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Tips on Sybase Certified Professional
07-02-2008, 02:56 AM
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Tips on Sybase Certified Professional


FYI This is from sypron site.

As there seems to be regular interest in issues related to becoming a Sybase Certified Professional, here are some of my own personal experiences and opinions in this area (note for UK readers: please stick to the common American meaning of the word "certified" ;-).
Please note: because I've only done certification exams for Adaptive Server Enterprise and Replication Server the below information and opinions only apply to ASE certification, and not to IQ, PowerBuilder or ASA (even though some of the information might be relevant to these certifications as well).

Contents
Preparation
Certifications for Sybase ASE
Certifications for Sybase Replication Server
Certifications for Sybase IQ
Practise tests
The Sybase certification exams
After the exam
Does it pay off ?
Other people's opinions on Sybase certification
Share your opinion



Preparation
Attaining a certification for Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) should not be taken lightly. I'd say you need significant practical experience with ASE in the first place; let's say at least 6 months of full-time ASE experience before taking the test. This means you should have a version of ASE available to work with: if you don't have access to ASE, go here for information how to get a free version of ASE (though these come with some limitations).

In addition, you'll need to spend time on studying the documentation: you'll find that there are many features you've never used, and you need to fill these gaps in your ASE knowledge. It's not required to follow any official Sybase Training Courses, but it will certainly help to get into the details of many features. Sybase provides "study guidelines" for the exams at http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=1002813, which represent the topics you may be asked about in the exams. Unfortunately, as these are rather high-level guidelines, this means you need to know about roughly "everything".

In any case, you should check out the information about certification-related issues on Sybase's own web pages at http://www.sybase.com/education/profcert/, as this will answer many of your questions.

Also, here is a very good presentation by Sam Lakkundi (August 2002) which also contains some useful guidelines and suggestions (this presentation is ZIPped; 330Kb).

For preparation, make sure you have the ASE System Admin Guide and the Reference Manual handy, as well as the Performance & Tuning Guide for the Professional-level exams. You can download these manuals as PDF documents from the Sybase web site. For more info, go here.
Also, I have published a complete, fit-in-your-pocket ASE Quick Reference Guide for ASE 11.9, 12.0 and 12.5, which may be useful.

As for the exam questions, in my opinion, the Sybase certification exams for version 11.0 and 11.5 put too much emphasis on T-SQL syntax, proper usage of the ASE system stored procedures, and some nitty-gritty details that don't always seem relevant to real-life situations. For example, I recall a question about the different types of cursor that exist, (do you know them all ? hint: there are 4 different types…) while normal ASE users would probably never need to bother about this anyway. Also, some of the questions try to trick you into a wrong answer: I remember a question where the clue lied in spotting the fact that an ALTER TABLE statement to add a column to a table didn't include the mandatory NULL keyword at the end. From this observation, you could then find the tricky-worded correct answer.
For the 12.0 and 12.5 exams, the quality of the questions has improved; there is more emphasis on testing your understanding and less attempts to make you trip over some silly detail. Note that this certainly does not mean that the exams have become easier for 12.0/12.5 !

Certifications for Sybase ASE

The following Sybase ASE certifications currently exist (also see the official list). Note that the 11.0 exams are not available in North America.
The exam codes can be used when booking an exam with Prometric:

* Certified SQL Developer for ASE 12.5 - Associate Level
This certification requires one exam (exam code 510-410), irrespective of any certifications you already may have.
This exam mostly has the focus on functionality aspects of ASE T-SQL statements; there isn't so much emphasis on DBA-specific topics as in the Administrator exams. However, you will need some understanding of performance-related issues ASE.
Note that this exam also covers the new features in ASE 12.5.0.3, so make sure you're up-to-date...

* Certified Administrator for ASE 12.5 - Professional Level
This exam was announced by Sybase in March 2004. More information will be posted here once the exam is available.

* Certified Administrator for ASE 12.5 - Associate Level
The ASE 12.5 Administrator certification formerly did not have the 'Associate' qualification in its title. It seems this was added to distinguish from the announced 12.5 Professional Level exam (see above).
In any case, this certification requires one exam (exam code 510-020), irrespective of any certifications you already may have.
Note that this exam is based on the first version of ASE 12.5, i.e. 12.5 GA. It does not contain any questions about new or changed functionality in later 12.5 releases such as 12.5.0.1.

* Certified Administrator for ASE 12.0 - "Associate" Level
Becoming an ASE 12.0 Administrator-Associate requires one exam (exam code 510-014), irrespective of any certifications you already may have: there is no migration exam as there was for 11.5.
When I took this exam, I found that the amount of material to be studied is approaching the limit of what my head can absorb... On the positive side, there seems to be less emphasis on syntax details now, and more questions testing your understanding. Nevertheless, I found the exam pretty difficult, and I'd recommend to pay special attention to features that have changed in comparison with pre-12.0 versions -- some of which you may not have been aware of in the first place, such as certain types of server-level or database-level limitations. And of course, don't forget all those features that were new in 11.9.x or 12.0 ...
Note that you're not expected to know the details of the options that need to be licensed separately in ASE 12.0, such as Java, High Availability, DTM and ASM. You should know that they exist and what they are for, as well as how the licensing system works.

* Certified Administrator for ASE 12.0 - "Professional" Level
Requires 12.0 Administrator-Associate plus the Administrator-Professional exam (exam code 510-015).
I found that some questions were very similar to those in the 11.5 Professional exam, so make sure you know about the same topics (e.g. lock promotion, execution classes and parallel query processing); also, be familiar with all the new locking-related stuff that was introduced in 11.9, and make sure you understand the basics of Performance & Tuning.
This exam does not seem to include any questions about licensing or licensable options, like the 12.0 Associate exam does.
Comparing this exam with the 12.0 associate exam. I'd say the Associate exam focuses slightly more on regular features and DBA issues, while the 12.0 Professional requires more knowledge of advanced features and performance-related areas.

* Certified Administrator for ASE 11.5 - "Professional" Level
Requires 11.5 Administrator-Associate plus one more exam (exam code 510-012); I found that there was quite an overlap in topics with the 11.5 migration exam. Make sure topics such as lock promotion, execution classes and parallel access don't have any secrets for you.

* Certified Administrator for ASE 11.5 - "Associate" Level
Requires one exam just by itself (exam code 510-011). When you already have DBA certification for 11.0, you can can do a migration-to-11.5 exam instead (exam code 510-010). Note that Sybase apparently prefers the term "Administrator" over "DBA" now.

* Certified SQL Developer for ASE 11.5 (Associate level only)
This certification is the equivalent of the 11.0 Performance & Tuning Specialist certification (so why did they change the name ?). It requires a single exam (exam code 510-013); there are no prerequisites. While some of the topics somewhat overlap with the 11.5 Administrator exam (especially parallel query processing), I recommend you're familiar with technical stuff such as optimizer issues (do you know exactly when a "direct in-place update" or a "cheap direct update" is chosen ?).

* Certified DBA for Sybase System 11.0
This certification requires two exams: one basically corresponding to the T-SQL features plus a bit of system admin basics (exam code 510-007); the second is the system admin exam (exam code 510-008). For the first exam, better learn the T-SQL manual by heart; for the sysadmin exam, make sure you know the ins and outs of all ASE system tables.

* Certified Performance & Tuning Specialist (PTS) for ASE 11.0
When you pass the exams for certified 11.0 DBA, you can then do another exam (exam code 510-009) that gets you the 11.0 P&T certification. It is quite technical at some points: apart from the obvious P&T stuff, the sort of thing you must be comfortable with is how many bytes of storage (including overhead) a non-clustered index row will occupy on disk. For ASE 11.5, the P&T certification has been renamed to "SQL Developer", which covers roughly the same area.


The exams for the following certifications are not available anymore:

* Certified DBA for Sybase System 10
This was the first ever Sybase certification; the exams are not available anymore.

* Open Interfaces Developer
This certification exam was available in System 10 and 11.0, but these days it doesn't exist anymore. In order to get this certification, you had to be quite good at CT-lib interfacing and C-programming.


So which certification should you try to get ? The obvious thing to go for is the DBA certification, as DBA's are in high demand on the job market. With every new ASE version, the certification exam get more difficult, mainly due to the increasing amount of material to be studied.
The 11.0 and 11.5 certifications are getting a bit out of date ( Sybase does not support ASE versions 11.0 and 11.5 anymore), so the 11.5 or 12.0 DBA certification would be more relevant.
In any case, any DBA certification will look good when trying to get a job; it will help distinguish you from many other persons with Sybase experience, who have often not attained any certifications.

In an attempt to keep things simple (this must have been the Marketing Dept. in action), the certified individuals for versions 10 & 11.0 were called "Certified Sybase Professional", while for 11.5 and later this changed to "Sybase Certified Professional". The certification logo changed as well :

The "new" logo for 11.5 & later The "old" logo for 10 & 11.0


Certifications for Sybase Replication Server
Since April 2003, a Certification for Sybase Replication Server is available.
The exam code can be used when booking an exam with Prometric:

* Certified Administrator for Replication Server 12.5 (single level only)
This Replication Server 12.5 certification requires one exam (exam code 510-050), irrespective of any certifications you already may have. Strictly speaking, you probably wouldn't require an ASE certification first before taking this RepServer exam, but I think you'd be up for a tough challenge. So my advice is to get an ASE certification first.

The study guide for this exam is located here. There's also a new logo for this certification.
Sybase offers a free sample practise exam for the RepServer certification; the full practise exam is apparently coming soon.

In my opinion, this exam should not be taken lightly, just as the complexity of Replication Server itself shouldn't be underestimated. To get a taste of the level of this exam, try out the free sample practise exam.

This is the logo for the Replication Server certification:



Certifications for Sybase IQ
Since Q4 2005, a Certification for Sybase IQ is now available as well.
The exam code can be used when booking an exam with Prometric:

* Certified Administrator for Sybase IQ 12.6 (single level only)
This IQ 12.6 certification requires one exam (exam code 510-701), irrespective of any certifications you already may have.
The study guide for this exam is located here.
Currently I do not have any further details about this certification. If you want to share your experiences, please let me know.

This is the logo for the IQ certification:


Practise tests
Once you feel you've prepared for the exams, I'd recommend to do some practicing. There are various possible sources:

* In 2006, Sybase made some free practise tests available: go to here to download (should this link not work for some reason, go to http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=1039555 and click on the link "Online Skills Assessment").

* Sybase sells CDs with practise questions for ASE (as well as other) certification exams.
These CDs are perhaps the best preparation currently available. They can be purchased from the Sybase E-shop.

* Check out my page with ASE quiz questions. Though these questions are in no way aimed at the stuff in the Sybase certification exams, they'll help to keep you on your toes....

* The book "The Official Guide: Administrator's Guide to Sybase ASE 12.5" by Jeffrey Garbus & Alvin Chang, Wordware Publishing, ISBN 1-55622-307-2.
This book contains an appendix with certification test questions; however, these questions are about ASE 12.0 and earlier versions; there are no questions about 12.5-specific features.

* Brainbench offers web-based tests for Sybase ASE (just search for 'Sybase' at the main Brainbench page). The oldest one is the "Sybase 11.x Administration" test, covering 11.0 only (and is not free). This test is not bad, but of significantly lower quality than Sybase's own certification tests. Needless to say, it's also very old.
In January 2005, David Kelly kindly pointed out that Brainbench now also have a ASE 12.5 test; in February 2005, this test was still in beta, meaning it was free. Curious as always, I took this test. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I cannot be very positive about it: the question are sometimes unclear, the answers are often wrong, confusing (like multiple ones that can be correct, or just none), or just plain rubbish. So grab your chance to take the test while it's in beta -- but unless the tests are more or less completely rewritten, I wouldn't recommend spending your money on this test once it's out of beta. (BTW, I'm not sure if I passed the beta test: there were just too many questions I couldn't answer or refused to answer due to horrible questions or answers).
Last remark: although Brainbench use the word "certification" here and there, this is not the official Sybase certification.

* (11.0 only)
http://www.skillometer.com offers a web-based 40-question Sybase T-SQL test (not free). A major disadvantage of this test is that it covers only version 11.0, which is not a Sybase-supported version anymore and therefore, the test is quite out of date. Also, I found that the quality of some questions was not very good, some of them even being factually wrong. Still, you could use it as preparation for your certification exams by trying to identify where their errors are...

* (11.0 only)
The book "Sybase SQL Server 11 DBA Survival Guide" by Jeffrey Garbus et al., SAMS publishing, ISBN 0-672-30888-6.
This contains an appendix with certification practise questions (for version 11.0 only). Note that some of these questions actually contain errors.

* (11.0 only)
D.O.C. Software Corp ( http://www.docsoftware.com ) used to sell software that lets you practise certification exams on your own PC in much the same format as the official Sybase exams; in my edition of a few years ago (for 11.0 only), the questions in these exams looked suspiciously similar to those in Garbus' book mentioned above. Anyway, this all seems to be irrelevant now because this website doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Most questions from Skillometer, Brainbench, Garbus's 11.0 book and D.O.C. are significantly easier than those in the official ASE certification exams. I'd say that if you have problems with these practise tests, you probably won’t pass the official Sybase certification exam.

The Sybase certification exams
Sybase certification exams are not available from Sybase itself (although the exam questions are created under Sybase's responsibility); you must go to a company which specialises in certification exams. For more info, see the overview at http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=203422.
Currently Prometric seems to be the only provider. They have a worldwide directory of places where you can take your exam.
It doesn't matter where in the world you take your exams; the exam vendor will assign you a "candidate ID", which you should always specify when registering for a new exam. The exam results, tagged onto this candidate ID, are automatically transferred to Sybase; this way, Sybase knows when you've attained a certification and they'll send you a confirmation and some other stuff (see below).You must pay a fee before you can take an exam. This tends to be pretty expensive ($ 150 or your local currency equivalent), and there's a limit to the amount of times you are allowed to take an exam: if you fail twice, you must wait some time before you can re-take an exam (see the Sybase website for details). This means there's not much point in just trying exams until you pass.
Note that in recent years, ISUG members could get a 20% discount on the price of a certification exam using the vouchers that are part of the ISUG membership kit. Assuming that this discount will be continued, here's yet another reason to become an ISUG member !

You may also be able to take an exam while is still in beta status. The advantage is that the exam is cheaper ($ 50) and that you'll be among the first people to be certified. However, the disadvantages are significant: you'll have to do more questions for which you'll get less time than in a regular exam. I did the 11.5 Pro when it was in beta, for which there were 180 questions in only 3 hours -- this was tough: I was absolutely knackered when I finished. Questions may also be worded badly or contain mistakes -- that's why it's still in beta. You'll get your final result scores only after the beta period finishes, which may be months away (the beta finishes once a minimum number of people has taken the beta test). The Sybase web site specifies whether an exam is in beta.

The exams are PC-based multiple-choice questions, which are in English by default. A limited number of exams is also available in local languages -- check with the exam provider. In the English-language exams, non-English speakers may find some questions extra difficult due to the wording which is sometimes not so clear for foreigners (actually, someone from Britain replied that he was confused by some of the questions -- see below).
An exam consists of 50 or 60 questions, for which you usually have something like 75 or 90 minutes, respectively (i.e. on average 90 seconds per question). This means you'll have to be able to answer half of the questions more or less immediately, or you'll get into time trouble. My advice: skip the questions which you can't answer immediately or mark them for later review.
According to the Sybase web site , you can get extra time when you're taking a non-English version of an exam. I haven't done this myself though.
The exam questions fall into one of the following categories:

* "choose the best answer" : some questions are particularly nasty as all possible replies are valid in one way or another; still, you must choose only one (I recall a particularly ridiculous question like "The client-server architecture in Sybase SQL Server is designed to ..." and then all possible replies make sense). In cases like these, my recommendation is to try to select the reply that seems "best" from a Sybase company viewpoint; this seems to have worked for me.

* "choose N answers" : you must select the specified number of correct replies.

* "fill in a word" : you must type the correct reply, usually one word, into a blank space. I found this to be nasty questions, as I felt there were sometimes various possble words all describing the same correct answer. These questions do not occur anymore in the 12.0 and 12.5 exams.


The certification exam itself follows some pretty strict rules: you must usually identify yourself with two ID's (one must have your photo), and when you sign in, you sign a statement that you won't cheat. Cheating is quite difficult anyway, as there is usually someone around keeping an eye on what goes on. One time I did an exam, that person changed to another corner of the room every 5 minutes. I also had to leave my briefcase out of reach in the middle of the room, nor was it allowed to bring my own notepaper (they provided paper). At the end, all papers I scribbled on during the exam had to stay behind. In short: best don't expect to be able to cheat. Having said that, I've also done exams were the rules appeared to be less strict.

After the exam
At the end of the exam, your score is displayed immediately on the PC screen (except when it's a beta exam, in which case you'll only get your score at the end of the beta period). You'll immediately receive a printed statement with your score. This statement will only specify your score on the level of the exam topic categories, not on the level of individual questions. You're also not allowed to take notes about the exam questions home. This is because of how the exams work: for each category, there are a number of possible questions. When you do an exam, you'll be given a randomly selected question from that category. If everybody would write these down, it wouldn't be long before the entire set of questions would be known, thus making the certification exams lose their value.
Assuming you passed and qualified for a particular certification, after some 6-8 weeks you'll receive a colorful certificate stating that you’re certified. They’re nice to frame and put up the wall in your office to impress your co-workers; certainly take them with you when you go for an application interview (go to here to see what they look like). In addition you get a credit-card size version of this certificate to "carry with you at all times" (as they cover letter says -- presumably to impress your friends or co-workers...). Also, you're allowed to use the "Sybase Certified Professional" logo on your correspondence, business cards, web pages, etc.

In the package you'll receive, there will also be a "release form" that you should sign and return to Sybase. After this, your name will be listed in the on-line directory of certified individuals at http://www.sybase.com/detail?id=1002818. This directory was restructured in the summer of 1999, and most of the earlier contents seems to have been lost in the process.
In case you don't see yourself eventually listed in this directory, you may also try to register yourself through Sybase's " Certification Management System", but you'll need a login ID for this. It's not very clear how to obtain such an ID, so try sending an email to Cert_Admin@sybase.com . If this doesn't work, try calling 1-800-879-2273 (within USA) or +1-509-328-2571 (from outside USA).

Does it pay off ?
So what’s certification worth in practice ? I don’t think you should expect an enormous increase in contracts, salary or hourly rate once you’re certified. In practice, the demand for Sybase expertise often exceeds the availability, so if you have at least some Sybase experience, you’ll probably get hired just as easily when your not certified at all. On the other hand, certification might sometimes indeed pay off directly (it has helped me occasionally). Still, I think the main value lies in the increased breadth and depth of your own Sybase knowledge, as you’ll be forced to get into details of those features you’ve never actually worked with before.

Good luck with your efforts to become a Sybase Certified Professional !

URL : http://www.sypron.nl/certtips.html


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