General Thoughts on Passing Exam 70-486 (MVC Web Applications)

It’s a beautiful day! This week I was fortunate enough to pass the Microsoft Certification Exam 70-486, which…

It’s a beautiful day!

This week I was fortunate enough to pass the Microsoft Certification Exam 70-486, which focuses on web application development with MVC and Azure.  Due to the non-disclosure agreement I signed (digitally) I can’t reveal and specific questions or example from the test, but I can offer some general thoughts and guidance for preparation.

Personally I thought this was a very difficult test, but I admit that I don’t have real world experience with a number of topics the exam covers.  I have worked fairly extensively with MVC, so I thought I would have a great shot at passing.  However, I may have mislead myself a bit.  MVC may be in the title of the exam, which I think led me to believe it would be very MVC centric, but this is not entirely true.  The exam focuses very heavily on related topics like Azure, Authentication methodologies, security, and IIS concerns like routing.  This is no secret – if you look at the official Microsoft exam guide it will tell you as much – but I just want to remind people that straight MVC (views, models, controllers, actions, filters, routing, etc.) is only part of this test.  Subconsciously it’s easy to gravitate towards studying topics you’re already familiar with.

Long story short: The exam has MVC in the name but that’s really only a fraction of the test.

The link below is a run down from Microsoft on what it covers. Yes, it really does cover all of these topics and you should carefully make sure you are familiar with all of them. “Oh yeah I remember reading about that a while back” is not valid preparation.

Microsoft Study Guide

I thought I’d list some of the resources I used to pass.  I do not support using brain dumps or “cheat sheets” or any un-authorized learning resources for this test.  I did not use these and as a result the sense of accomplishment was much higher.  Regardless of how you feel about the test (yes, it’s not always real world and can ask silly questions) it is still unethical to sign an agreement and then break it because you are frustrated.

Official Exam Guide Book

This is the only “official” guide to the test that I know of besides in class training from instructors.  Honestly I think this is a really poorly written book – it reads like drying paint and is very choppy and feels like msdn articles spliced together.  However, it does cover most of the topics on the exam in a general manner and provides some vaguely useful practice questions and tips.  I found this book to be helpful for the smaller, more specific topics rather than larger topics (like controllers and views).  The book has very few meaningful code examples, but there are a few helpful exceptions.

Pluralsight Learning Path

This learning path from Pluralsight is helpful but a bit overwhelming and in some cases overkill.  It isn’t that efficient to watch a 4 hour course that covers a single point of interest that equates to only one or two questions on the exam.  However, this is a great list of courses in general and if you’re serious about MVC development it’s a great guide to becoming a better developer overall.  I did find some of the courses very helpful.

Great MVC Book

This is the best book I have found on MVC and it has taught me a lot of great material.  I recommend reading this regardless of whether you are taking the exam.  The book is logically structured and follows a consistent learning pattern of learning something conceptually, working with the the concept using MVC conventions and more “out of the box” projects, and then extending those concepts using custom code and components.  Part one of the book, which is a ramp up sample project, isn’t that helpful for the exam, but if you’re just starting off down the long road it can be a good exercise.

Helpful MVC Platform Book

This book is sort of a hidden gem for me.  It’s extremely useful for learning information about the overall MVC platform and .net environment it runs on top of.  If you’re like me and learned MVC right when you started with .Net rather than the older Web Forms technologies, you may have noticed that a lot of material out there already assumes extensive knowldge of the .Net platform and does not cover it in MVC training materials.  This book fixes that problem!

Valid Resource Guide

This is a helpful study guide by Chris Myers that offers links to specific resources for the various parts of the test.  I found some of the links a bit unhelpful because they point to generic MSDN documentation for broader topics, but there are some good resources mixed in as well.

Overall these are the main resources I used to study and I passed.  If you are going about this properly there is no silver bullet resource – it should be a combination of various sources, experience, and determination.  I have about 2 years of experience with MVC specifically and I managed – there are a lot smarter people out there than me so maybe it will be even smoother sailing for you!  My main suggestions are:

  • Don’t use exam dumps and deny yourself real success – plus they are unethical and that’s never awesome.
  • Focus as much on learning great development as you do on the test itself
  • Make sure you carefully read the Microsoft guide on what the test covers – missing even a few important topics can really damage your score
  • Don’t just read or watch – work with real code examples for every topic
  • Believe in yourself! I believe in  you!

I guess that’s my real point here. You just have to believe! (and work absurdly diligently)

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