(Originally written in July, 2006… reposted without editing by request!)
I know this is a few weeks late… sorry.
So we all know that for a few months ending June 30th Microsoft was running one of its famous ‘Second Chance Free’ promotions. Last year I had taken advantage of it with a couple of exams, and was glad to do the same this year.
My MCSA cert has been on Windows 2000 and I wanted to upgrade it to 2003 but I have always been weary of upgrade exams – especially since I had blown 70-292 before. I decided to start slow by taking the 70-290 exam. I have been running a study group for the past few months and every Monday we met to cover this topic and I figured that before the rest of the group ventured into the exam centres I would write it… and lo and behold I passed first time around. Of course I was not surprised as I spend so much time working in the product, and had spent a little time studying it, but I was pleased nonetheless. That was in May.
I wanted to get a couple more exams in under the Second Chance program before it lapsed but I was so busy I did not have any time to study. However I figured that if I did try an exam and fail – without having studied – I would still be able to retake the exam with a better knowledge of what was expected, so the last week of June I took the plunge – I scheduled to sit for the upgrade exam (70-292) on the Friday. Of course I was nervous, but I would spend a few days that week studying and I would either be okay, or I would know what topics to brush up on before sitting for my free retake.
The week did not go as planned (do they ever?). The two days I had put aside to study found me at client sites putting out fires, and dealing with a family emergency. The study materials I had put into my car sat there unopened until Friday morning, when I cancelled all of my appointments and sat in a cafe for a couple of hours. I barely had the time to read all of the topics covered, let alone the meat of the material. At 11:45 I left the cafe and headed for my car for the long drive to the exam centre. I found a parking ticket which did not please me both for the frustration and as a sign of things to come.
I tuned in the World Cup match between my beloved Argentina and the other weirdos and headed in the right direction. As I neared the centre I nearly made a fatal mistake, and I went off in search of a pack of Jolly Ranchers. I have to have a pack of JR hard Candies on the desk when I sit down for the exam. I have never failed an exam where I had one, and I have never passed an exam where I didn’t. Fortunately the third corner store I visited had them.
I got to the testing centre early – I usually always go to the same centre but could not get an appointment there – and registered and went through the whole process. The proctor sat me in this tiny cubicle (the least comfortable exam station I have been to!) with a scratched CRT screen, and the exam was on.
Seventy or so minutes later came what I call the longest pause: you have finished the questions, reviewed, commented, and press the END EXAM button. ‘PLEASE WAIT WHILE WE CALCULATE YOUR EXAM RESULTS.’ The few seconds always feels longer somehow before one of the two messages appears on your screen.
‘Congratulations. You have passed the exam.’
I breathed a sigh of relief and walked out to the proctor who gave me my results sheet, and I went down to the car togo back to work. As of that day I was officially an MCSA on Windows 2003, and I was proud as punch about it… about everything, almost…
The day would have been a complete success except that Argentina lost and was eliminated from the competition.