This blog describes my experiences with the 74-343 examination. During the summer of 2015 I was setting up a university course to deliver MS Project 2013 training, and wanted the students to study to a recognised syllabus.
In this way the students could state that they had followed the 74-343 syllabus, without actually having taken (or paid for) the examination. The syllabus has now been updated for MS Project 2016 and the syllabus is described on this Microsoft page.
My Experiences with MS Project
I personally started with MS Project in the 1990’s, and by 2000 was delivering 1 day training courses at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. I mainly used version 98, 2000, and 2002, becoming familiar with versions 2007 and 2010 in later years.
I delivered the beginner MS Project course 70 times over 3 years, and noted that I learnt something new about the software on every course. If I was going to teach to the certification, I felt that I owed it to my students to hold the certification myself.
Why Train for a Certification?
It is important to hold recognised certifications as it can help with employment prospects, and ensures that your skills are both broad and deep enough for any particular subject. With a complex software tool like MS Project, it is easy to be comfortable with a few commands, and certification shows that you are aware of the full features of the software.
During the summer of 2015 I spent 4 weeks (full-time!) creating 51 training worksheets for the MS Project course based on the 74-343 syllabus as a method of preparing myself for the examination.
During the delivery of the material I often recorded screen captures of my teaching, and loaded them to YouTube.
Problems in Finding Sample Papers for 74-343
During those weeks I spent some time looking for example questions. The problem with using Google to search for sample questions is that you are offered examination question via pdf, and then find you are getting question dumps for a fee. Try it!. It is quite difficult to identify good sample questions – so the ones I did find, I saved (and I will link to these 45 practise questions at the end of this article!)
Structure of the 74-343 Examination
The examination requires candidates to answer 54 multiple choice questions in 2 hours. Back in 2015 the headline rate was £99, but as an academic I paid £66. I note that the price is now £113 headline, with academic/student reductions also available by logging in to your Microsoft account. Full instructions are on the Microsoft web pages.
I took a “proctored” examination from my home office, booked well in advance, and I had to show the proctor the room with my webcam and so demonstrate that no notes were present or stuck to the walls! This takes time, and the advice was to allow a free 3 hour period for the examination.
Issues with the Examination
I found that the examination was more like a memory test. I was so familiar with the software, that I forgot that each view and form had a dedicated name. Therefore I knew how to answer the questions, but not the exact name of the ‘Sheet’ or ‘Form’ that I needed. I did find it surprising that I could not access the software during the test, as a few clicks would have checked the answers.
Real Life is not an Examination!
As an academic I try to avoid examinations because real life is not an examination. In real life your boss asks for a report or information in a certain time-frame, allowing time for research or refreshing of tools/methods/facts.
However, as an academic I recognised that an examination is one of the few ways to guarentee that the work submitted is the students own work.
Conclusion: Certification is important, and especially so for a complex software product like MS Project. It is difficult to prepare for such tests, and in a way the test is a false representation of reality. I managed to pass – but my score was not a reflection of my true abilities.