Monday, December 29, 2008

MySQL CMDBA Certification Tips

Taking (and passing, of course) both the MySQL 5 CMDBA (Certified MySQL Database Administrator) examinations are all that's required to become a MySQL 5 CMDBA.

What did I do to prepare to take the exams? It helped that I've been using MySQL for a number of years, however, that isn't a prerequisite. MySQL offers a certification class that does a fair job of preparing attendees for the exam. However, even my class instructor suggested attendees go back to the book to continue practicing the exercises given and reading materials from the book. The book he was referring to is the very same book you can get at your local book store - MySQL 5 Certification Study Guide.

Knowing what I know now, with my experience, I could probably have passed the exams without the class, though taking the class exposed me to information I wouldn't have easily learned otherwise. That additional knowledge helped me become a better CMDBA.

If I had it to do over again, I would likely have used this approach:
  • Get the MySQL 5 Certification Study Guide
  • Read each DBA chapter carefully
  • Work through each of the exercises given in the study guide.
  • Find someone who is already certified to help me verify my answers.
  • Print a copy of the Q&A section on the included CD's
  • Answer each question without looking at the included answers first.
  • Study materials related to any questions I missed, then go back and take the sample questions again until I was able to pass easily.
  • When a particular topic proved especially difficult, I would have made up my own multiple choice questions right from the details given in the study guide.
Remember that the exams are based on a specific verison of MySQL 5 that is documented in the study guide. Some of the capabilities of MySQL have changed since the book and corresponding exams were written. The answer the exam is looking for is based on expectations at that time, not based on current performance and capabilities.

Good news - when I took my MySQL 5 CMDBA examinations, I was allowed to review answers I had already given (or not given) before submitting the answers back through the system. If in doubt about a question, don't let it bog you down. Make a note on the question and come back to it with the whiteboard or paper the proctor will provide. That way, you can get as many questions answered as possible. If early questions take big chunks of time to answer, that can hurt you if you don't finish some of the questions later in the exam.

One other note, if you have difficulty with a particular question (i.e. it seems ambiguous), make sure you comment on the question explaining why you answered the way you did. If the question really is ambiguous, then when your exam results go for review, the reviewers will see your comments explaining your thinking. This can help improve the test.

Why did I take the exams? Besides gaining the certification, I wanted to improve my knowledge of MySQL 5 specifically. I also wanted something I could put on my resume that helped show that not only had I done work on MySQL 5 systems, but I became certified on them in the process. That has helped me with credibility in interviews.

Oh - one other thing I almost forgot - on the day of each exam - I actually chose to take off early from work, then spend an hour in the coffee shop near the exam site just to make sure I knew the answers to the questions I had previously missed. It proved helpful. I also took the night prior to the exams off just to make sure my mind could relax. I also made it easier on myself by scheduling my exams for the afternoon, and I stayed away from certain foods I knew would make me tired that day (like turkey sandwiches at lunch) and other foods that would make me nervous or jumpy (caffine drinks for example).

Good luck on your exams :-)


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