After reading (and reviewing) Exam Ref 70-687 Configuring Windows 8.1 (MCSA), I passed the first Microsoft certification exam required to earn the Windows 8.1 MCSA certification. Despite the problems I had with the book, the next in the series was one of the few resources available to self-prep for the 70-688 Supporting Windows 8.1 exam. After reading the book and from my own experience with the operating system, I passed exam 70-688 and have now earned my Windows 8.1 MCSA.
I took the test now because Microsoft had a promotion going on offering a free second shot at the exam if you take it before May 31st. They also have another promotion to allow a free upgrade exam to Windows 10 if you earn the MCSA before May 31st as well. Fortunately, I didn’t need the second shot and I’ll look forward to the Windows 10 exam update once I can get my hands on the final bits for a while.
Using Exam Ref 70-688 to prepare for the exam, unfortunately met me with the same downfalls as Exam Ref 70-677. The book took the overview approach and directed you to TechNet articles throughout the reading to further your studying. What was chosen to be covered in depth was often more basic topics. Again, a single page summarizing those links for quick, convenient review would have been very helpful but was not provided.
Similar to my previous complaint, the book has numerous errors. Having been published since August 1st, 2014, the Microsoft Press Store page for the book lists nothing under the Errata section besides a link to submit corrections. I submitted around 10 errors I found in the book and none of them have been posted.
To study for exam 70-688, I would recommend:
- reading through Exam Ref 70-688
- having a lot of hands-on time with Windows 8.1
- Watching the Microsoft Virtual Academy video Preparing for the Windows 8.1 MCSA
- Being familiar with the components of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Package
- Reading the documentation for Microsoft Intune and setting up a trial to experience Intune
Some of those things I did and found helpful, other things I wish I had done after taking the exam.
Overall, I found Exam Ref 70-688 helpful but not nearly as useful as other reference books (such as the well done All-in-One CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Guide). It also has almost no shelf life after you have taken the exam because it just skims the surface of the exam objectives. Another complaint was that there was significant overlap between this book and Exam Ref 70-687. I wish now that I had reviewed for both exams at the same time and took the exams back-to-back – the difference between configuring and supporting and operating system isn’t quite clear with the objectives.