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MCSD in a Nutshell Helps Developers Distinguish Themselves From the Pack

October 25, 2000

Sebastopol, CA--Oddly enough, most MCSD (Microsoft Certified Software Developer) certification books appear to assume that the reader has no prior experience with Visual Basic programming. Even stranger, many are written by people who have not passed-or even taken-those same exams. In contrast, the latest in the esteemed "In a Nutshell" series, MCSD in a Nutshell (O'Reilly, $29.95), by certified MCSD James Foxall, assumes the reader is an intermediate to advanced programmer who is concerned with learning more about each of the core technologies that are covered by the exam.

This is more than just an exam prep guide, it is also a great way to expand a programmer's understanding of the enormous complexities and opportunities available-even if the person has little or no interest on taking the test.

Programmers tend to be specialists-they tend to do the same kind of programming over and over. The MCSD exam is targeted at technical generalists-developers familiar with a broad array of Microsoft technologies and development approaches that are incorporated into Visual Basic. "Visual Basic is a complex language, and even the most die-hard VB developer doesn't use all of its available features," says author James Foxall. "Nevertheless, the exams will test you on just about every aspect of Visual Basic. It used to be that the VB exam focused on assessing your programming skills. Those days are gone. Now you have a set of exams designed primarily to test your knowledge of Microsoft technologies. To pass the exams, you need to know the technologies and how they fit together."

Its thorough review of Visual Basic-related development technologies makes this an excellent tutorial for experienced VB programmers who wish to get up to speed on Visual Basic technologies with which they work infrequently, if at all.

Most certification books are really tutorials in disguise. MCSD in a Nutshell focuses on the advanced topics about which developers are actually tested on the exam and is written by an author who has successfully passed the certification exams. "I think the Visual Basic exams are very important. There are a LOT of Visual Basic developers (over 3 million), but not all are competent. Having your certification helps to distinguish you from the pack," Foxall says. "In fact, studies show that, on average, developers with their MCSD certification are paid more than developers that don't have the certification. Certification is a way to prove to yourself, current and future employers, and your peers that you really know what you're doing."

"This book is NOT a cram book, and this book doesn't cover any basic material; if you don't know how to add an ActiveX control to a project, you shouldn't buy this book," says Foxall. "Then again, you shouldn't be taking the certification exams either. I'm a professional developer in addition to being an author, and I wrote this book for professionals. In addition, I am a certified MCSD. This book is a vast collection of knowledge and experience that I've gained over many years."

"I found this book to be stunningly excellent. You did something I didn't think could be done in a Certification book-you covered the material on the exam perfectly and you also managed to teach the material at the same time...I can tell you without a doubt that your book will be the textbook I use in my next boot camp. As an author who is praised for the clear way I present topics, I can think of no greater praise for this book than to say this is the book I would have written on Certification if I had been brave enough to attempt it-you did it, great job!" --John Smiley

In the most recent salary survey by Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine, almost half of respondents reported no change in income because of certification, but a fifth reported significant jumps.

Online Resources:

MCSD in a Nutshell: The Visual Basic Exams
By James Foxall, MCSD
October 2000
1-56592-752-4, 632 pages, $29.95

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