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Study tips for SQL Server and Azure exams

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I thought I would provide some study tips for SQL Server and Azure exams. Mostly because this has been a popular topic both online and in real life. Hopefully, this will help ease the burden with yourselves

For those of you who aren’t aware I have gained a fair few certifications in these areas. In fact, I was probably the last ever person in the world to gain the MCSD Azure Architect certification before it was retired by Microsoft.

And to be honest, when I was studying for my MCSD certification it was a challenge. Mostly because it was during the time Microsoft was replacing the old ASM architecture for Azure with the new ARM one in the exams.

Hence, whilst studying for the exam I had to use various resources. Because a lot of the training material consisted of either outdated ASM material or a combination of both the old and new architectures.

I strongly believe that gaining certifications formalises your skillsets. In addition, it establishes confidence with others about your knowledge in these areas.

Certification requirements

First, check what the requirements are before you study for the exam. Another thing to check is if Microsoft have announced that you can do a transition exam to upgrade an existing certification.

For instance, I know Microsoft have recently announced this with the AZ-302 transition exam discussed here.

Second, check if the site states that you must do the exam before a certain date. For instance, Microsoft have announced that the 70-473 exam is going to be retired on June 30th 2019 which you can read about here.


Microsoft tend to release training books for these exams after they are made available. However, as of late I have noticed a trend where there can be a delay in the material being published.

Therefore, if you are looking for reading material for a new exam you might have to improvise and buy books on the separate topics covered in the exam instead.

Azure books

In truth, getting books for Azure exams can be a relatively complicated process. For starters, you must make sure you get the latest edition as possible if they are the official study material.

Older editions tend to be outdated, or worse still contain material for the old ASM architecture which you do not need for the exams anymore.

SQL Server books

If it is for a SQL Server exam, then make sure the book is for that version of SQL Server. One study book I found very useful was the 70-765 Provisioning SQL Databases exam guide written by Joseph D’Antoni and Scott Klein which you can find here.

You can also check the simple-talk site here to see if they have any free books that are relevant to your SQL Server exam. I have used a couple to help me out previously.

If you look at the skills measured for this exam here you will notice that it contains some Azure stuff even though it’s a SQL exam. Get use to this as I suspect more modern SQL Server exams will contain elements of Azure in them. So, if you’ve yet to look at using SQL Server in Azure I strongly recommend you start looking.

Microsoft Learn

Microsoft Learn is a new training site that has being introduced by Microsoft here. Even though I’ve not used it much it does feel pretty good and the training appears to be a lot more hands-on then previous efforts.

Currently there is enough content on there to keep you occupied for a while. In addition, they say more content will be added over time as well since it will be a replacement for Microsoft Virtual Academy.


Now edX is becoming more popular due to the fact they now host Microsoft Professional Programs (MPP). In fact, I’m currently doing a MPP myself.

These programs usually contain multiple self-paced courses which contain learning material in various formats.

In addition, if you wish to study for a certain topic you can do just a course free of charge. To view all the courses, click here.

Search engines

It might seem obvious to some of you but use your online search engines to see what material is available for the exam.

If you are going to look based on the exam code I recommend wrapping it in quotes so that your search engine searches for it specifically instead of trying to do the sum. For example, “70-999”.

One thing a lot of people tend to do is copy and paste each exam requirement into the search exam and look for the books online articles about them. It’s a very popular method that many people have boasted about using.

I must admit I’ve done it myself for some exam material as well.

Online videos

I am aware that there are some people who learn better using videos then reading material. People have different learning methods, that’s just how the brain works.

Now usually your search engine will return some videos in the search results. However, there are some sites I recommend checking for the material as well.

Unfortunately, I won’t be covering the Microsoft Virtual Academy as it has now officially being retired. In addition, the retirement process has begun and Microsoft now encourages you to use Microsoft Learn.

Anyway, the two I recommend are as follows.


Now there’s a wealth of knowledge in the Pluralsight videos. You have to pay for a subscription though, or persuade your employer to invest in them.


In addition, there are a lot of good resources for these exams on YouTube. Usually you must search for either the exam number or the exam name to find them. I used some videos on there when I was studying for my Linux certification.

Practice tests

Before doing a Microsoft exam I strongly recommend buying the official practice tests when you book your actual exam.

Usually, you get offered them at a discounted rate when you go to book your actual exam. I do recommend checking there is a practice test for the exam available before you take up the offer on the site though.

In addition, if you buy these make sure you go through the test material carefully and read the material in the recommended links.

Final word

Well that’s it from me. I hope these study tips have helped you. With this in mind, feel free to comment if you have any other study advice you feel strongly about.

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