MCSA Windows Server 2008

This page provides a brief guide to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification path for Windows Server 2008. Obtaining your MCSA differentiates you from other IT professionals, while validating your skills in using Windows Server 2008 in real world business contexts. Obtaining this certification will also allow you to upgrade to MCSA: Windows Server 2012 at an appropriate time. Note that the majority of other Windows Server 2008 certifications will be retired in January 2014.

The Certification Process

In order to obtain MCSA: Windows Server 2008 certification you will need to pass three 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 Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator on Windows Server 2003 and have taken exam 70-648 prior to its retirement then you can upgrade to the MCSA: Windows Server 2008 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 don't hesitate to 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 offers 6425C: Configuring and Troubleshooting Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory Domain Services, a collection of eight courses teaching administrators how to configure and troubleshoot Active Directory Domain Services.


Microsoft Press provides a number of books aimed at those taking the exams required for obtaining this certification; unfortunately some of these books reportedly suffer from large numbers of errors.

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit Exam 70-640 Receives favourable reviews for its exam focus, combined with real world application and lab walkthroughs. As a result this book comes strongly recommended, however some elements are not entirely suitable for complete beginners and certain editions reportedly contain a large number of errors.

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit Exam 70-642 This book also receives largely favourable reviews, again being credited with a good focus on examination topics, while being written in a manner friendly to beginners in the main as well as including many practical lab opportunities. However some reviews have pointed out that it does not cover every single topic covered in the exam, as such further study may be required from other sources such as TechNet articles. Some readers also report a number of errors throughout the text.

MCITP Self-Paced Training Kit Exam 70-646 This book receives slightly less glowing reviews, mainly due to the lack of coverage of exam material, with many reviews feeling that significant elements were not present. However there are still plenty of lab practice opportunities in addition to the general practical advice. It is not recommended that this particular text should be used alone prior to taking the 70-646 exam.

Non-Microsoft Press books

Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed This is a very highly rated comprehensive guide to the entirety of Windows Server 2008, offering in depth content on any areas that may be proving difficult. This book is clearly not aimed at exam objectives but could prove ideal for plugging any gaps that the exam-centric texts may leave. Note that some areas are lacking step by step instructions for the practical implementation of some elements.

Mastering Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Is regarded as an excellent reference text for Windows Server 2008, covering a vast number of topics in a fairly easy to manage style. Again this book is best used in conjunction with the exam specific texts, even though this particular book does in fact contain practical step by step instructions along with the main body of text. The only concern with this book is that some readers new to Windows Server 2008 find the content as a whole quite overwhelming and as a result hard to digest.

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Administration Instant Reference A rather different style of book that is typically aimed at those running networks either full or part time. However it is a very clear and concise book that still manages to explain a wide range of topics to some degree of depth. As such this book is highly suitable for those working towards certification from a much lower base of experience. The book also includes step-by-step "getting started" instructions which can greatly aid in getting vital lab practice.

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 highly recommended as a source of high quality, if somewhat expensive, instructional videos. The MCSA: Windows Server 2008 programme contains 59 hours of instruction over 100 videos. It is also possible to access Transcender practice exams through this programme.

Pluralsight (formerly Trainsignal) can also provide a full set of instructional videos for the exams making up this certification. In total the lessons last for 55 hours.

A wide variety of blogs are available detailing both exam specific tips and general advice on Windows Server products, while this is by no means an exhaustive list the following blogs could prove useful in obtaining your certification. Unfortunately Windows Server 2008 does not receive the same amount of attention as the latest version of Windows Server, however some archived posts may prove useful.

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

A practice test for Exam 70-640 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-642 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-646 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.

Next Steps

Upon completion of the MCSA: Windows Server 2008 certification it is possible to obtain an MCSA: Windows Server 2012 by passing one exam only, for further information please see our Brief Guide to MCSA: Windows Server 2012.

Completing the MCSA certification is the gateway to a host of more specialised further certifications offered by Microsoft through their Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) path. Full details of this certification path can be found here.

For information on MCSE paths take a look at our brief guide to MCSE: Server Infrastructure or MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure.

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.

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