Be aware, friends, that Exam 70-331 Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 uses the case study format. This approach to IT certification testing will shock many test-takers. I wanted to help you prepare for your exam.
How Case Study Exams Work
A case study-based exam is composed of several “testlets” that each focus on a specific description of a fictional company. This exercise requires you to analyze an organization’s business requirements and make recommendations regarding SharePoint 2013.
Your “suggestions”, as they are called, consist of 8-12 multiple-choice and/or interactive questions that all pertain to the case.
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Start trainingMicrosoft wants you to be able to not only test your theoretical knowledge but also your ability in applying the technology to real-world scenarios. This approach makes sense to my eyes, but it will likely pose major challenges for those who are not good at reading.
Tactical Approaches
You might find it helpful to think of a case study simply as a series questions with a reusable stem. The “stem” in testing parlance is the main body of an exam question. Microsoft asks questions that deal with a specific part of the case study.
Do not spend too much time looking through the case at first. Instead, go through the sections.
Background: This gives information about the organizational and physical topology of the fictional company.
Business Requirements: This section outlines the “soft” or procedural goals that your business has in relation to SharePoint.
Technical Requirements

Once you have a general understanding of the case, it is possible to approach each question individually. Don’t try to read the case. If the Exchange Server is not mentioned in the case, don’t assume that the company has any e mail or messaging infrastructure.
Another problem is applying too much of what you know about the product to the exam questions. Although Microsoft exams are supposed to test your real-world experience with the product, you will be required to give the “Microsoft official response” to their questions, rather than a more realistic answer based on your practical experience.
Parting Thoughts
It is fascinating to learn about the politics of Microsoft certification exams. Microsoft hired GrandMasters, an instructional design company, to help with the SharePoint 2013 exams. Although I am speculating, I believe the case study approach used in these exams may have been inspired by GrandMasters’ desire for Microsoft to be impressed rather than any real desire to test our SharePoint knowledge.
The 70-331 exam is very difficult. I believe this is not due to the case study format but the extremely picky nature of questions. Microsoft’s decision not to hire a dedicated testing company to write the exams is another reason I am disappointed. The content is not relevant to the real-world issues that we as system administrators see every day.
~Tim
[Note: Tim recently began production on the Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 series.]
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