MCSA Windows 8

This page provides a brief guide to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification path for Windows 8. Obtaining your MCSA provides the skills for your professional career, demonstrating you have a base of Windows 9 skills, applying to the configuration, management and maintenance of Windows 8 enterprise systems. Such certification helps you stand out in terms of technical ability as demand for support specialists expands.

The Certification Process

In order to obtain MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification you will need to pass two separate exams. These exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on any individual exam can be seen by clicking on the corresponding title.

If you already hold one of the following certifications:

Then you can upgrade to MCSA Windows 8 by passing one exam only:

Preparing for the Exams

MCSA exams comprise of between 40 and 60 questions, drawn approximately equally from each section of examinable material. These exams are between 2 and 3 hours long. It is recommended that you should err on the side of over preparation to prevent any weaker areas resulting in a mark that is not high enough to provide a pass.

For further information on Microsoft exams in general, take a look at the Microsoft Certification exams page.

Training Courses

GBdirect offer the full range of Microsoft approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:

These courses will help prepare you for the exams but may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. To ensure a pass we would recommend as much hands-on experience with the product as possible, in addition to further reading from either Microsoft instructional material or reference texts. Performing practice labs detailed either in Microsoft Press books or following the procedures on the TechNet can also be greatly beneficial, practice tests are also available from some companies, notably Transcender, MeasureUp and Kaplan SelfTest. We welcome any reviews of your Microsoft Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please do get in touch.

Official Microsoft Materials

Microsoft provides some online materials on each exam page itself, notably the TechNet entries relevant to each individual segment of the exam, these links can be found in the "Skills measured" section of each exam page on Microsoft's site.

Microsoft also hosts a wiki and small forum for each individual exam, while the wiki helpfully organises the links to TechNet articles and other Microsoft blogs etc. the forums tend to be slightly underused.

Certification PREP talks are available for both of these exams, 687 being found here and 688 here.


Microsoft Press provides a number of books aimed at those taking the exams required for obtaining this certification, unfortunately as of yet these books are somewhat lacking in reviews, this page will be updated when more useful advice becomes available.

Exam Ref 70-687: Configuring Windows 8.1 This book focuses on covering the syllabus of the first exam in this certification, Exam references tend to lack detailed material and reviews would suggests that this is the case for this particular text. This said the book could well be suitable for revision purposes or for someone largely familiar with the material contained in the exam who wants a detailed look at exactly what is going to be tested or some learning structure.

Training Guide: Configuring Windows 8 This book is likely to be more useful as a learning aid, containing a much larger amount of information, in addition to some practice questions and labs. However as with the other book for this exam other learning sources would be recommended, while some reviewers also suggest that this book contains a significant number of errors.

Exam Ref 70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1 This book is largely similar to its 687 counterpart, providing a solid overview of key topics but is unlikely to be detailed enough to be used as the only learning tool. As of yet there are very few reviews.

Windows 8.1 Inside Out While this book is not held as the finest example of the Inside Out series, there can be no doubt that this is a good choice as a reference text for Windows 8.1 as a whole. The style may make this more useful for those less experienced with Windows however there is sufficient material within the book to consider using it for certification purposes as well as in general use.

We welcome reviews and views of any text you have personal experience with, likewise if you feel we have missed off a more valuable study aid please do get in touch.

Additional Resources

The forum is one of the most active and helpful for those taking exams leading to the MCSA certification.

CBT Nuggets come very highly recommended as a source of very high quality, if somewhat expensive, instructional videos. Videos are available for both exams in this certification path, with 70-687 lasting around 10 hours and 70-688 lasting around 6 hours.

Pluralsight also offers instructional videos for the two exams making up this certification, both exams are covered in a four part series, with 70-687 part 1 being found here, and 70-688 part 1 being found here.

Microsoft's Virtual Academy features a range of courses dealing with Windows 8, these can be found here.

Microsoft's Virtual Academy features a range of courses dealing with Windows 8, these can be found here.

A large number of practice tests are also available for these exams.

A practice test for Exam 70-687 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-688 can be bought from:

What if I fail?

Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. The following text is taken from Microsoft's exam security policy and details their exam retake policy.

Exam retake policy

Excellent, you've passed

When you pass your first certification exam, you become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), with access to the MCP community and MCP member site. On this site you gain access to copies of each exam transcript to share with potential employers, as well as a tool to create and download certification logos and certificates themselves upon completing a certification programme.

MCSA, Salary and Contract Rates

A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding MCSA certification. The UK average salary for an MCSA is £37,500, with the average salary for the City of London being £41,250. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than £22,950 while 10% are offered more than £50,150.

Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be £275 per day and £363 per day for London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of £176 while 10% are offered more than £400. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.