MCSA Windows Server 2012

This page provides a brief guide to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification path for Windows Server 2012. Obtaining your MCSA provides the skills for your professional career, showing you have the initial set of Windows Server 2012 skills, applicable across multiple areas of the business environment, reducing IT costs and delivering business value. Such certification helps you to stand out in terms of technical ability as demand for IT professionals continues to increase.

The Certification Process

In order to obtain MCSA: Windows Server 2012 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 one of the following certifications:

Then you can upgrade to the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification 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.

The Microsoft Virtual Academy also contains a large amount of free resources ideally suited to correcting any particular weaknesses, in addition to their "90 Days to MCSA" program. For this certification path there are two recommended programmes.

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.

Microsoft's YouTube channel also features over 3 hours of instructional video on exams 410 through to 412. These can be found on the Microsoft Certification Prep | MCSA: Windows Server 2012 playlist on the linked page.


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

Exam Reference 70-410 Is regarded as a valuable study aid, although tends to be seen as very concise, some editions reportedly contain very high numbers of errors. Overall this book can be very helpful in passing the 70-410 exam when used in conjunction with other resources.

Training Guide 70-410 This book is not quite as exam focused, therefore it is more useful to those with some prior technical knowledge about Windows Server 2012. Along with some practical experience with the product this book can prove helpful for passing the exam, again some editions reportedly contain numerous errors.

Training Guide 70-411 Garnering relatively positive reviews this book contains multiple exercises that cover the majority, but not all, of the topics within the 70-411 exam. This is particularly recommended for people who learn best actually implementing the theoretical elements of the course.

Exam Reference 70-412 Whilst this book has only been released and has yet to see any real form of reviews it is likely that this text will contain the key technical elements required to pass the exam. However it would be best to treat it with caution, as like all Microsoft Exam References it may not be enough to pass the exams by itself and will likely need to be used in conjunction with other resources to ensure a pass.

Exam Reference 70-417 Is regarded as an excellent read, providing just enough information to cover each technical objective in sufficient depth to pass the exam. It is still suggested that this guide is used in conjunction with some other form of study to ensure a complete coverage of the exam topics.

Non-Microsoft Press books

MCSA Windows Server 2012 Complete Study Guide Is probably best used to prepare for the 70-417 exam due to the lack of exam centric focus in regards to the other exams in this certification. However it can still be used to prepare for any of the exams, although the chapter structure is not in line with the divisions between exams, that said there is still a great deal of in depth content and three practice exams.

Windows Server 2012 Inside out While this book is not aimed at people seeking to obtain a certification this is regarded as an excellent reference work, covering the vast majority of Windows Server 2012, therefore it could potentially be useful for providing some highly in depth coverage of more technical elements of the exams.

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 either the MCSA or MCSE certification.

CBT Nuggets come very highly recommended as a source of very high quality, if somewhat expensive, instructional videos. The MCSA: Windows Server 2012 programme contains 47 hours of instruction split across 81 videos. This package also includes Transcender practise exams.

Pluralsight (formerly Trainsignal) also offer instructional videos for all three exams making up the MCSA certification. Their exam 70-410 set lasts 10 hours, exam 70-411 lasts 11 and a half hours and exam 70-412 lasts 16 and a half hours.

A wide variety of blogs are available detailing both exam specific tips and general advice on Windows Server 2012, while this is by no means an exhaustive list the following blogs could prove useful in obtaining your certification.

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

A practice test for Exam 70-410 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-411 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-412 can be bought from:

A practice test for Exam 70-417 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

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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