Passed MCSE!

BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
After a gruelling eight months (with the occasional day off) I have finally passed the five exams from 70-410 to 70-414. As a thank you to those on this site that have inspired me to keep going I’ll document the process, with the disclaimer that what worked for me may not work for you.

Bear in mind that I’ve had over 20 years of experience with Windows server, doing a variety of techy jobs for companies of varying size and complexity. Lately I’ve been much more involved in the architecture/design than the install/configure. My specialist subject is AD and it’s associated technologies, which is an advantage given how much AD there is spread through the exams. The big challenge was to learn all the detail required for the new features of 2012 R2 and all the roles that I’d never used before.
I bought the following books:

MCSA 70-410 Cert Guide by Poulton/Camardella – Pearson
It’s a big book for one exam. If you want to know the level of detail required this is a good place to start, although I also used Technet and the various MS team blogs. It’s a shame they didn’t produce an equivalent for 70-411 and 70-412.

Mastering Windows Server 2012 by Minasi et al – Sybex
Seems like every chapter is written by a different author. Some are excellent, some not so much. Doesn’t cover all objectives, WDS is not mentioned for example. Worth buying for the good bits.

Exam Ref 70-411 to 70-414 various authors - Microsoft Press
I’ve put these all together because none of them stand out. I used them more as placeholders to know how far through the objectives I was. Somehow it seems more real in a physical book. None of them cover the subjects in anything like enough detail to be used as a study guide.

Mastering Hyper-V 2012 R2 by Savill – Sybex
More technical than you need for MCSA, but extremely useful for MCSE. If you are setting up a lab with Hyper-V and SCVMM this is the book to get. I actually enjoyed reading this.

Lab Environment
I soon realised that my home PC wasn’t up to the job for the multi-server, multi-network environment I wanted to create, so I invested in a dedicated lab server.

Thinkserver TS140 4 core Xeon
120GB SSD for OS – Probably overkill
500GB SSD for VMs – Makes all the difference if you’re running multiple VMs
1TB HDD – Library for ISOs etc
32GB memory – Seems a lot, but soon goes if running nested hypervisors

If anyone wants more specific details of lab environments let me know.

70-410. After hitting Technet and labbing every scenario I could think of I took it and passed with a good score. This gave me a model for how to approach the subsequent exams. I had taken 2 months and decided to up the pace.

70-411. I find it hard to study subjects that I know I’ll never use, so I found NAP and NPS difficult. Once again labbing was the key. Most of the other topics I was familiar with. Took the test after 6 weeks and passed.

70-412. Some topics I didn’t know well, so I concentrated the lab on these, while going through Technet and the MS team blogs for the others. Took the test after 6 weeks and passed. To me it seemed like the questions were harder, like they’d stepped up a level.

For the MCSE exams I found the following helpful, although it’s not R2 specific. It gives a good clue to the level to aim at:

MCSE builds on the MCSA knowledge so I wanted to keep going while it was still fresh.

70-413. I approached this in the same way as the others. The lab setups were more complex, but I was comfortable with the emphasis on design. Took the test after 8 weeks and passed. The exams have some additional question types – There are a number of case studies (this is discussed in the above video so it’s not NDA). Much of the information is irrelevant to the individual questions but you have to figure out what applies as a requirement and what doesn’t. It was a tough exam, mainly because of the complexity of the questions.

70-414. Having passed 70-413 I knew I could do this. Same process, passed after 6 weeks.

Apart from the books above my main sources of reference were Technet and any blogs I could find about the real world applications of the various technologies. I recommend reading all the blogs from the various MS teams relating to the subject.

In summary - you need both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Study for the knowledge and lab for the experience. Good luck.


  • ed_003ed_003 Member Posts: 216
    congrats.. good post ! do you follow the book for your labs?
  • gespensterngespenstern Member Posts: 1,243 ■■■■■■■□□□
  • actionhank1786actionhank1786 Member Posts: 34 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Congrats! It's definitely motivating to see others doing it so quickly. I need to pick my studying up.

    If you don't mind my asking, did you have scenarios for labs, or just say "I just learned about this, I will just make a scenario up where I use it". Personally, I've always been a fan of the "guided" walk through, where I have someone giving me objectives and a brief tool set of sorts, where I know what I have and where I need to get, then I figure it out with a few general steps.

    Thinking of my own seems to help, but then I worry that I'm not making something real-world enough, or that's practical.
  • PiersPiers Member Posts: 454 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats!! Going anywhere from here, or are you going to put your feet up for a bit and enjoy the success?
    :study: Office 365 70-347 / 698 later
  • Dakinggamer87Dakinggamer87 Gaming Tech Expert Silicon Valley, CAMember Posts: 4,016 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Congrats!! icon_thumright.gif

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and study process/notes.
    *Associate's of Applied Sciences degree in Information Technology-Network Systems Administration
    *Bachelor's of Science: Information Technology - Security, Master's of Science: Information Technology - Management
    Matthew 6:33 - "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

    Certs/Business Licenses In Progress: AWS Solutions Architect, Series 6, Series 63
  • Brain-DBrain-D Member Posts: 134
    Congrats!!! Nice write-up! icon_smile.gif
  • powerfoolpowerfool Senior Member Member Posts: 1,658 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Big congrats on that! Any plans to follow with some other development items, or are you going to take it easy?
    2021 Goals: [X] Terraform Associate [X] AZ-204 [X] AZ-400 [X] AWS Cloud Practitioner [X] Terraform CHiP
  • BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
    ed_003 & actionhank1786:

    In general, no, I didn’t follow scripted lab scenarios, although I would google for labs if I got stuck. Over the years I’ve always learnt new things by just jumping straight in, so I didn’t really consider anything else, especially once I had a process that worked. If I’d failed I may well have looked at the MS Training guides or some video tutorials, but I really struggle to learn from video.

    One thing that saved me a lot of time was to have a patched, sysprepped server hard disk file as a template. I could fully deploy a new server in less than 10 minutes.

    Having experience in a variety of environments certainly helps with setting up real world scenarios.

    I find when I’m learning new technology there are distinct phases:
    1. Denial. I can’t possibly learn and remember all this.
    2. Depression. See above.
    3. A faint glimmer. Starting to get it.
    4. Lightbulb moment. Everything is clear.
    5. Self Doubt. Hang on, what about X,Y or Z?
    6. True Enlightenment. Ask me anything.
    I tried to get to 5 on most objectives. 6 was very rare. There were probably some 3s.

    Piers & powerfool:
    I’m now straight in to VCP5. I did the Stanley C.C. course during the above. I was trying to meet the course objectives without actually learning anything as I couldn’t handle any more input. Now I’ve finished the MCSE I need to go back and start learning from the beginning. I’m at stage 2.
  • aaronchristensonaaronchristenson Member Posts: 261 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Congrats, I am stuck on 413, I have taken it 4 times and not passed. I figure to wait until Server 2016 comes out and upgrade my MCSA 2012 to that then take which ever exams the MCSE needs.
    MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, MCSA Windows Server 2012, MCSA SQL Server 2012/2014, MCSA Windows 10, MCITP Server Admin, Security+, Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center Specialist
  • cs8400cs8400 Member Posts: 90 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats! Will be doing the same here in a month or so. Trying to decide whether to take the 70-413 & 414 or go the Private Cloud route.
  • gncsmithgncsmith Senior Member Member Posts: 459 ■■■□□□□□□□
  • NetworkNewbNetworkNewb Member Posts: 3,298 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Big Congrats!! icon_cheers.gif
  • BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I did think of doing Private Cloud, but I knew it would take me longer as It's very heavy on Systems Center. I might give it a try when I've forgotten the pain.
  • SconnieInShortsSconnieInShorts Member Posts: 30 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Congrats! More than a little jealous; I'm just starting my MCSA/MCSE journey. One test down, many more to go...
    2016 Goals --
    Microsoft Certified Specialist - Virtualization with Hyper-V and System Center: 74-409 [X]; MCSA Server 2012: 70-410 [], 70-411 []; MCSE Private Cloud: 70-246 [], 70-247[]; MCSA Server 2016: TBD []; VCP6-DCV []
  • daviddwsdaviddws MCSA x2, MCITP, CIOS, CSIS, CNIP, CSSS, CLNP MCTS, MTA, MCP,  ITILv3, LPIC-1, VCA-WM, SCLA, CTS,  Member Posts: 303 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats Sir.. you passed the holy grail of certifications IMO. One day I really want to do this!
    Master of Information Systems Management
    M.B.A: Master of Business Administration
  • Louie1277Louie1277 Member Posts: 505 ■■■□□□□□□□
    daviddws wrote: »
    Congrats Sir.. you passed the holy grail of certifications IMO. One day I really want to do this!

    You are right about that. One day I will arrive at that point in the meant time I need to pass this first one that is killing me !!!!
    2018 Goals: 70-410 [X], 70-411 [],70-412 [] :bow: 410- Passed!!!!!!

    My Goal for the Future
    2012 - *MCSA*(WHO KNOWS WHEN) KEEP FAILING!!!! Not enough time to pass the last 2 exams.
    2021 - *Security+*
    2022 - * Pen Tester*
  • DAVIS NGUYENDAVIS NGUYEN Member Posts: 1,472 ■■■□□□□□□□
  • getafix`getafix` Member Posts: 13 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Did you study full time or only at night?
  • Snow.brosSnow.bros Member Posts: 832 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Congrats on the pass!!! icon_thumright.gif

    Thanks for all the extra work. I am preparing for the 70-414 exam and just completed the 70-414 CBT Nugget series. I have taken some couple of notes off technet, if it's not too much trouble for you do you mind posting links to the blogs you mentioned or just point me where I can find them.

    Congrats once more and all the best for your future endeavors!!!
  • BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Snow.bros wrote: »
    Congrats on the pass!!! icon_thumright.gif

    Thanks for all the extra work. I am preparing for the 70-414 exam and just completed the 70-414 CBT Nugget series. I have taken some couple of notes off technet, if it's not too much trouble for you do you mind posting links to the blogs you mentioned or just point me where I can find them.

    Congrats once more and all the best for your future endeavors!!!

    You're nearly there yourself, the worst is behind you. One last push.....

    Home - TechNet Blogs is the main site, with the various technology teams along the top.

    Is one of my favourites. Suppose you were studying ADFS for example, click on the ADFS tag and you'll see some good posts about real world design considerations. What I would do would be to scan the titles until something catches my eye. It's a subconscious thing, very hard to explain.
    It's kind of a second-hand way of getting real world experience.

    Good luck with 414. When are you planning to take it?
  • BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
    getafix` wrote: »
    Did you study full time or only at night?

    Initially I tried to get 4 hours a day during the week, more at weekends. It was tough, you need an understanding family and no social life. Later in the process I had more free time (less work). I probably didn't study much more, but I got my life back.
  • poolmanjimpoolmanjim MCSE, MCSA: 2016, MCSA: 2012 KC, KS, USAMember Posts: 285 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats on the pass!

    I am putting off my MCSE for awhile since my wife is a little tired of me studying but I am still doing some light study for it. I figure exposing myself while its still somewhat fresh in my head from the MCSA will do me a lot of good.
    2019 Goals: Security+
    2020 Goals: 70-744, Azure
    Completed: MCSA 2012 (01/2016), MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure (07/2017), MCSA 2017 (09/2017)
    Future Goals: CISSP, CCENT
  • jones551jones551 Member Posts: 154 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Congrats! on your passing and thanks for sharing how you made the success with us.
  • GSXR750K2GSXR750K2 Member Posts: 323 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Congratulations. :) I remember the feeling of relief when I clicked "Finish" on the 414 exam and saw my I get to be anxious again taking the 70-980 to renew in September.
  • Louie1277Louie1277 Member Posts: 505 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats and thanks for sharing.
    2018 Goals: 70-410 [X], 70-411 [],70-412 [] :bow: 410- Passed!!!!!!

    My Goal for the Future
    2012 - *MCSA*(WHO KNOWS WHEN) KEEP FAILING!!!! Not enough time to pass the last 2 exams.
    2021 - *Security+*
    2022 - * Pen Tester*
  • Ugly-051Ugly-051 Member Posts: 63 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Nice work, I’ve got two exams from the 2012 left to do before MCSE.
  • PCTechLincPCTechLinc Senior Member King City, CAMember Posts: 646 ■■■■■■□□□□
    That is totally awesome! Congratulations on the myriad of passes!

    I am currently using multiple study prep tools to upgrade my MCSA Server 2008 to MCSA/MCSE Server 2012: Server Infrastructure. I have a few questions regarding my study techniques. Without violating NDA, can you tell me what you did to keep track of the differences between 2012 and 2012 R2? Also, did you do every lab objective in graphical and Powershell? I remember having a lot of Powershell in the Server 2008/2008 R2 exams, but I've heard that the 2012/R2 exams have even more. I plan on taking the 70-417, which combines the 410, 411, and 412 in one exam. They are presented in 3 modules in the same exam, and you have to pass all three modules in order to get certified. I greatly appreciate any advice you could give!
    Master of Business Administration in Information Technology Management - Western Governors University
    Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance - Western Governors University
    Bachelor of Science in Network Administration - Western Governors University
    Associate of Applied Science x4 - Heald College
  • BornToBeMildBornToBeMild Member Posts: 69 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Firstly, thanks to everyone for the congratulations.

    PCTechLinc: It's important to know which features are new in R2, but I just made a note as I went through each objective if it was a new feature. Did I lab everything twice? No, not every lab, but I did make sure I was familiar with both methods, and especially where the GUI and PS processes were different, or where you could do something in one but not the other. 70-417 sounds tough, but looking on the bright side it's only one exam, and you might be lucky with the questions. Shame the second shot promotion has finished. Good luck!
  • steelodonsteelodon Member Posts: 103
    Congrats! I am considering this route and this has been a good reference.
  • DeathmageDeathmage Banned Posts: 2,496
    <3 the detailed OP on the certification, will use this for my own study, Koodos!

    Congrats on pass!
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