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Mark Schoonover is an Information Systems Manager living near San Diego, California with his wife, three boys, a neurotic cat, and a retired Greyhound. He is experienced as a DBA, system administrator, network engineer and web developer. Lately, he has found a new passion in writing about MySQL, and related Open Source technology. He enjoys Amateur Radio and running marathons. He can also be found coaching youth soccer, and getting yelled at as a referee on the weekends.
By Mark Schoonover
You've decided to obtain MySQL certification and that's great! Now it's a matter of how to go about it? You can go the traditional routes and take a class, or you can prepare on your own. I did the latter, and 2 exams later during MySQL Conference 2007, I passed the Certified MySQL Database Administrator (CMDBA) exams. I wanted to share my exam preparation experience, as I've never found this information in any other place. I took what I learned from how to study math and applied it to preparing for the MySQL exams. These techniques will probably work with other certifications, and I'm sure you'll come up with some of your own techniques to share.
How well does this process work? I went to the conference without any intention of getting certified. On Monday, I really wanted to hear Brian Aker talk about MySQL 5.x & storage engines, but after I read about the DBA tutorials, I changed to DBA I & DBA II tracks. I realized I had a chance of passing based on my experience, but most of my experience is with MySQL 4.x, not 5.x. When the bookstore opened, I bought my own copy of the study guide and went to work. I attended the conference during the day, then studied at night - sometimes until 5 AM. I took my exams on Thurs, DBA I in the morning, and DBA II in the afternoon. I don't remember the flight home Thursday, but I do remember passing both exams!
The biggest step to prepare for certification is to use MySQL 5.x on a daily basis, or as much as possible. There's nothing close to the experience of using the software to learn how it works, how to install it, etc. Set up a practice system using whatever hardware you have available. You're not going to be running this MySQL server in production while you study, so it really doesn't matter if it's slow. Don't have an extra computer? Take a look at VMware server. It's a free download, and you can run your favorite OS, and MySQL server all in one virtual machine. One of many Open Source strengths is being able to download the software and learn without great expense.
The book you need to purchase is "MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide". Actually, it's a real bargain because it's two certifications in a single book, plus 25% off on a Pearson Vue exam until June 30th 2008! In addition, there's a CD ROM in the back that has the entire book in PDF format, four question manuals and the world database.
The first thing you need to do is "patch" the study guide. Take a look at the errata and update your study guide accordingly. Write in all the changes before you even start reading the guide. You want to have all the correct information from the beginning, and not find out about it after you've learned it incorrectly.
I rely heavily on paraphrasing books. The first thing I do is take a highlighter and highlight all the important information, especially information that's new to me or used in a different manner than I'm used to. Yes, you're going to write in your book. Books are commodity items these days, so if you want a clean copy, support MySQL and buy two copies! I concentrated on:
When I ran into commands I never used before, or never used in the fashion showed in the guide, I went and tried them out on a MySQL system. One bit of advice is NOT to skip a section in the guide you already know! There may be more than one way to do something, just remember you're after the correct answers in order to pass the test.
Once I'm done with highlighting the guide, I take a regular three ring binder with loose leaf paper and create an abridged version of the guide for faster review. This way, the entire guide is reduced to maybe 50 or 60 pages, plus writing down the information is another way to help remember it all. If you don't prefer to hand write your abridged version, you can type it out. Personally, I don't remember as well if I type out the information. Once you've passed the exams, you'll also have an additional resource to refer back to as needed.
Like I mentioned before, there are several practice guides on the CD ROM. Print the ones out for the certification you're working on, and start answering the questions. Treat this like you're taking the real exam. Make notes as to which questions you're struggling with, then you can refer back to the guide for more clarification. Once you're comfortable with the material you've struggled with, write out an abridged version and put it in the proper section of your notebook.
I took my exams at the conference. If you have the option of doing so, take them during the conferences. They are at a very reduced price, and are paper based. There are 70 questions, and you have 90 minutes to finish. The exam sessions at the beginning of the conference are usually not that crowded, but come Thurs, they can become very crowded. When taking the exam, my best suggestion is to pace yourself so you have about 10-15 minutes left over to review your answers. Double check your work, you knew C was the correct answer, but somehow you marked D instead. I don't have any experience with Pearson Vue, but probably will in the future.
I can tell you the MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide is spot on when it comes to taking the exams. The approach I took to mastering the material in the guide is what helped me pass these exams. I wouldn't have passed on my experience alone.
MySQL certification requires a large amount of information to be retained for the exams. Using the guide, practice tests, direct hands on experience and this approach to learning, you'll be successful in your certification goals.
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