MCSA: SQL Server 2012 - How to prepare fast
The certification for SQL Server 2012 can be tricky if you don't have any previous experience with SQL Server. On the other hand, if you're already familiar with the language, the exam might seem pretty easy. First, let's mention that there are two different ways to get the certification. You can either 'upgrade' if you have a MCSA: SQL Server 2008 certificate, or you can go for the standalone version of the exam and learn everything from scratch. If you find yourself in the first situation, you probably know that you have to take just 2 exams. For the second situation you're required to learn a bit more since there are 3 exams to pass. We'll introduce you some fast ways of preparing, no matter the situation you're in.
Each of the exams you need to pass has a list of 'measured skills'. This helps the user to get an idea about the topics that would be in the exam, and their proportion. If you really run out of time you should focus more on the ones with a higher percentage. As you might know, there's only need to score 700 points on the exam to pass it, so you can sacrifice several topics if you're having a hard time understanding them.
How to prepare
One thing to be avoided if you run out of time is to rely on a course. Courses and trainings usually take weeks, even months to complete. You will also be forced to pay in order to attend them, so my opinion is that they aren't worth it. Instead, you can buy a proper e-book with all the documentation you need. If there's enough time to attend a course and if you have enough money, go for it. But don't stop there; when you come back home you should read extra pages in order to gain as much information as possible. It's a good idea not to stop at the theoretical aspects; get an SQL version on your computer and run the examples you find in the books. There are books which cover only the surface of the SQL Server 2012. If you really don't have enough time and your exam is already scheduled, it's a good idea to learn the basics. They're much easier to remember and a lot of questions in the actual exam rely on the basics.
Planning the schedule
Don't try to learn at night. The human body needs to be well rested in order to work at optimum parameters. You should get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Plan a separate section for each day of the week. Don't try to mix things up by learning a lot of chapters. Do one, maximum two chapters a day. At the end of the week you should try and remember things from all the chapters you've read until that moment. The quick reading sessions while eating or on your way to work won't do. When it's about eating, the brain should focus only on that. When it's about learning, you should learn. Usually you can get about 3 hours of non-stop learning before a break is needed. While taking the break, don't think at SQL at all. You'll have the chance to do so in the evening when you should have another 3 hours session.
Hopefully you will never get in situation like: the exam is in two weeks and you still got an awful lot of things to learn. An exam should always be planned ahead so you'd have enough time to study for all the required chapters. However, if you do come across such a situation, the above tips will get you out trouble. Of course, you won't pass the MCSA: SQL Server 2012 with maximum mark but you should still be able to score over the 700 limit.