drag query clauses into order, so they create the T-SQL for a certain type of query.  Luckily, those weren’t on the exam.  I also struggled with the choose 2,3, or 4 options, and if you don’t get all of it right, you end up with no credit for the question.  Those were on there.

After failing the first attempt, I was upset with myself.  I felt that after more than a decade of experience, I still wasn’t ready.  Even though I teach, help on #sqlhelp, experts-exchange, and via direct emails.  My solutions worked in the real world, why wasn’t I good enough to pass?

After I let all that sweep by me, I concentrated on the mental notes I took during the exam.  Let me say right here, if you fail the exam, still get your results sheet, even though it takes 15 – 30 minutes to retrieve after your exam completes.  That sheet will show you where you need the most improvement, at least according to the exam you just took.  I never got my first results… I was so hopped up on adrenaline, I went back to work instead.

Mentally I had noted, I needed to study XML more, CTEs more, and MERGE more.  So I started a blog series on XML.  I followed all the BOL material, book material, and notes from SQL Saturdays I could lay my hands on.  I summarized all this, and wrote it several times.  Repetition can be a powerful tool in learning.


I found more example questions online, and took more practice tests.

I created flash cards for some of the common clauses for the T-SQL I kept missing on practice exams.  I would read through these 2-3 times a week cramming the best I could on these queries I kept messing up.

After a month, I took the test again… And I passed!  It could be my nerves were a lot more calm the second time around.  It could be that I only missed passing by a couple questions the first time.  But either way I passed!

If you have no certifications, and you want to get your first, here’s an idea.  Pay for your exam, get the free re-take offer.  And just go in and take the test.  Work through your nerves.  If you don’t pass the first time, look at the areas marked for improvement.  Study by repetition and then re-test when you are strongest in those areas where you were weak before.  It will all come together…just like it did for Daniel-San.


Tell me about your experience with certification.  Have you passed?  Did you fail?  Are you worried about passing?  Let’s talk about it below!

By Shannon Lowder

Shannon Lowder is the Database Engineer you've been looking for! Look no further for expertise in: Business Analysis to gather the business requirements for the database; Database Architecting to design the logical design of the database; Database Development to actually build the objects needed by the business logic; finally, Database Administration to keep the database running in top form, and making sure there is a disaster recovery plan.


  1. Shannon,
    Congratulations! I’m preparing for this certification too and planning to take the test middle this year. Did you use other materials aside from the practice test with this book, http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/book.aspx?ID=13159&locale=en-us? Currently, I’m struggling with the Powershell commands and XML too. It’s hard for me memorize the syntax since I don’t use them in a daily basis at work. I’ve been trying to do the practice test (200 question) at least 1 to 2 times a week but my confidence is not yet high for the actual exam. I even printed all the 200 questions with the answers so I can review them wherever I ‘am. If ever, this will be my first certification and my worry if I failed for the first time it will impact me a lot.

    best regards,

  2. I’m sorry it took so long for me to respond. The link you sent is broken, but I did use the self paced guide. The powershell made a lot more sense to me than the XML. Check out @lotsahelp on twitter. He does a lot with powershell. He also offers free training on sqlsaturdays. As for XML you can see in some of my other posts I STRUGGLED with that a lot. Get down the four main select XML options, raw, path, etc. That’s most of what I saw on the exam for XML.

    In my opinion the practice exam in the book was tougher than the real thing. I was scoring in the high 70s, and passed. Before you try it make sure you get the free second chance, I was a bundle of nerves before my first attempt.
    Good luck! And if I can help in any other way, please let me know!

  3. I started the lab from this book, MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-433): Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 – Database Development just last weekend and I’ve been focusing on XML and Powershell too. I believe these two are the hardest parts of the actual exam. I’m thinking to get another resources and I found this link, http://www.itexamworld.com. I emailed the support and the sales two weeks ago but still no response. Again, any idea what other effective materials or resources I can get.

    Many thanks.

    1. The only down side to the prep courses online is do you have the experience and want the paper, or are you trying to get the paper in order to get a job and then get the experience.

      If you have the experience, and just want the confirmation that you’re knowledgeable, then cramming questions and answers would be a good way of making sure you’re ready to face the questions. But if you don’t have the experience then I would highly suggest spending time with the questions in the self paced guides and trying to solve those. If you need more examples, I ask myself a question, and then construct the queries to answer those questions. That was most helpful for me when I was struggling through the XML.

      As for powershell, I am a big fan of Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches. It’s not complete, but after reviewing the first few chapters, you can go from 0 to passing in just a few hours. It’s written by Don Jones, you can find a lot of his material on blogs, but the book really distills that knowledge into one source. I like that!

      Feel free to reach out to me via email or twitter. I’d like to discuss this a bit more, see if I can help a bit more.

      1. I have few years of experience in the database design but the XML and Powershell are new to me. These are something that I don’t use at work. I’ll take a look at this book, Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches. Currently, I work as a junior web developer and recently I decided to move to DBA.

        You helped me a lot. More power to you.


  4. Hi Shannon,

    First of all, a ton of congratulations to you on clearing the exam successfully.
    I am also planning for MCTS 70-433 certification. The book would definitely be my first choice as I don’t have much experience with me so need to practice a lot.
    Please guide me by providing some road map for the preparation.

    Thanks in advance for any help..

    With Best Regards

    1. Take a look on my site for the 70-433 articles (, , , , , , ). Each of these link to articles on my site that discuss what you will want to know about these topics. I can’t provide an exact you have to know “this”. But I can talk about the topics in enough detail you could answer the questions on the exam.

      I would say if you can’t do everything with the topic, play with it. Let’s say you know how to write a subquery, but you struggle with building related subqueries, build a few. Break the query, fix the query. You’ll learn more by playing with the technology than reading about it!

      With the next version of the certificates coming up soon, you may want to look at the topics they cover as well. Make the call: do you want to get a certificate that already has a replacement, or do you want to start on the new certificate?

      I’m going to take the new certificates soon, and start adding guides for those exams as well. I just have to make the call on do I get my MCM 2008, or get the newer version….

  5. Hi,

    I’m a new comer to SQL, I’m an IT Technician/Installer at present and found that the demand for SQL people is high and the salary is much better. On top of that I’m tired of having a ‘job’ and want a career, I need to get into specialisation now rather than be disappointed when I’m older – and yes I like SQL 🙂

    I’ve spent quite some time reading books and watching videos so have a general idea of what it’s about and how it comes together, but advice would help and be appreciated from those of you who know. I thought that administration would be the starting point but have discovered that it depends on which line you want to go so development could be as well.

    My question is: With very little background (if at wall) on SQL, what would be the best starting point for me? I work full-time and have a family to care for but can study in the mornings before the day starts, it’s quieter and I’m too tired in the evenings. I’m thinking of purchasing the SQL Server 2008 Database Development course from Trainsignal, could you provide some insight perhaps.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Welcome to the club!

      Specialization can raise your salary, but there are trade offs. I’ve specialized in SQL Server Core, and right now BI (SSRS/SSAS) is offering even higher salaries. But salary can’t be the only thing driving you. You’ve got to have a passion for what you do.

      Reading and watching videos is a great way to start, but you need that hands on. Does your employer have a technet or MSDN subscription? If so, you could be covered by a license that would let you install a development version of SQL Server. If you’re starting fresh, and you don’t have any current SQL Servers to support at your company, I would suggest starting with SQL 2012.

      Dedicate a certain time every day you can practice with what you’re reading and learning. But more than that, see if there is a local users group in your area. Check out sqlpass.org to find your local chapter. If you can afford to spend a Saturday learning, check for a SQL Saturday event near you (sqlsaturday.com). Get involved with the community. Their enthusiasm is contagious!

      Feel free to email me at [email protected] and we can talk some more about your journey into SQL Server!

  6. I am trying to change careers from Plumbing to IT and eventually love the idea of development. So, I have now spent something like the last 5 months dedicated to studying and trying to learn SQL (in any free time I had) from more or less nothing. I worked through the Books Joes2Pros which was super for getting me started. Then I thought about doing a practice exam. I went with Ucertify and learned a lot more as I did horrible on my first time through. I thought I was ready and took the exam this morning. What a learning experience this was.
    I scored rather poorly, I wasn’t really even close. There was still a lot of material and syntax I had not even seen yet. So I still have a lot to study and learn. I will be attending a SQL Saturday in a few weeks and look forward to it greatly.
    I decided to just continue with the 2008 certification becuase there seemed to be lots of learning material out there, a lot of 2008 will carry forward as a starting point for 2012, and my primary reason for wanting this certification right now is to help convince any prospective employers that I offer more than just a desire to get into the industry.
    It is dissapointing to think you are ready and find out your not, but I am thankful for todays experience.
    Any other tips you might be able to offer would be appreciated.


    1. Sorry I’ve been away from the blog for so long. I’ve been trying to build a consulting company in my “free time”. Turns out that free time became work, very quickly!

      I’m glad you see the certs as a tool to show you are more than willing to learn. And you’re right, the 2008 certs are a way to step in, and then upgrade to the 2012 versions later. The real secret to learning is trying out the tools. Set yourself some goals of what you’d like to learn. If it’s SSIS design a business problem and then solve it in SSIS.

      For example: I need to import this csv file into a SQL table. Find a well formed CSV online (I suggest government data sites. It’s free and open data) Then force yourself to import it in SSIS. If you get stuck, hit me up on twitter @shannonlowder, or ask #sqlhelp on twitter. The whole community is behind you to learn.

      Also, find a local user group: http://sqlpass.org.

      If you’re still interested in learning, hit me up. Lets chat.

  7. i took the exam for the second time and i failed.i studied from mcts material book and syngress the real mcts 2008 exam.despite all of that i failed again.plz help me to find practice tests for free.

    1. Memorizing existing exams isn’t the way to get certified. When you get the results back from taking a real exam, you get scores showing your strengths and weaknesses. Study where you’re weaker, and you’ll pass! You’ve got to practice with the material, not just memorize it. If you’re taking the first level exams, I’d suggest no less than a year experience. For the second levels 3-5 would be best. Keep at it and you can learn the material and pass.

      I’m willing to help too, but not if you’re only looking to score a certificate without mastering the material.

  8. Hello

    I just passed 70-433 but on just i got 700. I want to try to do 70-451 how and what would you recommend studying


    1. I’m actually getting back to blogging on certifications now. The short answer would be to get the free second shot offer then go take the exam. I found the 451 easier than the first level exam. If for some reason you don’t pass, you get a report showing your weaknesses. Once you know where to study, it cuts down the scope of your studying.

      It’s the approach I’m taking to upgrade my exams from the 2008 to the newer 2012 versions. If I can help any further, please let me know!

  9. Hello Shannon

    I am quite inspired by this blog of yours and have started studying SQL Server on my own. My story is similar to what has been posted by AJK. Currently, I do user administration tasks on Windows AD and Unix which doesn’t have that much value in the market anymore, atleast in India. I am looking forward to get SQL certified. I am interested in 70-433/70-461 whch are leaned towards developing. I was not so interested in 70-432/70-450 which is more towards SSIS/SSRS, SQL server database implementation. I just wanted to know that to master my skills on SQL development, writing queries and all and subsequently get a good job, do I need to have a fair idea about the SQL server implementaion as well which are being discussed in 70-432/70-450. Anticipating your response 🙂

    1. Getting started on programming worked for me. IF you start learning about administration it’s going to help you understand what the DBA is telling you when you have to deploy something, or when they come to you asking you to do something little bit differently. I would say don’t avoid SISS, SSRS and business intelligence. In the states that’s where the big demand is. And the killer combination is someone with both DBA skills and BI skills.

      I’d skip the 2008 track now. It’s already had it’s end-dates set. Start on the MSCE track, the Data Platform series covers both programming and DBA, once you feel comfortable in those, you can get started with a job that will push you to do some reporting and integration services stuff. After you feel you’ve got the experience, feel free to add the MCSE BI track.

      But don’t think that your certification will give you a golden ticket to a great job. Experience is still the primary factor in hiring. If you’re struggling to get that experience, Consider donating your time to a non-profit to help them with SQL skills. That way you can get entries on the resume to show what you have done. Building experience is tough to do, but well rewarded.

  10. Thank you very much Shannon, I read your post and I gave me much encouragement, and to fail in my first test, but follow your advice, invested about two months, came back to take the exam and I approved with 833 :-), certainly not I am bilingual and study with a translator, so in the way of preparation achieved vastly improve my English reading level. Cheers and thanks again

  11. Thank you very much Shannon, I read your post and I gave me much encouragement, and to fail in my first test, but follow your advice, invested about two months, came back to take the exam and I approved with 833 , certainly not I am bilingual and study with a translator, so in the way of preparation achieved vastly improve my English reading level. Cheers and thanks again

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