I've been really busy lately. A big component of that time has been my involvement with the new Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008 program. I was privileged to be chosen to teach six days of the fifteen day program in the recent alpha rotation. In addition, I decided to attend (and pay !) to attend the rotation, do the exams and qualifying lab.
Well it was quite an experience!
Anyone considering this program needs to understand the demands that it will place on your time. The three weeks of classes run from 8am to 6pm daily but most attendees would then spend up to another three or four hours per night studying while there. On the weekends, you have lab work that needs to be completed before the next week and each Monday morning, you have a two hour Prometric exam. On the final Saturday, you have another two hour Prometric exam followed by a six hour hands-on qualifying lab. I was with a wonderful group of people on this first rotation and have to say that all looked exhausted at the end.
Paul Randal and Kim Tripp covered the first week, Adam Machanic, Paul Nielsen, Allan Hirt, Ron Talmage, Andy Kelly, myself and Gert Drapers covered the second week and I covered the third week.
While I obviously can't tell you anything about the exam content, I'd be giving nothing away by saying it's in a different league to the questions you see on the MCITP exams. And the final qualifying lab has some carefully chosen scenarios that you need to navigate your way through, with lots of little (intentional) road-blocks on the way.
If you look into doing this program, you need to block a bit over three weeks of your life completely out. It's also expensive and what might surprise you more is that most candidates don't pass at the first attempt. I was one of the fortunate ones to do so this time but you should not consider it to be any sort of failure if you don't achieve it on the first attempt. You can retake the exams (with similar rules to the other Prometric exams) but you can't retake the qualifying lab until you've passed the exams. You only get two attempts at retaking the qualifying lab or you then need to retake the whole course. (I believe that would happen at a 50% discount but you should check the rules for clarification). Also, don't plan to fly out on the Saturday night at the end. Leave the time to have dinner with the rest of the people in your rotation and avoid any time pressure related to flights. That's the last thing you'll want on your mind at that stage.
Regardless, it's highly recommended if it makes sense for you. I'll be back teaching in the next rotation and I'll look forward to seeing any of you that decide to tackle it.