Today (24th of March 2012) I took Microsoft exam 70-463 Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 beta version which has slightly different exam nunmber 71-463 and I will share with you my thoughts and experience about the new exam.
First of all I really looked forward to this exam as having a separate certification for data warehouse with SQL Server 2012 will be looking really good on my CV when I apply for new contracts.
Duration & number of questions
Exam duration was 3h and number of questions was 60. I really like that exam is long and has 60 questions and I hope final version will be the same. The reason why I like it is because you simply cannot cover such a comprenesive subject in fewer questions and you increase your chances of passing the exam if you know what you are doing as they will be fewer exceptions that you don't know. I finished the exam in 1h 50minutes so there is plenty of free time to think about questions and answers. I also think the number of genuine passes will increase comparing to all passes (which means that there will be fewer certified people) which I think is good as Microsoft had bad reputation of certifying people that simply cheat and use courses that give them brain dumps (exam questions and answers) or they look for them on the internet.
What is covered?
Data warehouse design & understanding with mainly star schema. I think this part can be improved, certain questions were not very clear and it didn't have many design questions which is fine as this exam focuses more on SSIS and new SQL 2012 products.
SSIS knowledge. I really like the interactive part where you can see control flow / data flow and you have empty boxes where you can drag and drop what should be placed there. SSIS questions covered configuration, development, and deployment. What I didn't like was; too many questions related to transactions (the same as in previous version) especially that I usually design & develop my packages in a way where failure doesn't have consequences and rolbacks wouldn't make any difference. For fatal errors someone has to do something manually anyway. But obviously there are scenarios when you would use them but I hope number of questions related to transcations will be decreased.
There was one section I particularly didn't like. Micorosft decided to have a series of questions with the same generic answers (about 8 or 9) this made answering the question really confusing. I see benefit because you cannot guess or eliminate certain questions so easily but it is rather confusing.
Performance. I got some index related question which was rather expected. One question was not very clear but I hope I got it right. Obviously there is new index in 2012 that is covered.
Data Quality Services (DQS) a few question about DQS, installation and usage. I particularly like DQS as it is a proper tool to handle data quality issues and finally it will be BI team responsibility with more business input. I know that probably means "rubish in / rubish out" will be less frequently used by certain people as an argument to blame business source systems and human errors but that is good because it will help to build better quality data warehouses and it just simply makes sense as data cleansing is sometimes impossible or not cost effective at source.
Master Data Services (MDS) which is part of Master Data Management (MDM) was also covered. A few questions again I'm very glad it is part of the certification as v2 (SQL 2012) should be much better than v1 (SQL 2008 R2) which I didn't personally want to start learning.
My Problem areas
I took the exam without any preparations and I haven't even used SQL 2012 yet so there is no way I will pass it. The exam results will be emailed to me (I thought I will get it straight away). I will definitely will have to cover SSIS 2012 new Configuration & Deployment options, DQS & MDS, column indexing. The rest was fine so hopefully my learning curve won't be very steep.
The reason why I took beta exam was also to find out real life examples how you can use SQL 2012 and I got them so that was useful. I have a bigger picture of SQL 2012 for data warehouse and SSIS.
I look forward to Microsoft exam 70-463 (proper exam) which most likely will be released around June 2012 and I should fill in my gaps by that time.
Below is link to microsoft site that covered skilled measures in details that I briefly described above
Exam 70-463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012