Born to Learn

  • As I promised in a my post about a session that Super Sigma... I mean, Briana, and I presented at the Innovations in Testing Conference in March, I want to share what I learned about trends, innovations, and hot topics that are emerging in the testing industry. As Kerri Davis mentioned in her post, remote proctoring and digital badges generated a lot of buzz at the conference and were discussed in numerous sessions. In addition, security continues to be a hot topic for test providers for obvious reasons... the conversation is around "what security-related innovations are programs implementing and how effective have they been?" Numerous sessions focused on the various security options available to testing programs to protect their IP, identify cheaters, detect piracy, and so on. Weaved throughout the conference, however, was a discussion that the face of certification and testing are changing. From the opening key note to the closing one, conversations about how testing programs need to adapt to and capitalize on technology's rapid pace of change in order to develop the "next generation certification program" were embedded in sessions even when the session's primary focus was on something else (e.g., psychometrics, test design, delivery, business/program management, etc.). Let's take a look at where the industry seems to be headed for each of these.

    Digital Badges: The testing industry is just starting to understand what digital badging is and how it might be applied to certifications. The big question is how leverage badging to drive program engagement and satisfaction without undermining the value of (or replacing) the thing that really matters--the certification. Because badges can be attached to anything regardless of how that thing was developed or what it is, can potentially have meta data that provides information about the badge holder's "skills," and will likely be easy to acquire, testing programs have to be very careful about how they implement badging in order to maintain the integrity of their certification program. If more value is placed on the badge that the certification and it's not based on something that is as rigorously developed as a certification exam, the consequences could be disastrous for certification programs if the meaning of the badge is misunderstood (i.e., if people assume you have skills because you have the badge but the process for earning the badge doesn't really ensure that you do). Many testing programs believe that badging will drive engagement and are looking for ways to optimize badging without damaging their brand and certification. Other testing programs see badging (in relation to certification) as a "flash in the pan" that will die out soon. What do you think? Is badging the wave of the future for testing programs?

    Remote Proctoring: More accurately, this should probably be called "online proctoring." Essentially, this delivery solution would allow you to take an exam anywhere at any time. Many employment tests are already delivered leveraging online testing (some with and some without proctoring), and many certification programs are on the cusp of figuring out how to deliver their exams in this manner. The conversation continues to be focused on how to secure exam content and understanding the candidate perceptions of program integrity and exam security in this type of delivery model. What do you think of online proctoring? Would knowing that someone took the exam using this delivery model change your perception of what it means that they passed it? Would you take an exam that was delivered like this? 

    Security: Always a big topic at this conference! The trends here focused on innovative approaches to delivery, an increasing focus on using more sophisticated psychometrics to detect piracy (yes, we can identify bad behavior through how candidates 'interact' with our exams!), and a focus on test center security because exam theft is more of an issue for many programs (after all, this is how exams get on brain dump sites) than individual cheating.

    The Changing Face of Certification: The key note speaker was Jim Carroll, a futurist and author, who spoke at length about the need for our industry to look at the accelerating rate of change around us and embrace it so that our businesses are well positioned for the future. He repeatedly said "The future belongs to those who move fast." Here are some of the challenges we face in the testing industry given that knowledge is being refreshed at an increasing pace and is quickly outdated:

    • How might the acquisition of knowledge be measured in a way that’s both timely and relevant?
    • How do we stay ahead of change? How can we be proactive rather than reactive? How do we keep our assessment content in line with those frequent changes?
    • How do we test and certify people for jobs and skills that don’t exist yet?
    • Today, learners want real-time knowledge ingestion based on video offerings, such as YouTube, Khan Academy, etc. because they have a desire for continuous knowledge replenishment; how do we continually update our offerings to meet this demand?

    This session underscored our industry’s (training and certification) need to adapt to the lightning speed at which technology changes and how those changes are affecting our students’ and test takers’ expectations about training and exam content. As I mentioned, this theme/conversation/concern re-asserted itself through many of the sessions as testing organizations struggle with how to manage 1) the rapid speed with which knowledge and skills become obsolete and 2) the impact that instant availability of information has on candidate expectations (known as "finger tip" knowledge--we don't have to know the answer...we just need to know where to find it online; in fact, research shows that if someone knows they can find the answer later, they have more difficulty remembering it but have a good memory for how to find it!).

    Along these lines, more organizations are looking to gamification (game-based exams) as the next big thing in testing because it can be very engaging and new entrants (in most cases, these are those young whippersnappers just starting out in a field) are largely engrained in the gaming universe in one form or another. I find this concept intriguing and am trying to figure out how Microsoft might apply it to our certification exams. Clearly, there are many hurdles in the implementation of something like this, but the notion of gamification in terms of certification may be one way to start thinking differently about what certification means and what exams might look like.

    To me, the conversations around the future of certification are the most intriguing as we explore how to meet the demands of the future and embrace the speed at which technology changes things. After all, "the future belongs to those who move fast." What do you think the future holds for certification? Where do we go from here? What do you think changes? What stays the same?

  • Okay, technically, TechEd North America 2014 is less than four weeks away. Some of our favorite TechEd alumni from Europe are already procuring goodies and packing for the trip (Hi Patrik and Bjarne!). I just watched Rick and Joey's latest Countdown Show episode (the one about the newbies, see below). Here's a quick list of "what to do now" from me, whether you're a n00b or a TechEd alum.

    • Use the Schedule Builder:
      • Add your sessions, including Exam Preps! Yes, the super popular Exam Prep sessions (presented by Microsoft Certified Trainers) are included in the content catalog this year (filter by session type "exam prep"), so you can plan to attend them based on your exam appointment times.
      • First timer? Be sure to add TechEd 101 session.
      • Sync your schedule to your calendar just before you leave for TechEd. (Thanks for this tip, Joey!)

    • Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes. If you need to buy new shoes, get them now and start breaking them in. (Rick says to walk backwards in them.)
    • Book your exam timeslots
      • Seats are limited, so pre-register to secure your preferred appointment time.
      • If it's your first MCP exam, book for Sunday or Monday so you can ace that exam and join the MCP party on Monday night.
      • Don't forget: all MCP exams are 50% off. And for you virtualization pros, the 74-409 exam is FREE (and earns you a Microsoft Certified Specialist certification).

    • Connect with Channel 9 and the Krewe
    • Watch all the TechEd Countdown Show episodes, if you haven't already been following along.
    • Take a fun quiz: What kind of TechEd attendee are you?
      • Post your result in a comment below! (Surely you'll pick certification related responses, right? RIGHT? Wink )

    See you in Houston soon!

  • In my first blog in this series of posts designed to help you understand the information that we provide in your score report and how to use it, I walked you through the first section of the score report, including the bar chart showing your performance on each major section (functional group) on the exam. This post will focus on two additions that will appear on score reports in the very near future: a list of top 3 skills to priority when retaking the exam (on fail reports only) and a chart comparing your performance to others (on both reports).

    If you have been following my blogs over the past few years, you know that I have been looking for ways to improve the value and usefulness of our score reports. About two years ago, I started the process of asking for your feedback on what you'd like to see in the score reports--what types of information would be the most helpful to you. Not surprisingly, most wanted more detailed information on areas where they can improve their performance as well as some idea on how their performance compared to others. After many iterations on what this might look like given some of our tools limitations, I finally settled on including a list of the top 3 skill areas to prioritize when preparing to retake the exam (this only appears on fail score reports) and a chart that provides a comparison of your performance to that of others who have taken the exam in the last 6-12 months. Let's look at each of these separately.

    If you fail an exam (I know this never happens, right?!), you will be provided with a list of the top 3 skills to prioritize when preparing to retake the exam. It will look something like this:

    These objectives (skills) are those where you had the lowest performance in terms of the percentage of questions answered correctly. If more than 3 objectives could be listed (because you answered the same percentage correctly across more than 3 objectives), the "tie" goes to the objective with a higher number of points. This is brand spanking new, so I don't have any "frequently asked questions" to address... but I suspect that one I'm likely to get is "why does this only appear on fail score reports?" Honestly, the rules for which objectives to list for those who pass became too complicated to implement, especially for those with high scores. There are too many scenarios in which it doesn't make sense to display anything in this table (think perfect or near perfect scores) or when it would be difficult to prioritize the objectives because the percent answered correctly is extremely high across many or most objectives.By definition, this is really more informative and useful to people who fail because they do have (more) opportunities for improvement than those who pass.

    The second new chart that will be added to the score reports is a comparison of your performance to that of people who have taken the exam over the last 6-12 months. It will look like this:

    The most important note about this chart is that it is provided for informational purposes only! Because it's a comparison of your performance to that of others, it may be unrelated to your overall passing status and to the information provided in the bar chart that I described in my first post. For example, you may have done well on a section (as represented by a longer bar in the bar chart) that is considered an "opportunity for improvement" here when compared to others who have taken the exam; alternately, you may have done poorly (as represented by a shorter bar in the bar chart) on a section that is considered a "strength" when compared to others here. Interpret this with caution! It is not intended to be diagnostic but to provide some perspective on your skills compared to others who have taken this exam.

    Several other notes about this comparison:

    1. To oversimplify a bit, if you score below average on a skill area, it will be considered an "opportunity for improvement" and above average will be considered a "strength."
    2. If we don't have sufficient data to make these comparisons, this chart will not be provided on the score report.
    3. The data used to make the comparisons is updated as we sustain our exams; for some exams this happens more frequently than others. Ultimately, this means that if you retake the exam, the data used to make these comparisons may not be the same as for a previous attempt. As a result, the same level of performance could result in different comparison outcomes.
    4. This is brand spanking new as well and subject to change as we get more data and information about how we're categorizing your scores in comparison to others. Do the rules I have in place for these categorizations really provide enough differentiation for candidates to understand their performance in comparison to others? Only time will tell as candidates take our exams and their results are plugged into this chart. I will update the logic of these categorizations if needed as I learn more about the actual application of the rules that I've created.

    Again, this chart is new, so I don't have any frequently asked questions to answer here, but I'm curious what questions you have now that you have a better idea of what this looks like and how it works. As you start to see this chart on your score reports, please let me know what you think and if you have any questions!

  • Hello hello everyone! Psychomagician and I are bringing you a mini-series within the ACE Chronicles. The ‘Day in the Life’ trio of episodes will give you behind the scene insights into what a PjM, CDM, and Psychometrician actually do every day! You didn’t think that these fun videos were our entire jobs, did you?


    The Assessments and Certifications team, ACE, is a team of about 16 people that work ‘round the clock to roll out every MCP exam. There are three key roles on the team, Project Managers (PjM), Content Development Managers (CDM), and a Psyometrician – or psycho for short!


    The first episode in this mini-series is a ‘Day in the Life of a PjM.’ We brought in a stellar PjM, Briana Roberts, to share with you a glimpse into her day to day responsibilities.


    In addition to learning about some key elements in the exam development process, you’ll learn a bit about how the ACE team incorporates Accessibility into our MCP exams… Now, that got me thinking… this is a great idea for a future episode, especially depending on how much our guest PjM shares. To find out, you’ll have to check out this video!


  • We are excited to introduce your MCT Ambassadors at TechEd North America 2014! For those who have visited our booth or taken exams at various conferences, you've most likely met with MCT Ambassadors. They are a group of Microsoft Certified Trainers who work with our team to help you identify certification paths and training resources that will get you to your next career goal. MCT Ambassadors vary by event and year, and there are many other MCTs working around TechEd all week: hands-on labs, product team booths, leading sessions, etc. MCTs are a very important part of Microsoft events, and we're especially grateful for those who choose to serve as Ambassadors each year.

    Here they are, in alphabetical order by first name:

    Alfred Ojukwu

    Armando Lacerda

    Bob Reinsch

    boB Taylor

    Chris Rhodes

    Chris Ross

    Christopher Harrison

    Dean Murray

    Gordon Ryan

    Heather Fitzpatrick

    Jasper Kraak

    Kenold Pierre-Louis

    Neal McFee

    Paige Rodgers

    Peter De Tender

    Remko de Boer

    Ryan Sokolowski

    Sidney Andrews

    Wayne McGlinn


    To help you get to know them a bit before getting to Houston, we asked them a few questions:

    What is your favorite Microsoft technology right now?

    • Christopher: MVC
    • Peter: I love all Microsoft infrastructure products.
    • Jasper: Office 365
    • Chris: Hyper-V, followed by Windows Phone - I'm waiting for you Cortana!
    • Heather: OneNote
    • Neal: The combination of the Azure Pack, System Center 2012 R2 and Hyper-V.
    • Armando: SQL Server and SharePoint
    • Sidney: Cloud Business Apps (LightSwitch). 

    Stickers on your laptop or tablet: yes or no?

    • Peter: Yes! My Surface Pro is tattooed with a large Seattle Seahawks sticker. I also have MVP and MCT logo stickers.
    • Heather: Yes. E=MCT and Patch & Switch.
    • Sidney: Yes to stickers!  My favorite is my own company’s sticker. I encourage anyone who’s forming a startup to print your own stickers at a print shop and put it on your laptop. Speak at your local user group and you now have a little brand recognition!
    • Jasper: No! No! No!
    • Neal: The black oval E=MCT sticker from the welcome pack I received my first year as an MCT.
    • Chris: For the first week after I got the laptop - no. After the fingerprints were showing, yes! I have a Windows Server 2012, MVP and of course my MCT sticker slap bang in the center!
    • Armando: Yes, 2 of them: “Not of this world (Jesus)” and "I  <3 my wife." Sorry, no technical/geek sticker :)

    If you had to bring one back today: Clippy or Rover?

    • Sidney: Who's Rover? I faintly remember Clippy but he did help me write a paper ONCE.
    • Heather: Rover. Clippy just made an appearance on April 1. Rover seems to be the underdog.
    • Armando: Rover, totally!

    If all your home appliances and vehicles had one voice: Siri or Cortana?

    • Christopher: Morgan Freeman
    • Sidney: Halo: Combat Evolved was released during my freshman year of high school, I grew up with Cortana’s voice! Easy choice.
    • Jasper: Cortana (as long as it has a shut-up button)
    • Heather: Who's Siri?

    We're all looking forward to seeing you in Houston in May 2014. Don't forget, you can pre-register for onsite certification exams now, add exam prep sessions to your schedule builder, and get yourself to the MCP party!

  • We're loving all the success stories coming from Microsoft Certified Professionals. This week, I want to feature a developer from Romania: Julian Atanasoae. Julian took advantage of one of our free online training and exam voucher offers in 2013, passed exam 70-480, and became a proud member of the MCP community. This opened up opportunities for him to be highlighted by MPN, and later invited to a Microsoft event in Romania. What a great start to his career as a developer! We look forward to hearing about more great things from Julian.

    Do you have a story to share? Submit it here. Now onto our featured MCP:


    My name is Julian Atanasoae, I am an 18 year old developer from Suceava, Romania, and when I was 17 I got certified in HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript (exam number 70-480) using a free coupon obtained from Microsoft Virtual Academy (immediately after Michael Palermo and Jeremy Foster did the first Jumpstart video on these technologies). After getting certified, the Microsoft Partner Network was looking for certification stories, and I thought mine may be a good one, since I was 17 at the time, and it might make a good story. And apparently it did. On September 24th, 2013, I appeared on the front page of the Worldwide Partner's Conference website, as you can see in the screenshot. The article with the story can be found at on digitalWPC. It was a great experience, I started receiving tweets from people congratulating me for my efforts, and I even received an invitation the Romanian Microsoft Summit, which was held in November 2013 in Bucharest, Romania, where I had the chance to meet Michael Palermo, the guy that taught me HTML5 and JavaScript, in person! It was a great conference and I learned a lot of things. I am passionate about pretty much everything that is tech-related, and my dream is to work at Microsoft. I hope you'll like my story!

  • As part of the Certification Challenge, Veronica Sopher and Mel Batham asked me write a blog post walking our loyal readers through the different sections of a score report, explaining what each means, how to interpret your results, how to focus your studies if you fail an exam or simply want to improve, answer common questions, address common misunderstandings, etc. Of course, I said "yes" (I'm always looking for an excuse to write blog and drop some knowledge on my peeps!), but as I thought about it, I realized this too big for one post. Thus, you're entering into my second series of blog posts that I'll be writing over the next month or so. 

    Here begins my series on "dissecting score reports." We'll take it section by section, and I'll use this opportunity to (re-)introduce you some changes that we are making to our score reports.

    Full disclosure/fine print: these changes will start appearing in score reports associated with most of our exams over the next 6 months, but they will take some time to roll out across all exams; further, some pieces of the updated score report may not be available for certain exams... more on that as I walk you through each piece. Because upgrade reports are a little different, I'll walk you through those in a separate blog. Oh, and this is specific to our technical certifications. If you want to spin through MTA or MOS score reports, let me know.

    So, let's start at the beginning. At the top of the score report, you will find information about the exam delivery, including exam name and number, your name, registration ID, candidate ID (assigned to you by the delivery provider), test center, exam date, score needed to pass, your score, and your pass/fail status. It looks like this:


    Here's what you need to know about this section.

    1) On our technical certifications, you always need 700 to pass

    2) If you have issues or concerns about your exam delivery, the registration ID, which is a unique identifier for this specific exam delivery, is critical in our ability to investigate. Make sure that you provide it if you escalate any exam-related issues.

    Next, you will see a bar chart that summarizes your performance on each of the major skill areas (i.e., functional groups) on the exam. It looks like this:

    This bar chart shows your performance on each section (functional group) on the exam.

    How should you interpret this chart?

    • To the left of the graph, each section of the exam is listed along with the percentage of the exam that was devoted to it. Sections with higher percentages will have more questions.
    • The length of the bars provide information regarding your section-level performance.
      • Bars that are closer to the left reflect weaker performance
      • Bars that are further to the right reflect stronger performance.
    • Although, in the new score reports, the length of the bar reflects the percentage of questions in that section that you answered correctly, you cannot combine these percentages to determine how many questions you answered correctly on the exam BECAUSE each section may contain a different number of questions, as represented by the percentages provided after the section name (see the first bullet).

    How should you use this information? Whether you want to improve your skills because you need to retake the exam or you simply want to grow your areas of weakness into strengths, you should focus on the skill areas that represent the highest percentage of exam content and your lowest performance. In this example, I would tell Alan to focus on "Designing Client Configurations" because 25-30% of the exam is focused on the skills identified in this functional group, and this was an area of weak performance in comparison to the other sections of the exam. He should review the Exam Details page for this exam and practice the skills (objectives) listed for this functional group. Doing so will improve his overall performance in this content domain (Configuring Windows 8.1).

    The most frequently asked question/escalation that we get related to this section of the score report is: The bars on the score report show that I have scored more than 70%; why didn’t I pass the exam?

    Keep in mind that the passing score of 700 is a scaled score and does not mean that you must answer 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass. The actual percentage varies from exam to exam, and for some exams the percentage needed to pass is greater than 70 percent. The passing score is based on input from subject matter experts, the skill level needed to be considered proficient in the content domain, and the difficulty of the questions delivered during the exam. (Want more details, watch this video.) Further, each section contains a different number of questions, and although it may look like you scored more than 70% on each section, it is possible that you did not and if that section contains a higher percentage of the exam content being slightly below 70% can result in an overall percentage that is less than 70.

    What other questions do you have about this part of the score report? My next installment will be about a new comparison chart that we're adding to score reports so you can see how your performance compares to your peers. Stay tuned!


  • Not that long ago Veronica in her blog post Do Microsoft Employees Get Certified? talked about a Test Fest happening on our Redmond campus, so I decided to be part of it.


    Now, I’m not technical like most of you are so I went for an MOS PowerPoint 2013 certification. But before I go on, I need to confess to you my guilty pleasure: I LOVE LOVE LOVE PowerPoint. I would use it for EVERYTHING. I get it,  you probably are one of those haters that think some people misuse PowePoint, but let me tell you are wrong. PowerPoint in fact can be used for everything and cannot do any wrong in my eyes. And, YES I’m using CAPS because my love for PP (aka PowerPoint) is that BIG and I need to convey the emotion. Smile


    Below is my Test Fest day diary:

    8.50 am – Arrived to Building 40  @ the Redmond Campus

    8.55 am – Got some coffee, I cannot start my day without it . How cool is that we have a certified Brew Master?? Smile

    9.00 am – Found the classroom and  I started the test

    10.30 – Seriously, I failed???? WHAAAAAT? Are you kidding me?? (freak out voice insert here, CAPS are a MUST here too)

    …I had meetings that day and I needed to leave. So I promise myself I would return and  I did. Thankfully, I can say that I passed but it wasn’t simple as I thought it would be, it was challenging and nerve wracking but I feel great about it.

    Anyway, this was a great opportunity that lovely Wendy coordinated for us so picture of her is necessary. Thank you Wendy, for your patience and kindness!

    Cheerios and talk to you soon!


  • Did you get on a plane/train/car, make your way to San Francisco, and are ready to enter the Moscone Center today? Then you’re on your way to winning a $100 Visa Gift Card!

    Over the next three days at Build (April 2-4, 2014), simply come on by our booth, tell us how you like to learn, share it with thousands of your closest friends, and you’ll be automatically entered into a daily drawing for a hundred bucks*. We’re easy to find – located near Registration and right beside the Microsoft Developer Network guys - the Training & Certification folks are ready to talk to you about advancing your career with online, on-demand training through MVA. And for those of you ready to take the next step beyond that, we’ve got you covered with our new Training and Certification Guide desktop app (download it here) - a cool “subway” map that’ll show you the quickest way toward certification.

    However, we know some of you would rather chart your own path. So, on the road to becoming the best developer, what path will you take? What combination and order of technologies, frameworks or tools will ensure your success? Grab a My Learning Path card (shown below) at the booth, write down how you plan to get it done, snap a picture (yes, a selfie), and show us on Twitter or Instagram (include #bldwin #certifyme). Who knows, you could be a winner!  

    *Terms and Conditions for the Daily Sweepstakes can be found HERE.

    Certified Jenny at #bldwin

  • Step right up, folks! You'll only learn about this one-time offer here! Step right up!

    Have I got your attention, people? What if I used the words "FREE," "FREE," FREE"? Do I have your attention now?! Want to know more? Watch this!

  • To help students stay current with the latest Web Application development processes, Exams 486 and 487 will be refreshed on April 30, 2014 to cover solutions based on Visual Studio 2013, MVC 5, and recent developments in Windows Azure.  

    Details on the exam updates, in the form of side-by-side comparisons of exam objectives, are now available for review through the "content covering Visual Studio 2013, MVC5, and updates to Windows Azure" link in the Skills Measured section of each Exam Detail web page:

    Please note that, while the exam numbers will not change, the MVC version will be removed from the titles of Exam 70-486.  Due to the limited number of changes to the exam topics, updates to the related Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) are not planned at this time.

    As Web Application and Azure development go hand-in-hand, we have also recently extended the upgrade path for MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCPD: Windows Azure Developer credential holders:

    We recognize that developers rely on self-study materials to stay current with technology, so we've grown our developer library of recorded video training on Microsoft Virtual Academy.  Here are the most recent offerings to help students prepare for the Web application development exams:

  • Two weeks ago you heard from my colleague Liberty Munson on the Innovations in Testing conference we attended in March, hosted by the Association of Test Publishers. I also attended and I look forward to this conference every year. This year attendance topped more than 1,000 attendees—clearly the testing field is alive and growing.

    What I like about the conference most is the opportunity to meet with professionals from all the different components of testing programs; from content developers to exam delivery providers to pyschometricians and data forensics experts; from those in the academic fields to IT and to professional licensure entities. It is such a great place to bounce ideas of each other, learn how other programs craft their tests, and find out about new trends in the industry.

    Naturally, I make my way through the security circuit. No matter what kind of testing program an entity manages, they all need to thwart cheating and fraud. I’d say more than a third of the conference sessions focused on security in some capacity. Those sessions were also standing-room only in some cases. I learned that some of my counterparts have very robust programs with a lot of process and a huge staff of people; others have found innovative ways to focus on security with more limited means. Some rely on technology and data forensics to combat infringement; some have more standardized ways of ferretting out cheaters. No matter how big or small the program, I always come away with good ideas on how to craft our own program, and what I should pay attention to next.

    Some of the trends I saw this year in test security centered on two themes: remote proctoring and badging. Both of these raise good security questions: Test-takers desire more flexibility in how they test and when; with technology as it stands today, is it possible to create a test that can be taken in one’s living room? How do we ensure no one has notes, or a helper in the room? How do we verify identity without running into privacy limitations? These are all facets of remote proctoring that we in the security field will need to address, and I saw some innovative demonstrations at the conference focusing on all those questions. Security is definitely at the forefront of the remote proctoring field.

    The other hot topic was badging—the practice of earning a digital “badge” that denotes a particular skill or achievement. Badges are meant to supplement, rather than replace, a certification. Again, from a security standpoint, how do we ensure that a badge isn’t “stolen?” How do I make sure a badge that shows up on someone’s resume is completely earned? What if they expire? All good questions, and another trend I will be keeping my eye on.

    What do you all think? Does it make you nervous to take a test in your pajamas, or is this a convenience that outweighs the possibility cheating could increase? Does the idea of a digital badge raise any fraud questions for you?

    Got a tip for me? Let me know at

  • The world is coming to an end, the sky is falling, and all is lost. How do I know this? Because I just failed a Microsoft exam. Well, at least that’s how I felt when I failed the exam. To be fair, to accurately test your knowledge and skill, exams are meant to be difficult. And even the most knowledgeable and skilled exam takers sometimes fail. As long as the goal of finishing your certification is still on track, it isn’t a failure—it’s a learning opportunity.

    A little more than a year ago, I challenged myself to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Server 2012 certification. To accomplish this goal, I needed to pass three exams. Having a background in databases and having been certified in the last three versions of SQL Server, I figured this would be an easy task. I would soon find out how wrong I was.

    The first exam seemed fairly simple, and I passed on my first attempt. However, the second exam was a little more difficult. I got very close to a passing score but, sadly, not close enough. I was more than upset with myself for rushing into that exam and probably even more frustrated by being so close to success.

    When you fail an exam, you must wait 24 hours to take it again. From my exam report, I was able to review the area where I did not score very well. After being humbled and taking the extra time to study, I was able to pass the exam on the second attempt.

    Again, my goal was to earn the MCSA certification. Although it would be nice to pass every exam on the first try, failing an exam does not mean failure. It really is just another step in the learning process. It is only failure if you give up. I say this because that third exam tested my resolve even more than it tested my knowledge.

    Not only did I fail the third exam, I failed it twice! And the second attempt was with an even worse score than the first. Admittedly, I was more fatigued than frustrated at this point. After the second time you don’t pass an exam, you must wait 14 days to retake it. Since there was nothing I could do about that exam for two weeks anyway, I figured I might as well use that time to relax. Sometimes you can get too close to the material, and time away can help you to regain focus.

    Jumping back on the horse, my next step was to again review the score report to see which areas I needed to improve. From there, I went back through my courseware, as well as an older book I had about data warehousing. And, as they say, the third time was the charm. I had earned my MCSA, and I eventually went on to earn my Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) Data Platform certification.

    I can tell you from experience that there may be setbacks, there may be frustration, and there may even be a sense of doom. The challenge is to not give up. To be honest, those setbacks helped me appreciate how difficult this certification journey can be sometimes. But it is a journey that is worth taking, no matter how many times you might stumble. And if you stumble… all is not lost, the clouds are still in the sky, and failing an exam is not the end of the world.

  • Hey, Everybody! I'm Leann Turpin and I'm the Site Manager here on Born to Learn.
    Spring has finally sprung and new opportunities are sprouting up all over the place. Here in Redmond, we've transitioned from the rainy Winter season to the rainy Spring season - which really just means instead of socks and sandals, socks are optional (c'mon, I know everyone outside of the Pacific Northwest thinks that's how we really walk around every day).

    In the spirit of all things Spring, besides running the Born to Learn site and raising my four kids, I've joined many of you in the Certification Challenge and will be pursuing my MCSD certification! Some of you may be wondering why I'd bother since I obviously already have a great gig at Microsoft. Others of you may be re-reading what you just read, and wonder how in the world I'm going to find the time to do it with a job and those four kids I mentioned. Well, that's what's completely awesome about the Certification Challenge. I can start when I'm ready (which just happens to be now) and take advantage of all the resources offered along with the amazing peer support from the community to keep me on track!

    So, why bother?

    I started my career at Microsoft when I was quite young (more years ago than I think is proper to discuss). You could say that everything I learned about technology, I learned from Microsoft. Throughout the course of my career here, I've held many roles and each came with their own challenges and learning opportunities. Microsoft really does foster an environment for learning new technologies and skills and using them daily. I have to be candid though, and say that early in my career I thought just doing the job every day should be enough to demonstrate my proficiency (I am an employee after all, and I do use Microsoft products daily). For some, that may ring true, but in today's ever changing career landscape, as a woman in technology and an employee who is surrounded by highly skilled and capable peers, I've been looking for a way to differentiate myself and I think certification is just the ticket. I'm going to boost my own personal brand by partnering my broad career experience with the deep technical skills that an MCSD certification offers. And hey, who doesn't want to join the app revolution? 

    What about you? If you're thinking about certification now, what is your personal "why'?

    Can I balance everything?

    I've been thinking about pursuing certification for quite some time and like many working parents, I just wasn't sure how in the world I'd squeeze it all in. It all seems so BIG doesn't it? So, I waited. And waited.
    Today, although I'm committed to my goal, I still don't have that answer. What I do have is a plan. I took the time to download the certification roadmap and chose my cert path. I know where my mileposts are and I've set my goal. I have a great community and a pool of study group resources and Microsoft Virtual Academy training to draw from, and although I have NO IDEA what to expect from the process yet, I'm just going to take them one exam at a time and go for it!
    Will I take practice exams? Will I take classroom training from a Microsoft Learning Partner? Will I go it completely on my own? Okay, so maybe my plan is missing a few details, but I'll be checking in along the way to share updates about my progress and my experiences with you. I'll share what works for me, and maybe it will help you, too.

    Your turn! Are you in?

    I'm excited that there are thousands of you who are already participating in the Certification Challenge and I am encouraged beyond belief when I see you posting about your successes in the forums or sharing your story on the MCP Story Wall. If you haven't joined, join today! You decide on your timeline. You decide on your path. We'll all work together to achieve our goals.

  • We want to highlight the work of Microsoft Certified Professionals. I want to hear from you about your experience stepping through exam objectives to learn your framework, and how that process has helped you identify skills gaps and do better work. More importantly, we want to feature your success. So, if you are a Microsoft Certified Professional and have built an app you're proud of, now is the time and this is the place to brag about it.

    In the following weeks, I will select my favorite apps to promote in the MCP newsletter and via social media. (Yes, free marketing opportunities for your app!) I'll be trying out your app on my Surface or Windows Phone, and I'll invite an MCT to review your app, too.

    If you want to be featured, I will need to verify your MCPness. (Yes, I made up that word for us.) Please include the following info in your comment below:

    1. Your name:
    2. MC ID number (or link to transcript):
    3. Most recent Microsoft certification achieved:
    4. Your app's name:
    5. Link to download your app:
    6. What does the app do? Why did you make it?
    7. How has being a Microsoft Certified Professional helped you create better apps?

    P.S. If you haven't started your Microsoft certification journey, now is a good time to set a goal by joining the Certification Challenge.

  • Well, I think I've hit on a topic that really resonates with my loyal followers. Your comments to my recent blog post, "Microsoft is NOT Trying to Trick You," have provided me with some interesting insight into your exam experiences. As one poster so aptly put it, I really should have said "Microsoft is Trying NOT to Trick You." Clearly, many of you have seen content that you feel is tricky, even if we don't intend it to be. Based on your comments, I've identified three key themes that I'd like to address:

    1) Question clarity; poorly written questions

    2) Out of scope content

    3) Ongoing sustainment of exams (i.e., you tell us something is broken, why does it take so long to fix?)

    Of course, if there's a theme that I'm missing, let me know. I'm happy to share with you what I can about how things work at Microsoft.

    I have a lot to say on each of these topics, so I will blog about them separately... a series of blogs on 'trickiness' if you will. I'm going to start with the "question clarity/poorly written questions" issue because this seemed to be the most frequently occurring theme in the comments to my previous post, has been mentioned in many places--not just in response to this post but in response to other posts as well (I've also seen it mentioned on other blogs and social media sites, so you clearly have some thoughts about this!), and question clarity is mentioned quite often in the comments you provide at the end of the exam. 

    So, let's start with the item writing process. Microsoft has specific requirements related to wording, phrasing, and sentence structure. Much of this is related to keeping sentences and words simple for localization. Unfortunately, this can result in weird sentence structures in English. For example, imagine you have to consider both X and Y when coming up with a solution. If we were strictly writing this for ENU candidates, we'd probably write it like this: "consider x and y," but conjunctions make sentences grammatically complex, which can be problematic when localizing. As a result, we end up stating this as two separate sentences. This can feel awkward to English speaking candidates, and awkward sentence structures are perceived as unclear.

    Another factor that comes into play here is that questions can be perceived as unclear because candidates feel like we have not provided sufficient information to answer the item correctly. However, we simply cannot layout every nuance of the scenario described in the question--we already get complaints that our items are too wordy (which several of you mentioned in your comments!). All exam items, not just Microsoft's, require some level of inference that is appropriate to the target audience and level of knowledge/skill/ability being assessed (fewer inferences are expected for knowledge based items, while more inferences are expected in application types of questions). We expect that candidates who are truly qualified to make appropriate inferences based on their knowledge, skills, and experiences with the technology; after all, you do this in real life. When I discuss items with subject matter experts (SMEs), I emphasize that some level of inference is appropriate. If you think that what is required in an item is unclear because information is missing, ask yourself "what information is missing?" Based on the information that we provide, what logical inference would you make about that missing information that would help you answer the question? If you're qualified and have the experience detailed in the audience profile, that inference should be the "correct" one. Make it, and answer the question accordingly. If you answer that no logical inference can be made, then we may not have provided sufficient information... let us know in your comments. 

    Most important, though, DON'T overthink the question. I think many overqualified candidates talk themselves out of the correct answer because they read more into the question than what's there. These are the inferences that someone in the target audience would make, not someone who is very qualified like you are :).

    Although we work closely with our SMEs in item development and during the technical review of the questions, undoubtedly questions that are not as clear as we think they are will get through the process. I identify them in two ways. First, I can actually identify them through their psychometric performance (bet you didn't know that!). I have found one statistic, in particular, that often sheds light on confusing questions; when it falls below my psychometric guideline for acceptable performance, I often learn through conversations with SMEs that the question is unclear. This statistic doesn't always mean that the question is unclear, but it's a good indicator that it might be. Second, as you can tell from the comments to my previous post, some of you take the time to let me know--through your end of exam comments--when an item is unclear. In both cases, we discuss these items with SMEs and get their feedback on the clarity issue. In many cases, the lack of clarity stems for one of the two issues that I discussed above. We will try to reword unclear items when we can to address these issues if the SMEs believe it's necessary and possible, but sometimes, they don't agree with either the statistics or comments about the question's lack of clarity. When that happens, I will keep the item on the exam but monitor both the psychometric performance and your comments... if these issues continue (you'd be surprised that they can work themselves out), then I will remove them from the item pool.

    You see I have way too much to say on this topic! Stay tuned for the next installment which will focus on "out of scope content" although I can hardly wait to see what you have to say about this one!

  • If you’re career-focused, you’re probably maintaining an active profile on LinkedIn—the world’s largest professional network. It is essential for building and engaging with relationships that land your next job…or a new career.

    I’m very excited to  announce that we have teamed up with LinkedIn to make it easier for you to add your Microsoft Certification credentials to your LinkedIn Profile.

    After earning a certification, you’ll receive an email from Microsoft with a link that presents you with a profile update form with an automatically populated certification field, complete with the details of the certification you just completed. Simply click “Save,” and the certification will be added to your LinkedIn Profile.

    To ensure you receive reminders, make sure you are using the same email address for both LinkedIn and your MCP profile, and confirm in your MCP profile settings that you’re opted in for promotional emails. That way, you’ll never miss out on an opportunity to get recognized for your Microsoft certifications.

    Don’t want to wait for your first reminder? Add a certification today!

    Don’t forget you can add new or recent certifications to your profile at any time—it takes just a few minutes. Here’s how:

    1. Sign in to your LinkedIn profile.
    2. Move your cursor over Profile at the top of your homepage and select Edit Profile.
    3. If you've never added a certification before, click Certifications on the right side of the page. If you've previously added a certificate, scroll down to the Certifications section and click +Add.
    4. Type in your certification information. A menu displaying companies will appear as you type in the Certification Authority field. Be sure to select the correct authority from the menu so their logo appears next to the certification on your profile.
    5. Click Save.

    Keep an eye in your inbox for reminder emails!

     As Senior Director of the Sales, Marketing & Programs team within Microsoft Learning Experiences (formally MSL), Carrie Francey oversees worldwide sales, marketing and programs for Microsoft’s Learning Experiences team, responsible for building Microsoft’s reach with learning partners & customers. 

  • Technology moves fast, and every day, you’re sprinting to keep up. Whether you’re putting in extra hours on the job or training after hours, you’re doing the hard work to keep pace with quickly evolving technologies. One way is through certification. We want to honor your hard work and let you share it with others. So we’ve created the MCP Story Wall, where you can share words, images and videos documenting your successes. Whether you’ve recently passed a certification exam or achieved a goal related to certification, we want to hear your story.

    Oh, and have we said “congratulations”? With your new credential or accomplishment, you’re in a better position to take on new projects or responsibilities, pursue a new career or, heck, just brag a little and inspire others in the process. We invite you to post your story on the MCP Story Wall You’ve worked hard, now celebrate!

    To submit your story:

    1. Go to the Story Wall.

    2. Click Share your story.



    2. Select your method of submitting either an image, video or story, via Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, flickr, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn or direct upload.


    3. Sign in to the channel by which you will be submitting, and follow the instructions.

    Not ready for the spotlight? Visit the Story Wall and check out others’ successes!

  • Well, that’s what I’ve been told – mostly, I’m chasing down every minute of the day just to complete stuff: work, get to work, drive home, spend quality time with my family, go to the gym, work some more, watch one or five of the 18 TV shows I DVR, sleep when I can… repeat. And if anything varies outside that routine, it better be interesting, or frankly, I forget I’m even doing it. Sometimes, I have a small break where I go to the store in the middle of the day for something specific and there’s loads of people just leisurely strolling around, simply window shopping, and I think – what I wouldn’t give to have that kind of time.

    But the truth is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. So why bring this up? Because if you’ve ever sat down to make some kind of goal, you know you need to set a timeline, right? Something that outlines what you’ll achieve by a certain date, or how much time you’ll devote to it each day. Or baby steps maybe – like committing to it in your head, but not out loud, not just yet. And if you frequent this blog, you most likely have some kind of desire to either continue your path in technical training, or are part of the certification community, or want to be. That’s one of the reasons why we created the Certification Challenge, to get folks ready to certify. And whether or not this is your first time or your hundredth, it’s still not a bad idea to set a timeline. We threw 180 days out there for you, from whatever day you start – 6 months should do the trick if you’re serious, but if all you have is time, how much do you really need?

    Ok, where to start? Or maybe you already have and, at present, have reached some kind of plateau. Maybe springtime is exactly what you need – I love it because it’s a time of growth, resurgence, rebirth – of ideas, motivation, ambition. I find myself revitalized to kick start things I was so gung ho about right after the new year – things that seem to have fizzled out, like my diet. And typically, I put May/June as my timeline for attainment of my goal. Why? Because it’s also Microsoft Event Season! Well that’s not a bad timeframe – about two months is probably doable for a lot of you to get ready for testing – especially if you’ve joined the Certification Challenge and utilize the tools we’ve laid out for you. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, waiting until you actually get to TechEd (or TechReady in July, if you’re a Microsoft employee) isn’t a totally bad idea either – unless your end goal, is desired weight loss by TechEd J.

    Let’s say you wait until TechEd to get started. You’re not alone, but you’re not out of luck either. We’re ready now to take your pre-registration for an exam (at 50% off – great deal btw) so let that be your baby step. Schedule that exam. Commit. Next step – get to Houston early and make use of our onsite Study Hall, open on Sunday, where we’re offering free Practice Tests, free Safari e-books, and easy access to free online training from MVA (Microsoft Virtual Academy). That exercise will offer you a quick assessment, and allow you to see where you are – I’m betting for most of you, if you’re good at your job, you probably have enough know-how to get you through that first exam – remember you’re only looking for a passing score. Next, take a look at the schedule of Exam Prep Sessions offered throughout the week, and find the ones that map to the exam(s) you are planning to take – even if you aren’t planning to take them during that week – they’re still super valuable. Here’s why: we bring you top notch MCTs (Microsoft Certified Trainers) from around the world, hand-selected to take a week off from their regular jobs teaching certification classes, and bring them straight to you. So the expertise you’re getting, either during one of their 75- minute Exam Prep Session, or if you’re smart, during a one-on-one conversation with one of them at the booth or at our Certification Central area, is absolutely invaluable.

    So what do you have to lose – time? Remember, the time will pass anyway, regardless of what you decide to do. Why not use it to get certified? The worst that could happen is you get a promotion, learn more, get a raise, a better job, have more confidence, master your craft, find a better way to do things, find a faster way to do things, earn bragging rights, be a part of a global community of over 5 million people certified in Microsoft technologies, get asked to speak at TechEd, get offered a part in a Scorsese film – wait, well maybe not that, but all those other things? Very doable. Start today.

  • It's safe to say that Windows Azure Technical Fellow, Mark Russinovich, needs no introduction among our MCP community. Many of you heard from him during our Certified Career Day last year, when he did an exclusive interview with Wes Miller on the key capabilities organizations needs when migrating workloads to the cloud. If you missed that event, watch the video on YouTube.

    Mark will be speaking at TechEd North America 2014, coming up in May. To prepare, he will be doing a live chat. Whether you plan to attend or not, hop on to Twitter and ask him questions.

    When: 8:00AM PDT on Thursday, March 27, 2014

    Where: Live on Twitter


    How: Use hashtag #TechEdChat to ask questions or follow the conversation

    (And if you haven't registered for TechEd NA, do it now while you're thinking about it!)

  • So, in my last blog post I chatted about my last project task and it had to do with an Item Selection Meeting and how we used Subject Matter Experts (SME). So I thought it was cool to write a series on this. Today, I will talk to you about how to become an SME and after a little bit of research I found the answer. The next blog post is going to be about an SME’s side of the story.

    Microsoft Learning works with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from around the world to develop the content in our exams and other products

    So in short, How do I become an SME? As easy as 2 steps….

     Caught an Xbox developer in action

    Go to the Microsoft Connect Site  to read all the info and register.



     Selfie of yours truly

    Fill out the Microsoft Learning SME Profile .  We'll contact you about opportunities that match the skills and experience in your profile, such as blueprinting or beta exams. As you gain new experience and skills, or as new versions of products come out, you'll need to update your profile by editing your survey responses.


    (Note: You will need to sign in with you Microsoft account and register on Connect before you can access the survey.)


    Remember that a lot of  good things come from participating, one of them is that SMEs who help create exam content can get credit, Liberty (our Psychometrician) blog about it a couple of months ago.

    Talk to you soon!


  • Can you believe TechEd North America 2014 is only two months away? Will we see you in Houston in May? We could not be more excited. Melissa calls it her summer camp. That's how much we love all the activities and the community during TechEd NA week every year.

    Microsoft Learning is again bringing Certification Central this year, offering free learning resources in the onsite study hall, exam prep sessions delivered by Microsoft Certified Trainers, 50% discount on MCP exams (plus a free one: 74-409), advice from MCT Ambassadors, and of course, the MCP party "Certification Nation Celebration." Wait, what? A party just for Microsoft Certified Professionals? Yes, you read that right. Want the details? Watch this episode of the TechEd Countdown Show with Rick, Joey and Melissa!

    To keep tabs on everything we're doing before and during TechEd:

    • Watch this blog for updates
    • Follow @MSLearning and @TechEd_NA on Twitter
    • Check hashtags #msTechEd, #CertifyMe, and #theKrewe
    • Chat up Veronica (that's me) @Shih_Wei, or tweet at Melissa @born2amaze (She hasn't tweeted yet. Let's see if we can get her to this year.)

  • The Association for Test Publishers hosted their annual "Innovations in Testing" conference during the first week of March. This conference is a great opportunity to network with others in the assessment industry, learn what challenges other certification programs are facing and how they are solving them, and to share our own best practices so that others may learn from what we're doing. Microsoft had a strong presence at this conference, presenting 8 sessions covering topics ranging from performance based testing to psychometrics to security to evangelism.

    This is a great conference that I look forward to attending every year; it is a jam packed (read exhausting) 2 1/2 days, starting at 7am and running to the wee hours of the morning (you all know how conferences work!). Nonstop learning! I got a few nuggets that I plan to explore to determine if and how we might implement them in Microsoft's certification program. Look for a future blog from me on some of these ideas...

    One of my favorite sessions this year was the Innovative Showcase that Briana and I put together detailing Microsoft Learning Experiences efforts to engage our community through our evangelism efforts. This idea is a new one for many certification and testing programs! Everyone who visited us was impressed with what we are doing and asked many questions about how they could leverage these ideas in their own organizations. We had a great time talking to people about what we're doing and why. The most commonly asked questions were:

    • Is this your full time job? (answer: no)
    • Why are you doing this? (answer: we want to engage with our candidates, provide them with information they need to be successful in their certification efforts in a fun and informative way, and to make a connection with you!)
    • Has it been effective? (answer: we don't know yet because we're still trying to identify the "right" metrics to make this determination)

    It was a great event showcasing Microsoft's innovative approaches to community engagement that was well received by the testing community! Thanks for being a part of this effort and making us great!

  • Thanks for tuning in for another installment of my personal pursuit of the coveted MCSD: Windows Store Apps credential.

    Riding the wave of euphoria from passing Exam 70-483: Programming in C# on 31-Jan, I immediately created my study plan for Exam 70-484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#:

    1. Watch the videos for the Windows Store App Development Essentials with C# Refresh Jump Start.
    2. Read Exam Ref 70-484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#
    3. Review MSDN articles related to Windows 8.1 changes in app development.  (A good starting set of links is provided at the end of each exam objective in the Skills Measured section of the exam web page)

    I was really looking forward to taking this exam because it emphasized practical application of my programming skills. 

    I was able to squeeze in my studies in just over a month and, on 10-March, took the exam.  It was a challenging exam, really testing how to fit all the capabilities together into complete applications. 

    When I emerged from the test center a few hours later, I had missed a passing score by just a few questions, but, I have to tell you, I didn't feel defeated:

    1. I really had enjoyed the exam, approaching it as a puzzle to be solved, not as a burden.
    2. I came out of the exam with a clear picture on how to fine-tune my studies, focusing on a few key areas.

    I spent the next two days going over the Exam Ref guide again, making sure I understood all of the example code.  When I sat for the exam again on 12-March, I emerged victorious.

    I'm happy to say that I'm now only one exam away from my goal of earning the MCSD credential.  I hope that all of you are making progress on your respective learning paths and would love to hear your stories.

  • Microsoft is very supportive of employees' professional development, and that includes the pursuit of Microsoft certification.


    Regular readers of our blog recently heard from Larry Kaye about his journey toward MCSD. Larry's day job is to manage the certification portfolios related to software development and SQL Server. Check out his blog post, and ask questions in the developer certification study group.


    In January 2014, Microsoft employees from around the world attended an internal training conference called TechReady. Microsoft Learning team was there to provide certification path information, deliver exam prep sessions, and offer onsite testing. This year, attendees took 753 exams to help them demonstrate technical readiness.


    Those who work around Microsoft technologies are always sharpening their skills, too. Brad Groux, a Microsoft Premier Engineer in Houston, Texas, recently started a new series on his own blog: "How to Become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer." Brad is going after MCSD: Windows Store Apps, starting with HTML5 and then moving onto C#. You can read part 1 of his blog series here and follow him on Twitter @BradGroux. (Update: Brad has published part 2 of this series.)


    Coming up in March 2014, Microsoft Learning will be hosting a Test Fest for Microsoft employees on campus, offering the opportunity to take Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exams onsite. (If you’re a Microsoft employee in the Redmond, Washington vicinity, you can take these exams on campus from March 24 to 28, 2014. For details and to schedule your exams, please visit .)


    These are just a few examples of the passion and dedication to ongoing training and certification among the thousands who work at Microsoft. Most of the time, you hear me talk about the value of certification here, and I wanted to tell you about these examples today so you know there are Microsoft people who know and demonstrate that value on a daily basis. In fact, some of them are doing the certification challenge now. Join them today!


    Need help figuring out where to start? Download the Microsoft Training and Certification Guide onto your Windows 8 or RT device today.


    Editor's Note: This post originally appeared in the Certification Challenge blog and the MCP newsletter in February 2014.