I recently studied and passed the Microsoft exam Developing ASP.NET MVC Web Applications. Hooray. I thought it was a fair exam covering mostly helpful content – not something I can say for all the exams (70-551 I’m looking at you). I wrote quite extensive notes on the exam so I thought I would tidying them up and post them for general use. I’ve posted general tips here and a more detailed breakdown of the syllabus in the next post.
If you use ASP.Net MVC in your day to day job that’s really going to help but it’s not enough. Generally be familiar with
- MVC ASP.Net (obviously)
- HTML5 and CSS3 – you don’t need to be an expert but a good grounding is helpful
- Azure platform as a service – there is a goodly amount of content on this
- Security – this has evolved in MVC 5 so a current understanding is needed
- Good understanding of HTTP and how the web works generally
So, just because you use MVC doesn’t mean you know enough. Things like security are something no-one does on a day to day basis. Typically, someone has set this up year ago in your organisation and no-one has gone near it since. Not good enough – you need to know about it.
Programme of study
I always make heavy weather over studying and do too much but this was my general pattern
- Watch an overview video – just to get into the mood. Take a bath, light some candles and whet the development appetite.
- Read the syllabus
- Buy a couple of MVC books. Read them but cross reference against the syllabus. Unless you are desperately interested, focus on exam content.
- Read syllabus again. Get onto Internet and fill in the gaps. Make copious notes
- Read syllabus again. Buy so practice exam questions (but see warning below)
- Take exam – pass hopefully
- (Optional) write a blog post about it all
Use the syallabus
Sounds obviously but the key with these exams is go through the syallbus and ensure you have covered it off. It’s easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security by reading some MVC books and watching some videos and feel that all is well and you’ve covered it. Read the syllabus again and make sure that you have.
I read two books for this – both of which were very good.
Professional ASP.NET MVC 5
By Jon Galloway, Brad Wilson, K. Scott Allen, David Matson
A good book and recommended. It is excellent for general MVC, security and extending MVC. Security is particularly good. Nothing on Azure though, so reading this book isn’t going to be enough. I would recommend reading it whether you are taking the exam or not. I enjoyed it.
Exam Ref 70-486: Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications
by William Penberthy
Good again. Its makes a good job of covering the syllabus and focuses the mind on the exam. I read this through and read some parts twice or three times. Not a particularly enjoyable ready though and I wouldn’t recommend this as general reading. It is high level and you will need to research the unfamiliar parts yourself to bolster understanding.
I personally don’t learn well from videos but I did watch some for this. I know other people find videos the best way to learn.
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Free good quality videos presented by chirpy Americans. What’s not to like. I watched Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications Jump Start which was excellent (though not that much help for the exam ironically). The updated one is Introduction to ASP.NET Core (formerly ASP.NET 5). Don’t expect great exam coverage but unless you are a ‘manic exam crammer who only wants to pass and nothing else’ then I would definitely watch it.
There is an extensive learning path for 70-486 on Pluralsight. I didn’t watch any of it. 60 hours of videos is too much for me and as I’ve said I don’t learn well from videos. But for those that do then this is a good option. I have watch many Pluralsight vids over the years and they are excellent so I’m going to make an uninformed recommendation on this content on that shaky basis.
General internet resources
These are general resources or general web stuff that is good to know but isn’t explicitly on the syllabus so is easy to miss. For a detailed breakdown of the syllabus see the next post.
Good general resource. Good start and fills you in on lesser known subjects.
Two good general resources on web application life cycle are
What’s new in MVC 5
One of the hard things about MS exams is that a lot of the resources aren’t quite current enough and will be focused on the wrong techniques. This excellent code project post highlights the new stuff in MVC 5. Just so you know, the new stuff is around …
- Attribute based routing
- Filter overrides
- ASP.Net Identity
The security features particularly are a big change and aren’t that well documented.
are the bests posts I found around this area. There are more comprehensive posts but they tend to be baffling.
Who doesn’t like to use exam questions for revision? It’s like a giant security blanket of exam goodness wrapped around you.
There are several legitimate sellers of exam material. On this one I used Transcender as I have happy memories of the quality of the questions from a few years ago. I was shocked. The product is of an extremely low quality. Questions were missing great chunks of information and didn’t make sense, the topics covered were all wrong (questions about webforms on an MVC exam), correct answers were clearly wrong etc.. etc.. etc… I spent my company’s money on this (much appreciated) and even then I wanted my money back. If I had spent my own money then I would have felt even more abused and exploited. The exams questions were written by someone who hadn’t read the exam or even knew anything about the subject. I think they plundered the old web forms exam (70-315) for material. Poor show guys.
The Microsoft recommended seller of questions. I didn’t use this for 70-486, however I recently used it for another Microsoft exam. It was significantly better than Transcender but far away from perfect. You can buy them in a package that includes resits as detailed next …..
The best thing is probably to use the exam itself as its own practice. For not very much more money you can get 4 resits so a few goes at your local test centre will stand you in good stead. It is time limited but every year Microsoft have some kind of free retake offer that lasts 6 months or more and can include exam questions.
I bought 4 resits but I can’t go into an exam unprepared so psychologically this didn’t work for me. I meant to just ‘give it a go’ but instead I spent hour after hour preparing for the exam anyway even though I had free resits in the bag. But mental quirks aside, this is a good option for exam prep.
So now you’ve done the general reading it’s time to bite your lip and dive deep into the syllabus. The next post holds your hand while you are swimming about in the murky depths of the syllabus.