Ramping Up On SQL

If you're new to SQL Server 7.0, this guide will take you through the product in preparation for the exam. Just add hands-on.

The series from which MCSE SQL Server 7 Administration Training Guide derives provides detailed exam preparation information for the MCSE core and elective exams. Included with the book is a CD containing a TopScore test simulation software suite that provides self-testing tools and simulations. It's aimed primarily at providing information needed to pass the exam. The SQL Server 7.0 Administration test (70-028) is a difficult and long exam and includes some complex scenario questions that require not only knowledge of SQL, but also of Windows NT and network issues. The stated goal is to cover the exam matrix well enough to pass the test.

MCSE SQL Server 7 Administration has Microsoft's blessing as an approved study guide for the exam. The exam topics are covered thoroughly. The only area with weak coverage is replication (which gets just 29 pages). You'll come across the whole gamut of question types, including scenario, multiple-selection, and single-selection. The book is actually structured around the exam matrix. A convenient foldout section at the start of the volume maps all of the exam objectives to the various part of the book.

Those new to SQL Server will find this structure conducive to ramping up on the product and preparing for the exam. Each chapter corresponds to one of the exam areas (such as configuring and managing security) and begins with a list of objectives directly from the matrix. Next, the material is covered in a gradual method with basic concepts presented first and then expanded. The chapters include review breaks and "step-by-step" exercises to help reinforce the concepts. At the conclusion of each section, the authors provide a case study along with hands-on "apply-your-knowledge" exercises and review questions.

The big bonus is the CD, which provides an electronic version of the book, as well as four different types of computer-aided self-testing methods, including flashcards, study cards, a practice exam, and a powerful simulator. These simulations are challenging as well as amazingly realistic and accurate. Although the SQL 7.0 Admin exam doesn't currently include simulation questions, I heartily recommend them. They help verify mastery of the knowledge needed to pass the exam. The traditional-type questions are also good. My only gripe is that the Adobe Acrobat-formatted electronic book is protected against printing. It would be useful to be able to print particular sections to read on the road instead of lugging the entire book.

If you have extensive experience and knowledge of SQL Server, you may find this book rudimentary and too detailed. In addition, you'll stumble across some over-simplifications and incorrect generalizations. For example, the planning chapter indicates RAID 5 should never be used for write-intensive databases because of the performance penalty. However this is an over-simplification; using RAID 5 for data files with RAID 1 for the transaction log is a generally accepted approach, even for OLTP environments.

Overall, MCSE SQL Server 7 Administration should be helpful for those preparing for the exam, especially if you're new to SQL Server. In spite of minor criticisms, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this for both training and exam preparation. Using this book along with gaining practical experience and delving into SQL Server 7 Books Online should be adequate preparation for the 70-028 exam.

The simulations are so real in this SQL training guide, they may fool you into thinking you're in the real thing!

About the Author

Robert Leithiser, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE+I, MCT, OCP DBA is a database consultant/technical trainer currently residing in Montgomery, Alabama. In his spare time, he takes his family on outings to Barnes and Nobles to read books.