Examining the 70-305 Exam

Examining the 70-305 Exam

This article is the first of a series covering the core MCAD exams. In this article, we'll spend some time going over the 70-305 exam, "Developing and Implementing Web Applications with VB.NET," although most of what I have to say applies equally to the 70-316 exam (C# version).

I found the exam, as is always the case, to be true to the study guide provided by Microsoft (

Pay No Attention to That Code Behind the Curtain
In the area of user services, I would focus on the parts of ASP.NET that are new to .NET and not waste too much time on the things that have not changed from "classic ASP." The new "view state" capability of ASP.NET forms, the change to .Postback, and the directives required to tie an HTML page to its "code behind" are useful areas to study. Be familiar with the new event model.

One of the most important things to understand fully in the User Services area of ASP.NET apps is the subject of intrinsic objects: Request, Response, Session, Application, Server, and Cache (this last one isn't listed on the study guide, but I would recommend familiarizing yourself with it anyway). The focus should be on state management, how to do it, and when to use it.

Know how global.asax fits into the application architecture, as well as the various settings in web.config. Let me say that last part again: know all about web.config settings - and its sibling, machine.config.

Make sure you know how ASP.NET performs page navigation, postback, and redirection, as well as when to use each.

Finally, while there never seems to be a multitude of questions on localization (multilanguage support), I would at least know what the .resx files are used for and the basics of customizing for various languages. (It's more than just language and character sets; there is formatting of numbers, currency, time, and date to be concerned about as well.)

The information you need to know about deploying components and assemblies is very similar to that for Windows applications.

It Always Comes Down to Data
If there are two areas that Microsoft pounds away on in these exams, they are data (ADO.NET) and security. Let's talk about ADO.NET first.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: you must know ADO.NET to pass this exam. Learn all about Adapter objects, Connection objects, Command objects, DataSets and DataReaders, XML, data binding to controls, and SQL Server. (Yes, it's true - there are no Oracle questions on the exam.)

Know when you need to explicitly Open and Close a database connection, and when you don't.

Finally, I would spend some time understanding all the components of a well-formed database connection string for various data sources.

Security in Web Applications Is a Whole Different Ball Game
Microsoft mirrors its focus on secure computing in its exams. The application architect for Web applications, be they intranet or Internet, really has to take security seriously. Otherwise, users can force their way into your private domain faster than you can say "virus scan."

Security mostly boils down to the following areas, although each major area has subareas that need to be considered:

  • Authentication: Are users who they say they are?
  • Authorization: What is the current user authorized to do?
  • Encryption
Know about forms authentication and Windows authentication (and Passport authentication, I suppose), and the differences between them. Also study when it is appropriate to use database (SQL Server) security. Know how to set up web.config and machine.config and what all the options are for "deny users" and "allow users".

Authorization should be considered either for each page or be addressed in the appropriate events in global.asax. Spend some time in this area.

Things to Watch For
Whenever taking a Microsoft exam, if you are wavering between two responses, choose the answer that puts the Microsoft product in the best light. A lot of the questions seem designed to remind the developer just how good the product is.

I can't emphasize this enough: read each question carefully. Microsoft likes to insert phrases like "using the least amount of code" or "with the minimal disruption to the users." These are clues that there might be two "correct" answers, but only one that responds to the directions in the question. Read critically. For most of us, there is plenty of time to complete the exam if we read a bit more slowly.

Use MSDN as a Study Resource
Take the Microsoft online study guide seriously. While I have often seen exams that did not have a question in an area that was on the study guide, I have never seen a question in an area that was not on the study more slowly.

In Parting ...
I see that the new Microsoft Press training kits for the .NET MCAD exams are out (see sites like and/or your local bookstore). That means there is additional material available to help prepare for these exams. I did not look at the material in detail, so I don't know how good a job they've done, but with the limited options available, I would at least give it consideration. They're cheaper than the cost of taking the exam a second time.

I've already received my transcripts for the "Windows Application" exam (70-306/316) and the "XML Web Services and Server Components" exam (70-310/320). I'm pleased to say, I passed them both. However, I had not yet spent much time with ASP.NET when I sat this exam. Since then, I've had the pleasure of spending a significant amount of time architecting an ASP.NET solution using C#. I hope to receive the results in the next few weeks. However, if I didn't pass, perhaps I'll see you in the test center.

By the way, as long as we're on the subject, it is still a good idea to take the DNA version of the architecture exam (70-100) if you are not working on .NET. This could give those of you who would like to attain MCSD status almost a year to bask in the glow of certification.

Next month I'll discuss the 70-306/316 exam. In the meantime, get as much experience as you can, work with the product, and take advantage of the mountains of free source code and .NET articles available on the Internet. If you do, these .NET exams will be no trouble at all.

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