real money growth

investing in yourself: shop for deals - chasing FIRE


About the author

Hello, I’m the author of, an engineer, and Mint enthusiast. I grew my savings to $93K in a little over 4 years by using simple life-hacks, living frugally, and optimizing daily life tasks. You can call me G.

“Before pursuing a side-hustle to increase your income, let’s optimize your expenses first.” - G

investing in you: passing the microsoft 70-761 exam

I’m a huge fan of investing in yourself.  Whether it’s attending community college, a prestigious university, or working toward certifications in your trade, attaining knowledge in your field cannot hurt you.  However, there are many people and institutions out there that try to take advantage by inflating and overselling products that aren’t really needed.

Last March, I decided to pursue my first Microsoft SQL certification in database development.  There are literally thousands of companies out there claiming that they can guarantee, with 100% that by using their product, that you will pass the exam on the first attempt.  Some of these products offered are outrageous in cost.  My strategy: do as much research as possible before spending a dime.

After a few days of research, I discovered that each attempt at passing a Microsoft exam costs $165 USD.  If you fail the test, then you must spend another $165 USD to make another attempt.  After conducting three more hours of research, I uncovered a great Microsoft option called “Certify with Confidence.”  When purchasing this product, directly from Microsoft, you are entitled to two retakes – that’s a total of three test attempts.  The price for the bundle is $265 USD.  Access to a Pearson View practice test is also provided – normally a $100 USD value.

Purchasing the “Certify with Confidence” Microsoft bundle was the easy part.  Then, it was time to start studying.  I relied on the practice test and signed up for a 10-day trial access to Oreilly in order to watch free lectures.  I also read Jon Shaulis’ blog about his test preparation for the exam as he was able to achieve what I was pursuing.

After studying for a week, I booked the exam (9:30 PM PDT on a Tuesday).  I was tired, nervous, and ready to pass the exam and move on to the second exam required.  I ended up running out of time.  Though, I had answered enough questions to earn a 780 – a 700 is required to pass.  I was happy!  I had spent $265 USD and had passed the first exam, frugally.

investing in you: passing the microsoft 70-762 exam

Passing the Microsoft 70-761 exam felt great!  The studying and hard work paid off!  It was then time to start looking into exam 70-762.  From what I had read, this exam is way more tough to pass.  The areas to study are broad, and the amount of information to retain is large.  I started to do my research and knew that I needed to study for twice the amount of time that I studied for exam 70-761.  Reading this excerpt solidified these thoughts:

Exam Ref 70-762 Developing SQL Databases
By Louis Davidson, Stacia Varga

“The 70-761 exam is a piece of cake compared with this exam. This exam, is much harder and requires more effort and knowledge to pass.  ” -

I read Jon Shaulis’ article “Hurray! I passed the 70-762 exam!” many times and went through his recommended study materials.  I also relied on Oreilly  video lectures to freshen up on some of the topics.   Similar to my frugal approach of studying to pass exam 70-761, I used the Microsoft option called “Certify with Confidence.”  This $265 bundle entitled me to three test attempts - one initial take and two retakes if needed.  I also received access to the practice test on Pearson View which I took multiple times.  I had just taken exam 70-761 on a Tuesday and gave myself the rest of the week to relax.  When Monday came, I began to go over the material.  On Wednesday, I scheduled the exam for the following Thursday at 9:30 PM PDT.

I freshened up on the material during the week and on the weekend.  When Thursday came around, I was ready.  I wanted to pass the first time so that I could move on to the last test required for the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics.  I started the exam and was making great progress.  The questions felt difficult but not impossible to answer.  With 50 minutes to spare, I submitted my test and the results displayed quickly on my screen.  I had earned a 740 and had successfully passed the exam!  Similar to Jon Shaulis, exam 70-762 took me less time to complete; however, my score for the exam was lower than my score for exam 70-761, even though I finished with time to spare.  Passing both tests, I was issued the MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development by Microsoft.

investing in you: preparation for microsoft exam 70-465

The time has come.  I’ve taken a week off from studying; I recently passed Microsoft exams 70-761 and 70-762, earning the MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development.  Back to the grind.  I’ve looked in to the required exams needed to earn the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics, and have decided to take exam 70-465.  My choice was influenced by my 9-5.  The best choice, if there was not an influence, would be exam 70-767, because passing this exam, I would earn the MCSE and 1/2 exams needed to earn the MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development.

Here we go again.  I plan on purchasing the Certify with Confidence ($265) bundle offered by Microsoft.  This bundle gives me three attempts at passing the test - fingers crossed only one is needed - and access to a practice test on Pearson Vue.  The Pearson Vue practice tests work great, and the application, used to deliver the tests, works well.  I’ve found that the questions on the practice tests are easier than the real Microsoft exam questions.  I’m going to first look at and then to see if they cover the required topics of the exam, and if so, spend most of my time reviewing from them.

I plan to follow my standard test taking approach.  Using this approach, I ask myself three questions:

1) Have I seen a similar question before?  If so, use the knowledge to answer the current question.

2) If I haven’t seen the question before, do I know enough to narrow the answer down to two possibilities?  If so, make the best educated guess between the two and move on to the next question.

3) If not 1) nor 2), mark the question so that I can come back to it at the end of the test and use my remaining time to answer all of the marked questions.  Note, for some questions on the Microsoft exams, you cannot go back and change.

Once I feel like I have put in the time, and am sick of reviewing, I will schedule the test for a week night at 9:30 PM PST - this time works the best for me - and give it a go.

To be continued …