Today I completed the certification exam for 70-457 which is the upgrade of MCTS 2008 to MCSA Part 1.
Essentially this exam is 70-461 and 70-462 combined into one. I did exceptionally well on the exam. Admittedly I did not spend too much time studying on it because I was counting on Second Shot to bail me out if things went wrong. The method I used to study was relatively simple and I followed this pattern when I upgraded my MCITP certifications from 2005 to 2008.
Basically what I do is find a list of new features that are going to be covered on the exam. This is published on the Microsoft Learning site. They give you some general direction of what is covered but not the specifics. Reviewing Books Online helps a lot. I would scan through the different pages and read over anything that I was not familiar with. This is surprisingly very effective and you can learn a lot about SQL in general.
Exams often cover the newest popular features of SQL Server and it’s almost guaranteed there are going to be questions on them. I specifically did not have any real world experience with AlwaysOn, so to compensate I went to TechNet Labs and tried a hands-on lab. Microsoft has VMs that you can use for free along with lab notes. This is a great way to get some experience with technology. For something like AlwaysOn, it could take a very long time to set up multiple VMs and a domain controller, installing multiple copies of SQL, etc. In less than 10 minutes, 4 VMs were waiting for me preconfigured with what I needed to work with AlwaysOn. It was really great!
70-458 is next for me but this one will require a lot more preparation time. This covers a lot of the weird SSIS features that none of us use in the real world. Basically 70-458 is a weird mix of 70-463 and some 70-462. Looking at the list of content covered, it looks like there’s a lot of overlap between the two transition exams. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see some repeated questions.