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Essential prep for the Exchange 2013 MCSE exam

Stressing out about taking your MCSE exams for Exchange 2013? Use this MVP's advice to come up with a plan for test-taking success.

More attendees at Microsoft's last TechEd Europe event asked about Exchange 2013 migration than migrations to Exchange...

Online. Although the demise of on-premises Exchange Server is regularly touted, many organizations want to perform the next upgrade now that Exchange 2010 is out of support.

With that in mind, Microsoft released Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) exam preparation guides for two Exchange 2013 MCSE exams: 70-341 -- Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 and 70-342 -- Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013. The test taker earns his MCSE: Messaging certification with these two exams.

The Messaging MCSE certification covers Exchange 2013 in two parts to build a solid foundation. The first exam, 70-342, covers four areas:

  • Planning, installation and managing the transport role;
  • Installing, configuring and managing the mailbox role;
  • Planning installation and managing client access; and
  • The core skills needed to design and manage the overall Exchange infrastructure.

The second exam, 70-342, covers five areas:

  • Configuration, management and migration of the unified messaging role;
  • Design, configuration and management of site resiliency;
  • Design, configuration and management of advanced security;
  • Configuration and management of compliance, archiving and discovery; and
  • Implementation and management of hybrid scenarios including migration and federation.

Here are some handy study and prep tips for these tests.

Potential routes to MCSE: Messaging

You can't simply take the two exams, 70-341 and 70-342, and earn the Exchange 2013 MCSE certification. As one of Microsoft's more advanced certifications, you must achieve two other prerequisites.

The most common route for Exchange and Office 365 professionals looking to complete these qualifications is to start with the MCSA: Office 365 certification. This requires only two exams: exam 70-346 and exam 70-347. Because of Office 365's relevance to most modern Exchange administrators' job roles, this is the most likely route for IT pros to take.

If your role is more server-focused, an alternative is to complete the Windows Server 2012 R2 MCSA first because this provides a more rounded base, but it involves more work. If it's the first time you've completed the relevant exams, you need to complete three other exams to achieve MCSA. However, this can form the basis as a prerequisite for a host of other MCSE certifications.

The route you take is up to you and depends on the reasons for achieving the qualification. If it's to help your employer achieve particular competencies in a short space of time, the Office 365 MCSA track may suit you better. If you're looking to build a wide range of skills and qualifications, the Server MCSA might make more sense.

What do you actually need to know?

Although the older MCSE qualifications were sometimes derided, achieving the modern MCSE isn't an easy task. Although there are only two exams to complete after the prerequisite MCSA, a lot of work is involved for someone who's new to Microsoft Exchange. The simplest answer is to make sure you have the right study material.

Depending on what works best for you, a classroom course, computer-based training course or book might work best. As the co-author of the 70-342 exam study guide from Microsoft Press, I'll naturally recommend the book -- but that on its own isn't enough.

The key to passing the Messaging MCSE is having hands-on, well-rounded knowledge from real life. But if you aren't currently administering or implementing Exchange 2013, lab knowledge is good enough as long as you build a real-life, multi-site scenario that includes all necessary aspects. Many career Exchange admins know certain areas of Exchange Server well, but struggle with the exams because they may have missed an entire area of Exchange, such as unified messaging or the Edge role, or they may be weak in areas that require little maintenance after implementation.

The exam preparation guides for Exchange 2013 MCSE are intended to help test takers understand the exams from this kind of perspective. The actual exam questions are irrelevant without a well-rounded knowledge of the subject at hand, so it's helpful to follow the exam guides through with a lab environment. As well as Exchange knowledge, a good working knowledge of PowerShell is also essential.

About the author:
Steve Goodman is an Exchange MVP and works as a technical architect for one of the U.K.'s leading Microsoft Gold partners. Goodman has worked extensively with Microsoft Exchange since version 5.5 and with Office 365 since its origins in Exchange Labs and Live@EDU.

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Four MCSE: Messaging exam prep questions

What it takes to become MCSE certified

This was last published in March 2015

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Which MCSE certification route will you take and why?
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We are looking into the messaging route as it not only entails the 70-341 and 70-342 exams but also qualifies our professionals to look into Office 365 and modern Exchange administrator certifications. This is also being considered a step as part of other upcoming MCSE certifications.
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I had the MCSE back in the day, let it lapse, and decided to re-earn it. The new MCSE is MUCH more challenging now.
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