This morning I got up, went to the gym and ran three miles, and headed to a testing center to take the Microsoft MCTS 70-432 SQL Server Implementation and Maintenance exam. I wasn’t expecting to ace it, since I’d been struggling with the practice exams. But I was hoping that three years of work with SQL Server and two months of studying would get me through.

I arrived early and got to start early. There were 45 questions, and I was given two hours to complete it. I went through each question carefully, marking some for review. After I went through all of them, I reviewed every question again. I changed a couple answers. I waited a minute, then hit Submit. And my score was…a big fail. Passing was 700, and I scored a 531. Ouch.

What happened?

I don’t know exactly which questions I got wrong. But I know that I did really well in day-to-day stuff, like “Maintaining a SQL Server Database”, and bombed monitoring, troubleshooting and optimizing SQL Server. When studying, I had focused a lot on installation, features, backup and restore, and the different high availability features. I know that during the test I struggled with questions about specific DMVs, system monitor, data collectors, and PBM. My score in the “Maintaining SQL Server Instances” category was a 0%.

So what did I learn?

SQL Server is a huge product, with a lot of features. It’s hard to be proficient in all of them. Now I know what I have a good level of understanding in, and what I need to research and work with more.

More importantly, it was reinforced that the SQL community is the best. People answered my questions, quizzed me, told me how they did on their exams, wished me luck, and cheered me up when I didn’t pass.

I think Grant Fritchey (Blog | Twitter) made the biggest impact this morning when he tweeted “You had the guts to try. I still haven’t tried one of the exams. You’ll get it next time.”

Yes, I will. I don’t know when that is – I’m not sure when I will reschedule my exam – but I know what I need to do now, and I’m ready to get started. After a week off.