Born to Learn

  • Come on, admit it: you’ve always wanted to take one of our exams in your pajamas. I can’t be the only one.

    Or maybe you travel for business frequently and find yourself in a hotel room with nothing to do and nothing good on TV.

    Or maybe you just live hours away from the closest testing center and hate the idea of wasting fuel and time to get there.

    We feel you.

    Microsoft and Pearson VUE are on a mission together to make our certifications more convenient and accessible. That’s why we are excited—to put it mildly—to introduce what is probably our biggest innovation since we started certifying MCPs back in 1992.

    Starting today, if you are a U.S. resident (and if you’re not stay tuned—we’ll be expanding soon), you can take dozens of our MCP and MTA exam from the comfort of your home or office through a process called online proctoring by Pearson VUE. You can find the press release here.

    Online proctored exams are the exact same exams that we offer in onsite testing centers. What’s different is that the exam is administered by a remote proctor who will supervise you via webcam and microphone while you take your test.

    You can take an online proctored exam at home, at work, or at any other location that meets our hardware, software, security and environment requirements. (There are quite a few: you can view the full list here.)

    You’ll be asked to empty your pockets while on camera, provide a close-up on your ears so you can prove you’re not wearing a Bluetooth earpiece, do a visual sweep of your desk and the room…  all things you’d expect a proctor to check if they were there in the room with you. If you ensure that all of the requirements are met before you check in for your exam, the whole check-in process should only take about ten to fifteen minutes. If you have as many Bruce Springsteen posters on your office wall as I do, add another five minutes for the proctor to inspect them all for hidden notes.

    Another advantage to online proctored exams: you can schedule them with as little as fifteen minutes notice if appointment slots are available (Online proctored exams are available Monday through Friday, from 10am to 10pm Eastern Time), and your exam results will be immediately accessible from your MCP dashboard when you finish your exam.

    Sounds like a cool experience, right? It is—but since this is the early days of on-line testing (there’s a reason we’re calling this a beta), there are some important trade-offs to be aware of as well:

    • You’ll be recorded—both video and audio—for the duration of the exam.

    • You can’t take notes during the exam.

    • You can’t eat, drink, or chew gum while you take the exam.

    • You can’t take a break—for any reason. Including biological ones.

    If any of the above pose a problem, you should take your exam at a testing center instead.

    During this beta period, we’re not charging anything additional for these online exams—you can take them for the exact same price as their on-site counterparts. At this time, the beta is open to U.S. residents only, but we plan to add more countries soon.

    For more information, including the complete list of available online proctored exams, visit Pearson VUE’s website.

    And now if you’ll excuse me, I have an exam to take, and I need to go put on my Microsoft Certified Pajamas.


  • |

    Kenji Onozawa is a new Community Manager at Microsoft Learning. He helps to connect people within the Microsoft Learning community and provides our online communities with useful information to help ease the certification process. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


    Those of you who frequent the Born To Learn blog may recognize Larry Kaye. That’s because he is often found here blogging about a variety of topics, like the new Microsoft Azure certifications and MCSD recertification exams. Larry also recently announced the App Review to Cert Pilot program (now open globally!), which gives Windows Store developers a chance to earn credit toward Microsoft Certification with their apps. 

    With Larry involved in so many things here at Microsoft Learning, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn about his role on the team. In fact, during the seven-minute interview, I learned that Larry is in charge of many areas, including certifications as they relate to developers and SQL paths. I asked him:

    • About his role and responsibilities.
    • What he enjoys about his role.
    • What is considered when making certification changes.
    • His tips for someone trying to get a job at Microsoft.

    Big thanks to Larry for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with me. It was very cool to learn about his role! As a Community Manager here at Microsoft Learning, it was great to hear that he (and the rest of our team) always considers community in decision-making.

    Do you want to connect with Larry? Find him on the Born To Learn blog, and leave a comment on any of his blog posts.

    Thank for checking out our latest “Inside MSL” interview, and be sure to come back soon for another interview with one of our team members! 

  • UPDATE:  The class has reached capacity, so this offer is closed. Ask your learning partner for information about future deliveries of the course!!

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Be the first to learn cloud web application development for the Microsoft Azure platform with a complimentary, instructor-led course, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (20532A)!

    Global Knowledge is offering a live online class, Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (20532A), the week of September 29-October 3, 2014 for FREE* to the first eight registrations.

    You will learn how to use Microsoft Azure to create and manage virtual machines and virtual networks, implement cloud services, create SQL Databases and implement security in cloud web applications.

    This five day course covers the skills and knowledge measured by Exam 70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions.

    Who Should Attend?

    • Developers who want to learn how to take an existing ASP.NET MVC application and expand functionality to the Microsoft Azure platform

    • MCTs

    Class time and date: September 29-October 3, 2014; 830am-430pm Eastern

    Register by September 25, 2014 by emailing your contact information including name, company name, address, phone number and email address to Please note company name is required.

    *You will be required to attend each day of the class to qualify for free registration.

  • Have you heard the news? We have three big and fun announcements to share with our community!

    1) Microsoft is creating more flexibility in how you can earn your MCSE Communication, Messaging, or SharePoint certification. You can now satisfy the prerequisites for any of these three MCSE certifications by earning the MCSA: Office 365 or MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Which one should you focus on? Briana and I have the answer in this NewsByte, and check out Holly's blog post.

    2) We're running the MCP Go Bigger campaign. Don't know what that is? Oh... you are going to love this! Hey, makes me wonder "What's your story?" I'd love to hear it!

    3) Finally, we just published two Azure exams that you can take to demonstrate your prowess in cloud-based solutions.

    These exams are available now! Register today!

    So, what are you waiting for? Watch the video to learn more, and tell us what you think about each of these exciting announcements!

  • Effective September 15, 2014, Microsoft is introducing electives to the Windows Server 2012 and the SQL Server 2012 MCSA certifications. This new electives process gives flexibility in choosing the path that’s right for you and your organization. 

    Two exams in each path will be required, and you can choose from one of four exams to satisfy the requirement for the third exam.

    For MCSA: Windows Server 2012 > Exams 410 and 411 are required. You can choose one of the following exams to fulfill the requirements for the third exam in the path:

    • Exam 346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements
    • Exam 409: Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center
    • Exam 412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services
    • Exam 462: Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases

    For MCSA: SQL Server 2012 > Exams 461 and 462 are required. You can choose one of the following exams to fulfill the requirements for the third exam in the path:

    • Exam 411: Administering Windows Server 2012
    • Exam 412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services
    • Exam 463: Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
    • Exam 483: Programming in C#

    Please visit the following pages to see more information:

    Need help preparing for your next exams? Join our online study groups:

  • Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) are a wealth of knowledge. Beyond having an incredible understanding of the technologies and technical skills involved in certification, their experience working directly with certification candidates gives them many unique insights as to what best practices work when preparing for exams. On the flip side, they also see some practices that don’t work! Either way, these lessons can help you better prepare for your own certification journey.  

    In the next post of our “Ask an MCT” blog series, we’re excited to introduce to you Marius Sandbu, another very experienced and knowledgeable certified trainer. Enjoy!  


    1. When did you first become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)? How many IT certifications (Microsoft and others) do you hold?

    I first became a MCP in 2009, after I attended a Windows Vista training course. Now, in 2014, I have about 40 certifications, mostly Microsoft and Citrix, Cisco, ITIL, and CompTIA—with more coming.


    2. What is one thing about taking a Microsoft exam that a first-time candidate might find surprising?

    How hard the exam actually might be. Often, people try to “wing it” or to take a certification after just a few weeks of reading. Passing a certification test requires a good understanding of the subject—both the theoretical and the practical, with actual real-life experience on the product.


    3. What’s a common mistake that first-time candidates make when preparing for Microsoft exams?

    Not thinking that it’s hard and not studying enough. Sometimes you might think a subject covered in a study guide, for example, is not relevant, but the guide is mapped to the exam blueprints.


    4. What’s your advice for IT professionals who are interested in pursuing Microsoft Certifications but don’t feel they have the time?

    As I see it, it’s a priority issue. Most people have time—they just have to adapt a bit in order to reach their goals. For instance, I take the bus to work. It takes about 30 minutes, and it gives me enough time to read a subject or maybe even a chapter in a study guide. Also, I use e-learning videos from Pluralsight, CBT, and TrainSignal. For instance when I’m walking my dog, I tend to use the audio recordings. This is because sometimes it can be difficult to only use reading as a study method and this is a great alternative.  


    Thanks to Marius for allowing us to interview him for our “Ask an MCT” blog series!

    Want to learn more about Marius’s certification journey? Jump over to this blog post, and learn more: My Road to Certification: Meet Marius Sandbu. You can also connect with Marius on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

    Are you preparing for a Microsoft Certification exam as part of our Certification Challenge? Do you have an exam preparation question for our Microsoft Certified Trainers? Leave it in the comments section, and we may use it in future posts.

  • |

    About the author

    Kenji Onozawa is a new Community Manager at Microsoft Learning. He helps to connect people within the Microsoft Learning community and provides our online communities with useful information to help ease the certification process. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


    This week, we continue our “Inside MSL” blog series with another interesting personality! You’ll love what he has to say!

    What is a “@GeekTrainer,” and what do you do?

    Okay, so I didn’t actually ask that, but I definitely thought about it. That’s because, around our Redmond office, Christopher Harrison is known as “Geek Trainer.” I was curious about this, and I wanted to get to know him, so I set out with my camera in tow.

    During this five-minute interview, I ask Christopher:

    • What is your role, and what are your responsibilities?
    • As a content developer, how do you decide what content to put on Microsoft Virtual Academy?
    • What is your background?
    • What are your tips for a person trying to get a job at Microsoft?

    Want to connect with Christopher? You can find him on Twitter at @GeekTrainer. You can also catch Christopher hosting a wide variety of free online trainings on Microsoft Virtual Academy.

    Do you have a question for our team? Leave it in the comments section, and we might use it in the next “Inside MSL” interview! 

  • Hey, loyal fans and new followers! Liberty and Briana have some big news for you!


    You can now register for your exams through Microsoft Learning’s website, AND you can take exams at either Prometric or Pearson VUE.


    Check out the NewsByte for more information. No more excuses! Register for your exam today!

  • To support the Microsoft community in adoption of Microsoft Azure as the cloud for their modern businesses, Microsoft Learning is proud to announce the availability of two new Microsoft Azure exams.  Each of the following exams awards individuals with a Microsoft Specialist certification, validating knowledge and skills in a specialized area of technology:


    The new Azure Specialist certifications complement existing Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer credentials:

    • For developers, enhance your Web Applications and Windows Store Apps by learning how to build your own cloud services and validating those skills with Exam 532. 
    • For IT Professionals, expand your Windows Server and SQL Server on-premises prowess and validate those skills with Exam 533.


    Five-day instructor-led training courses are scheduled for late Sept 2014 release.  Please see the exam pages for additional details.


    Students are encouraged to visit the Microsoft Virtual Academy Azure page for additional training resources.

  • At Microsoft, we’re committed to giving you powerful computing, at any location and on any device. That principle applies to training, too: it should be just as convenient for you to learn how to make the most of our products and gain valuable certifications. So I'm pleased to tell you that effective September 4, 2014, we are partnering with Pearson VUE and taking advantage of Pearson VUE's world-leading network of testing centers. Beginning at the start of 2015, Pearson VUE will become our sole test provider.

    You’ll see a slew of benefits from this partnership. First and foremost, it will become much more convenient for candidates to take Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exams thanks to Pearson VUE’s extensive network of testing centers in training centers, academic institutions, corporations, U.S. military installations, and many other locations around the globe.

    We’re also introducing a personalized candidate experience to make it easier to schedule and take exams. On our web site, you’ll find one-stop scheduling, recommendations on relevant training courses and study resources, and customized offers for continuing on to your next stage of Microsoft certification. 

    Another benefit of the change is that Pearson VUE’s test centers provide security measures that ensure skills testing integrity. Candidates are photographed and asked to provide a digital signature, in addition to other identification and admission requirements. The photograph and signature become a permanent part of each candidate’s Microsoft certification record.

    To take an exam at a Pearson VUE testing center, you will need a Microsoft Account (formerly known as Live ID). You’ll also need to create a profile at, even if you plan on registering for an exam by phone or in person, so that we can ensure your certification and learning activities stay in sync.

    Through December 31, 2014, you still have the option to take exams at Prometric testing centers, as you have in the past. There's no change to the exam registration process with Prometric.

    Effective January 1, 2015, Pearson VUE will be the sole provider of our certification exams.

    We believe our partnership with Pearson VUE is a big step forward for our MCP community. Your commitment to continuous learning and professional development fuels us to do more and better. We will have more new capabilities to announce in the coming months. Today, I invite you to log in at and see the new experience for yourself. Good luck on your next Microsoft certification milestone!


  • In cities around the world, thousands of Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) are in front of professionals like you, helping prepare them to pass Microsoft Certification exams. Thanks to their hundreds of hours of in-classroom experience, these trainers always have great stories about helping people earn new certs. In our “Stories from the Trainers’ Trenches” series, we want to highlight these stories—and the storytellers—here on Born To Learn.

    Last week, in our first post in the series, we shared with you stories from MCT Armando Lacerda, a trainer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who has literally traveled the world to help train professionals. This week, we have more great stories to share with you, this time from seasoned MCT Nate Stammer.


     1.       When did you become an MCT?

    I became an MCT in 2011.

     2.       What does your training focus on?

    I focus on the infrastructure side of IT: Windows Server, Exchange, System Center, virtualization, etc.

     3.       Why do you enjoy training people and helping them pursue Microsoft Certifications?

    I like to help people advance their careers. It is a great feeling having someone who has taken your course pass the test and show the excitement and relief that comes with passing a Microsoft exam. It is really rewarding to help someone meet their certification goals.

    4.       Please share a memorable candidate-related story from your experience as a Microsoft Certified Trainer.

    I do not have one experience, necessarily, but multiple. The best candidate-related story is when someone has taken an exam in the past, without success, and then takes your course and passes. As an MCT, I am always trying to help candidates. And when you help someone succeed—someone who previously came up on the wrong side of the score sheet—it’s gratifying.


    Big thanks to Nate for letting us share his stories here on Born To Learn!

    Want to connect with Nate? Connect with him on Born To Learn. You can also find Nate helping to moderate our online study groups, where he answers questions in the MCSA: Windows Server 2012, MCSE: Server Infrastructure, and MCSE: Messaging (Exchange) forums.  


  • The first wave of recertification exams, corresponding to all five MCSD specialties, is now available.  Details can be found on the web pages referenced below.  Please note that recertification exams cover material from the exams taken to originally earn the credential, with particular emphasis on the most recent product and process changes.

    Recertification exams for five SQL Server and Windows Server-related specialties will be released by October 2014.  Lync, Exchange, and SharePoint recertification exams will be released in April 2015. 

    MCSD Recertification Exams:

    70-490: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps using HTML5

    70-491: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps using C#

    70-494: Recertification for MCSD: Web Applications

    70-499: Recertification for MCSD: Application Lifecycle Management

    70-517: Recertification for MCSD: SharePoint Applications

  • Microsoft Press Store is having a big sale! From August 28 to September 3, 2014, take advantage of this great offer:

    • Buy 1 book, save 35%
    • Buy 2 books, save 45%
    • Buy 3 books, save 55%

    The discounts apply to all paper books and ebooks. Go to this special link now and fill up your cart. Happy shopping and reading!


  • Every year, we randomly select...well...a lot of MCPs to participate in a survey to gauge satisfaction with the MCP program overall, evaluate the Microsoft Certification Program relative to programs of other IT vendors, and determine areas for improvement. We recently received the results from that survey, and my history doing survey research at Boeing as well as at Microsoft has repeatedly demonstrated that people are more likely to respond to surveys if they think something will change based on the results. And, if you've been following my posts, you know that I take this stuff seriously and that I really do value your feedback and will leverage it to make improvements to our exams and program.

    Here are some highlights that I found particularly interesting:

    • MCPs obtain certification to enhance their career opportunities (skill building and updating) and distinguish themselves from other.
      • What was particularly interesting about this finding was that MCPs from the Americas were more likely to earn certifications as a way to distinguish their skills while those in EMEA and APAC earned certification to build their skills.
    • The value of certification is driven by the job opportunities that the certification creates, which is not surprising...
      • More surprising and interesting to me is that you're more likely to value a certification if it gives you the skills to effectively identify and resolve technology-based issues. In other words, Microsoft certifications are valued by MCPs for effectively implementing, building, coding, testing, and/or deploying Microsoft technologies in organizations. We need to make sure that the skills that we assess are ones that will help you be more effective in helping organizations become more productive!

    • Hiring managers continue to use MCP certifications as part of their hiring process and use has increased over the last year. More important, the perceived value of our certifications among hiring managers has increased significantly over the last year as well.

    Themes that we need to focus on to improve our program, including training and exams:

    • Respondents noted that our content (both training and exams) was not relevant because it was assessing skills that are not used in the real world. You want to be tested on features that you actually use on the job. Honestly, this will always be a challenge for a global certification program because our technologies are used very differently by different people and different organizations. I am curious about YOUR ideas on how we can make the content more relevant and real world for you given our global reach. Got ideas? Let me know!
    • Certifications need more 'real world' value in the sense that they help you obtain jobs and solve real world business problems. Any ideas on how Microsoft Learning might move the needle on this one?

    We are going to do mini-variations of this survey each quarter, so we can be more proactive in identifying opportunities for improvements. YOU might be randomly selected to participate. So, make sure your email address is up to date, keep your eye open for the survey invite, and participate if you have the opportunity. I would love to hear from you!

  • |

    About the author

    Kenji Onozawa is a new Community Manager at Microsoft Learning. He helps to connect people within the Microsoft Learning community and provides our online communities with useful information to help ease the certification process. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


    Being brand new to Microsoft Learning, one of my first missions is to actively try to meet as many people on the team as possible. In the past, I’ve found that this is a great best practice when starting a new job because it helps to have relationships in place—before you need something from a colleague! Of course, as a new Community Manager, I figure that as long as I’m meeting people, I can use the opportunity to give the community an inside look at our team. So I set out in the office with a video camera in hand…

    Last week, as part of the “Inside MSL” blog series, I introduced you to Liberty Munson, our Psychometrician. This week, I’m back to introduce you to Briana Roberts, a Content Manager for Microsoft IT Academy. During the short two minute interview, I asked her the following questions:

    • What are your responsibilities as a Content Manager?

    • What is your favorite thing about your job?

    • What is your #1 tip for people trying to get a job at Microsoft?


    Thanks to Briana for the opportunity to interview her! She was a great sport.

    In addition to being one of Microsoft IT Academy’s rock star Content Managers, you can also find Briana in Microsoft Learning’s ACE NewsByte videos, where she helps to bring you the latest certification and training news.

    Do you have a question you’d like us to ask in future Inside MSL videos? Let us know in the comments section!

  • Last week, we kicked off our brand new “Ask an MCT” blog series with an interview with Armando Lacerda, a long-time Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and a moderator in our Born To Learn online study groups.

    Today, we’re back with our next post in the series—helpful advice for Microsoft Certification exam newbies from another great MCT, Nate Stammer. With nearly four years of in-classroom experience training students in technologies like Windows Server 2012, System Center, private cloud, Exchange, and virtualization, Nate has a ton of knowledge about how to best prepare for Microsoft Certification exams. We’re excited to introduce him to you and to share his insights here on Born To Learn!

    1. When did you first become an MCP? How many IT certifications (Microsoft and others) do you hold?

    I first became an MCP in 2000, and I currently have about 20 IT certifications.

    2. What is one thing about taking a Microsoft exam that a first-time candidate might find surprising?

    I think newbies to Microsoft Certification exams might find the length of the actual exam and of each individual exam question a bit surprising. I remember the first time I took an exam, I actually ran out of time! As you take more exams, you learn how to manage your time better. But as you go into your first exam, please watch the clock and don’t make the same mistake I did.

    3. What’s a common mistake that first-time candidates make when preparing for Microsoft exams?

     The most common mistake first-time candidates make is that they do not read through all of the objectives and information on the Microsoft Learning website. As a result, I find that many first-timers do not know all of the objectives that an exam will cover. 

    4. What’s your advice for IT professionals who are interested in pursuing Microsoft Certifications but don’t feel they have the time?

    Simply put, make the time. A Microsoft Certification is a great confidence builder and looks good on your résumé. To help find the time, think of it as investing in yourself. If you do that, you will be able to find the time you need, since there is always time to invest in yourself and your future.


    Thanks to Nate for taking the time to share his insights and knowledge with us here on Born To Learn. Please be on the lookout for more helpful advice for Microsoft Certification newbies as part of our “Ask an MCT” blog series!

    Are you preparing for a Microsoft Certification exam as part of our Certification Challenge? Do you have an exam preparation question for our Microsoft Certified Trainers? Leave it in the comments section, and we may use it in future posts.

    Want to connect with Nate? Connect with him on Born To Learn. You can also find Nate helping to moderate our online study groups, where he answers questions in the MCSA: Windows Server 2012, MCSE: Server Infrastructure, and MCSE: Messaging (Exchange) forums.  

  • Well…I did it.  Two days ago, I passed Exam 70-485: Advanced Windows Store App Development Using C# and completed my requirements to earn the MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using C# certification.


    Of course, I'm elated - this achievement makes it to my Top 10 list of professional goals - but I'm also, quite frankly, exhausted.  You see, it took me three attempts to make it across the finish line.  And, to get there, I not only had to keep up my resolve to finish the task while juggling a full work schedule, but also had to go deep, deep, DEEP in my use of exam prep resources to get there.  Here's a summary from my "travel" journal:


    Log entry: 12-Mar-2014

    Just passed Exam 70-484. Can't slow down now, with my cert goal in sight.  Downloading the 70-485 Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) Jump Start videos this evening to put the exam objectives in context of real app development.


    Log entry: 07-Apr-2014

    Finished reviewing the MVA videos and purchased the 70-485 Exam Ref Guide to go deep into the details behind the exam objectives.


    Log entry: 18-Jun-2014

    Finished my first full read of the Exam Ref Guide, and going back through to highlight key points.   Scheduled my exam for 7-July to keep me motivated.


    Log entry: 07-Jul-2014

    Ready to go, but ran into some test center issues, so need to re-schedule the exam for 30-Jul.  Taking advantage of the extra time to begin working manually through the coding samples to help develop "muscle memory" for program structure and API calls.


    Log entry: 30-Jul-2014

    Unfortunately, I missed passing by a few questions.  Immediately scheduled retake for tomorrow.  With a limited study window, took advantage of available practice test to focus my studies on weakest areas reported on the score report.


    Log entry: 31-Jul-2014

    Good news - incrementally improved my performance in trouble areas on the exam.  Bad news - dropped my score in some other areas that I thought I had mastered.  Clearly, there are still a few concepts I'm not grasping, so, I need to get some additional perspective on them.  I have a few weeks before I can reschedule the exam, so I'm using my Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) access to review the materials from Course 20485.  I'd prefer to sit in on the full training to benefit from the instructor's implementation experience, but cannot fit that into my schedule right now.


    Log entry: 18-Aug-2014

    Success - passed with comfortable margin!  Review of the course materials really helped me address those trouble areas.


    So, there you have it, friends and colleagues.  A 10-month journey to MCSD, truly filled with learning experiences along the way.  If I may offer some advice:

    1. Don't ever give up.  Set study milestones and dates, and don't let an exam fail (or two) stand in the way of your goal.
    2. Use the full range of available exam prep resources.  MVA Jump Starts, Exam Prep guides, practice tests, instructor-led training, independent hands-on use of the software products and even taking the exams when not fully prepared each serve a purpose, providing you with different perspectives to master the required knowledge.


    What's next for me?  Well, I have two new goals in mind:

    1. Apply the knowledge gained through MCSD to start building my own Windows Store apps.  Fate must be on my side, because, when I celebrated my success on Monday with a trip to my favorite used bookstore, I found a copy of the exact toy I planned to turn into my first published app, so bought it for research purposes. (tune into a future Born To Learn blog entry to find out more!)
    2. Augment my skills as an app developer by earning one of our newest certifications on Microsoft Azure development.  (I'll talk to this in more detail in a future blog entry, as well.)

  • Based on customer demand, Microsoft Learning and Microsoft Premier Field Engineering (PFE) are expanding the App Review To Cert Pilot to cover the worldwide MCP community.

    Originally launched in July, this program aligns with the needs of software developers for a real-world performance-based alternative to exams for validating their technical skills.


    In this program, HTML5/WinJS or C#/XAML developers will receive their MCSD: Windows Store Apps certification by completing the following activities:

    1. A 2-4 hour live (via Lync) technical review of their applications by the PFE App Consult team, and successfully addressing any identified must-fix issues.  Apps will be evaluated based on implementation of features corresponding to key Windows Store Essentials (481 or 484) exam objectives:

    • Design the UI layout and structure
    • Design and implement Process Lifecycle Management
    • Plan for application deployment
    • Implement Search and Share
    • Manage application settings and preferences
    • Create layout-aware apps to handle windowing modes
    • Design and implement data presentation, the app/nav bar, and navigation in an app
    • Create and manage tiles
    • Manage input devices
    • Retrieve data remotely

    2. Submission and acceptance of their application to the Windows Store

    3. Passing the associated Advanced Windows Store (482 or 485) exam in the certification path


    Registration for the pilot program is open July 3-Oct 3 and is limited to 100 applicants with original applications that they alone have authored which:

    1. have not yet been submitted to the Windows Store
    2. will be ready for submission within 2 weeks of registration in the pilot program

    To earn the exam credit, all activities must be completed within 90 days of acceptance into the pilot program.


    To apply for this program, please send an email to

  • |

    About the author

    Kenji Onozawa is a new Community Manager at Microsoft Learning. He helps to connect people within the Microsoft Learning community and provides our online communities with useful information to help ease the certification process. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


    “What is a psychometrician, and how does she affect everyone who takes Microsoft certification exams?”

    This is just one of the questions I had as I entered the office of Liberty Munson, Microsoft Learning’s Principal Pyschometrician. As I talked with her, I learned how incredibly important her role is to the overall quality and integrity of all of our Microsoft Certifications. Thanks to Liberty, when you pass and receive a Microsoft Certification, it’s truly a meaningful career milestone! And it serves as proof to hiring managers and others that you understand Microsoft technologies.   

    How does Liberty uphold the quality and integrity of Microsoft Certification exams? Get the answer to that and the following questions in our short, three-minute interview:

    • What is a psychometrician, and how does she affect everyone who takes Microsoft Certification exams?

    • What is your favorite thing about your position?

    • What is your #1 tip for candidates looking to get a job at Microsoft?

    Thanks again to Liberty Munson for the interview! In addition to being our psychometrician, Liberty is also one of the faces of Microsoft Learning’s ACE NewsByte videos and a frequent blogger here on Born To Learn.  

    Do you have a question for Liberty? Leave it in the comments section, and we may use it in another video interview!

  • Earlier this week, we introduced you to Armando Lacerda, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), who shared his advice for newbies preparing to take a Microsoft Certification exam for the first time. This week, Armando is back to share with us stories from his experience as a long-time MCT who has travelled the world, training IT professionals in Microsoft technologies. Enjoy!


    1. When did you become an MCT?

    My first application to become an MCT was back in 1999.

    2. What and where are you training now?

    I am an independent trainer, and my primary focus is on SQL Server. Nowadays, I’m mainly teaching around the Americas (North, Central, and South) but I’ve taught in the Middle East, as well.

    3. Why do you enjoy training people and helping them to pursue Microsoft Certifications?

    I enjoy training people because it’s beneficial and it helps professionals showcase their expertise. Another reason is that, while in the classroom, I can share with my students what I know about Microsoft technologies while also learning about their experiences and real-world struggles. I usually tell them, “Please bring questions,” because I enjoy collecting them. Over the years, I’ve gathered literally thousands of student questions in my book. This in-classroom experience with my students is extremely beneficial because it brings me scenarios and real-life situations I would never otherwise face.

    4. Please share a memorable candidate-related story from your experience as a Microsoft Certified Trainer.

    I was once hired to teach a month-long SQL Server 2008 R2 curriculum in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest! It was in an industrial city, called Manaus, in Brazil. It was an evening class, so students would show up after their office shifts. What I remember about this class is that my students would return to class, night after night, and say to me, “Hey Armando, that thing you taught us last night—I used it today in the office. It worked like a charm, and my boss was really impressed!” It was delightful!

    Thanks again to Armando for allowing us to interview him about his experiences working as a Microsoft Certified Trainer. If you’d like to connect with him, visit our online study groups. He helps to answer questions there as a Database Certification Study Group moderator.

    Do you have a question you’d like to have answered in an upcoming “Ask an MCT” blog post? Leave it in the comments section, and we might use it in a future post.

  • To better align with how technology professionals deploy Lync, Exchange, and SharePoint, the Microsoft certification team has made an exciting update to the Communication, Messaging, and SharePoint MCSE certifications.

    You can now satisfy the prerequisites for pursuing these three MCSE certifications by having either MCSA: Office 365 or MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Having these options allows you to choose the path that best meets your career path or organization’s needs. Taking the MCSA: Office 365 path to your MCSE is a great choice if your organization is considering, or has deployed, cloud-based solutions. For those who focus on deploying on-premise, MCSA: Windows Server 2012 is still the path for you.

    Be sure to visit the MCSE pages for more information, including training options.

    MCSE: Communications (Lync)

    MCSE: Messaging (Exchange)

    MCSE: SharePoint


  • Have you heard? Microsoft Learning is making easier for you to keep your digital Microsoft Official Courses (MOC) up to date through new functionality called "Fresh Editions." Sounds cool, doesn't it? Liberty and Briana share some of the highlights and benefits of this awesome new functionality. Learn more by watching this ACE NewsByte!

  • Justin Durrant would seem to have life figured out. He’s 35, lives in the Minneapolis area, and has a high-powered job with Best Buy, leading that company’s migration from legacy Microsoft Windows 2003 servers to Windows Server 2012. In his spare time he enjoys playing Forza 5 on Xbox.

    But by Justin’s own admission, his life could have turned out very differently. “I just didn’t have a real stable childhood,” he says. “I was causing a lot of trouble in my teenage years – a lot more than most people.” He liked to learn, and was a good student. But his penchant for getting into trouble took him off track. Two months into eighth grade, he quit school.

    Justin DurrantLooking back, Justin thinks that could have led to serious trouble. Fortunately, he was able to turn things around. It took a while, as he bounced between homes of friends and family members. At 16, though, he met a young woman whom he later would marry. He realized that if he was to create a stable life for the two of them, he had to develop a career.

    In 1997 he and his wife were living in Reno, Nev. with her grandparents. One day, the two made a trip to a local big-box store, where they came across a Hewlett-Packard desktop PC running Microsoft Windows 95. They bought it.

    “I was just enthralled with it,” Justin recalls. “I remember taking it out of the box – I think it had a 200-megabyte hard drive – and then I spent hours and days tinkering with it. I got it online, which back then happened with an AOL disk. Pretty soon I ran out of free hours and had to subscribe.”

    Inspired by his new PC, Justin decided a career in technology was for him. He moved back to Minneapolis and enrolled in Globe College, where he earned a two-year degree in networking. During that time he also found his first tech-related job: A work-study gig at a community college, providing students with support for printing, email, access to floppy disks and more.

    At about the same time Justin also earned his first Microsoft certification, an MCSA certification for Windows 2000 Server. And he soon had moved up the tech ladder to bigger things, in 2002 landing a position with Adaptec, where he maintained several Windows NT/2000 based servers and designed and maintained disaster recovery and backup strategies.

    Since then, Justin has been a certification machine, keeping up with Windows Server through 2003 and 2008, and now on the cloud-based 2012 version. He’s also earned certificates in areas such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, and others.

    In his current role as infrastructure engineer for Best Buy, he is handling tasks such as providing operational support for Windows 2003/2008/2012 servers, and managing a migration from Exchange 2007 to Microsoft Office 365.

    “The springboard for my entire career has been that first Windows Server certification,” he says. “I’ve found more value in certifications than anything from college.”

    Justin especially likes taking the free online training from Microsoft Virtual Academy. “A lot of those classes are self-paced, which is how I learn best,” he says. “You can dig deeper than in instructor-based courses, which usually are more structured.”

    One thing Justin hopes to see is more emphasis on simulation-based exams, in which participants are asked to actually build a sample product or demonstration.

    Writing for the “Success Stories” page of Microsoft Learning, Justin is clear on the role tech and Microsoft Certifications have played in his life. “I look back on how my path could have had a very different outcome. I am thankful to be doing what I love and keeping myself marketable with Microsoft Certifications.”

    Thanks for letting us tell your story, Justin. We know there are more great stories out there about the power of training and certification. What’s yours? Go to our Born To Learn Success Stories page and tell us!

    Related resources:

  • Those of you who are participating in our Certification Challenge are familiar with our online study groups here on Born To Learn. Many Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) volunteer their time and expertise by moderating the study group forums, and we want to introduce them to our broader community with a series of interviews on our blog.

    To kick off the series, please meet Armando Lacerda. Armando has years of experience training database professionals and helping them prepare for Microsoft Certification exams, and we’re excited to have him share his knowledge with you here!

    1. When did you first become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP)? How many IT certifications (Microsoft and others) do you hold?

    My first certification is in Visual Basic 4.0, which I earned way back in 1996. Today, I hold more than 60 certifications, mainly from Microsoft, but I have some Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) certs under my belt, as well.

    2. What is one thing about taking a Microsoft exam that a first-time candidate might find surprising?

    I hear a lot of first-time candidates saying, “The questions were surprisingly simple,” and, in the same breath, “I don’t see how I failed it.” The gap is that the questions in the exams are not focused on the candidate’s everyday activity on the job, but rather on the main (read: most important) features of the product.

    3. What’s a common mistake that first-time candidates make when preparing for Microsoft exams?

    I always tell my students to pay attention to the gaps, meaning the areas on the exam’s objective domain which they don’t play with very often (or at all). Overlooking them—or not spending hands-on time testing these features—is a common mistake that blows candidates away when taking the exam.

    Another common mistake that candidates often make is to fight the answers. Time and time again, I’ve seen candidates fighting the possible options, saying, “I wouldn’t do it in any of these ways!” My advice is not to do this. The point is not how you would do it but rather which option(s) accomplish the result. Don’t let the sudden approach distract you. Don’t fight the question. Focus on the topic and on the subtle variations of the possible answers.

    4. What’s your advice for IT professionals who are interested in pursuing Microsoft Certifications but don’t feel that they have the time?

    Every investment requires some sacrifice. So here is my advice: make time. We have to make time not just to read good books but also to have hands-on experience. We have to make time to mess around with the product.


    Thanks to Armando for taking the time to share his insights with us in this first post in our “Ask an MCT” series. Be sure to watch for more posts and useful insights from our MCTs in the future! 

    Do you have a Microsoft Certification exam preparation question you’d like answered? Leave it in the comments section, and we may use it in future posts.

    Want to connect with Armando? Find his profile on Born To Learn.

  • Did you know that you can take the first step toward earning your MCSD: Windows Store Apps certification by submitting a Windows Store App through our App Review pilot program? Microsoft Learning Experiences is exploring a wide variety of alternatives to incorporate more performance based assessments of your skills throughout our certification program, and this pilot program represents one possible solution for developers of Windows Store Apps. Be a part of the future, and help us figure out how we can scale this to other developer spaces by participating in the pilot program! This pilot program is limited to 100 candidates, and we are getting close to filling the roster, so don't delay. Watch as Liberty and Briana discuss some of the cool aspects of this pilot program, sign up if you develop apps, and let us know what you think!