My current goal is to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Business Intelligence.

Preparing for the exam

My plan is to work my way through each chapter in the Training Kit book. I will read each chapter, answer the quick check questions, the lesson review questions, work through the case scenarios and complete all the practice exercises.

I will also be watching some YouTube videos and the Udemy course Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Certification Training Exam 70-461 by Infinite Skills as I have read some positive things about it.

I will NOT be completing the practice tests that came with the book because I have read they are completely useless as they are not on the level of the Microsoft exam.

Skills Required

The 70-461 exam is comprised of questions from the below area:

  • Create database objects (20–25%)
  • Work with data (25–30%)
  • Modify data (20–25%)
  • Troubleshoot and optimize (25–30%)

Create database objects (20–25%)

  • Create and alter tables using T-SQL syntax (simple statements)
    • Create tables without using the built in tools; ALTER; DROP; ALTER COLUMN; CREATE
  • Create and alter views (simple statements)
    • Create indexed views; create views without using the built in tools; CREATE, ALTER, DROP
  • Design views
    • Ensure code non regression by keeping consistent signature for procedure, views and function (interfaces); security implications
  • Create and modify constraints (simple statements)
    • Create constraints on tables; define constraints; unique constraints; default constraints; primary and foreign key constraints
  • Create and alter DML triggers
    • Inserted and deleted tables; nested triggers; types of triggers; update functions; handle multiple rows in a session; performance implications of triggers

Preparation resources

Work with data (25–30%)

  • Query data by using SELECT statements
    • Use the ranking function to select top(X) rows for multiple categories in a single query; write and perform queries efficiently using the new (SQL 2005/8->) code items such as synonyms, and joins (except, intersect); implement logic which uses dynamic SQL and system metadata; write efficient, technically complex SQL queries, including all types of joins versus the use of derived tables; determine what code may or may not execute based on the tables provided; given a table with constraints, determine which statement set would load a table; use and understand different data access technologies; case versus isnull versus coalesce
  • Implement sub-queries
    • Identify problematic elements in query plans; pivot and unpivot; apply operator; cte statement; with statement
  • Implement data types
    • Use appropriate data; understand the uses and limitations of each data type; impact of GUID (newid, newsequentialid) on database performance, when to use what data type for columns
  • Implement aggregate queries
    • New analytic functions; grouping sets; spatial aggregates; apply ranking functions
  • Query and manage XML data
    • Understand XML datatypes and their schemas and interop w/, limitations and restrictions; implement XML schemas and handling of XML data; XML data: how to handle it in SQL Server and when and when not to use it, including XML namespaces; import and export XML; XML indexing

Preparation resources

Modify data (20–25%)

  • Create and alter stored procedures (simple statements)
    • Write a stored procedure to meet a given set of requirements; branching logic; create stored procedures and other programmatic objects; techniques for developing stored procedures; different types of storeproc result; create stored procedure for data access layer; program stored procedures, triggers, functions with T-SQL
  • Modify data by using INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements
    • Given a set of code with defaults, constraints, and triggers, determine the output of a set of DDL; know which SQL statements are best to solve common requirements; use output statement
  • Combine datasets
    • Difference between UNION and UNION all; case versus isnull versus coalesce; modify data by using MERGE statements
  • Work with functions
    • Understand deterministic, non-deterministic functions; scalar and table values; apply built-in scalar functions; create and alter user-defined functions (UDFs)

Preparation resources


Troubleshoot and optimize (25–30%)

  • Optimize queries
    • Understand statistics; read query plans; plan guides; DMVs; hints; statistics IO; dynamic vs. parameterized queries; describe the different join types (HASH, MERGE, LOOP) and describe the scenarios they would be used in
  • Manage transactions
    • Mark a transaction; understand begin tran, commit, and rollback; implicit vs explicit transactions; isolation levels; scope and type of locks; trancount
  • Evaluate the use of row-based operations vs. set-based operations
    • When to use cursors; impact of scalar UDFs; combine multiple DML operations
  • Implement error handling
    • Implement try/catch/throw; use set based rather than row based logic; transaction management

Preparation resources

Preparing for the real world

Getting better with SQL is kind of hard to do on your own. You really need real world business cases to understand how to manipulate actual data.

But for an entry/mid level job, these things are really important and will help you on interviews:

  1. Understanding all the joins (specifically inner, outer, left, right)
  2. sub-querys, derived tables
  3. exists, not exists, except , in, not in
  4. group by, having clause
  5. row number() , dense rank()
  6. clustered and non-clustered indexes
  7. temp tables (global vs local)
  8. Stored Procedures, Functions,
  9. Variables
  10. While loops
  11. try/catch blocks and general error handling
  12. wild cards

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