Exam UI v.Next – Sneak Peek at Multiple Choice

Exam UI v.Next – Sneak Peek at Multiple Choice

Stephanie Jordan (Microsoft)

Last week (Certification UI Team Wants U), I asked a couple of open ended questions about your exam experiences – thank you to everyone who posted and emailed me offline.  There were some great suggestions and it provided me with a good sense of where we’re starting from on this project.  It was good to hear that (in general) the basic exam functionality is working for most people – you’re able to answer questions, navigate around the exam, and you can focus on the content without a lot of unnecessary distractions.  Performance is important to you – and me too – so we will continue to make that part of our success criteria.   

To lift some of the mystery, I want to give you quick peek at what we’re considering for implementation.   With very minor exceptions, functionality will not change – the way items work, navigation, timing, sections – we want to keep this familiar to those with experience taking exams.  And for first time test takers, the interface should continue to be intuitive and easy to use. 

The current UI was designed for the world of hand coded HTML and 16 bit color – technology advances over the last decade (clearly Smile) give us more flexibility in design.  Still (I’m a conservative type) we’ll ensure that performance is not a concern for test centers with a variety of hardware configurations and regardless of geographic location – as long as a test center meets Prometric’s hardware requirements, the exam experience should not differ.   

Here’s the preliminary design for our most common item type - behold the multiple choice:

You’ll notice some minor changes to the button appearance and a blue background – but the features are the same as they have been in the past.  The intent is to be more “calm blue ocean," and non-distracting.  (note: actual rendering at Prometric will be 1024 x 768, so text will be larger than it appears here).

The UI effort is tied to platform updates that will improve exam stability and performance - that's coming later this year.   And since we’re cracking open the rendering engines anyway, we have an opportunity to make some cosmetic changes as well.  After the first rollout is complete, we plan usability studies to identify any area for functional improvement.  Based on those results, we may make functional modifications in the future - or maybe not, if the data suggests that the UI functions well "as is"... we'll see.  And any changes would be communicated prior to release - so there are no surprises for candidates at the test center.

So that's multiple choice --- how are we doing so far?

Comments
  • Anonymous
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    I really don't like the 1024x768 resolution from 1999. On a lot of monitors it looks blurry and hard to read. Could it be a dynamic resolution for the rendering. Some test centers use larger screens that can do 1600x1200, others are stuck at 1024x768... Or just add Pearson Vue back. They seem to do a much better job than Prometric! ;)

  • Erno
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    Please do not include the answers in the scrollable area. As soon as the question becomes longer you keep on scrolling comparing the answers to the text. Otherwise: nice colors.

  • Anonymous
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    You're doing fine. But I want to have the "Mark for Comment" Button back - especially for Beta Exams!

  • Anonymous
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    I like the new interface, cosmetically speaking.  I'ts a nice refresh, I like blue, etc.  

    As I mentioned in the previous post, 1024x768 is bad.  I understand that it's a lowest common denominator and all that, but you end up with huge text and I spend half of the test scrolling around because I can't see everything that I want on screen at once.  It would be great if there were some way that the resolution could be adjusted for each test taker.  That way someone who has better eyesight can use higher resolutions, etc.  I could see this eventually becoming a differentiating factor between test centers too, if some of them are willing to put in better equipment..  Right now there's no incentive to use anything other than a 15" display because the resolution is so low.

  • Anonymous
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    Cosmetically I like the new layout and colors. However, 1024x768 is a bit too old school for me. I get that you are looking for a resolution that will work on all monitors but come on guys, it's 2011 for crying out loud. 1280x1024 would work for most test centers nowadays... Keep up the good work!

  • Anonymous
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    Please switch back to pearson vue, prometric is down 75% of the time i have to take a test and it takes 6-8 weeks to schedule a test due to a lack of testing centers

  • Anonymous
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    I second Erno's opinion. It would be better if the question and answer could be seperated to different frame.

    And if the question is going to be long, I'd love to see the question area seperated to "index" and "contents" with HTML anchors to title of different sub-section too (Ideally on one scroll-page per anchor ratio.)

    Btw, if the second idea will affect stalibility on certain older configurations, please ignore it (stability >>> easiness to view)..

  • Pete Jones
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    I notice that even with all that white space, there is still a scroll bar on the right.

    Do you have any idea how annoying it gets to have to scroll down and reveal yet more nothingness before you can go on to the next question, or back to the previous one?

    "Complete this action. You have no choice. It achieves nothing productive, but you can't do anything else otherwise."

    Also, the Prometric hardware "standards" are laughably archaic. Given home broadband links and webcams, why can't I take the test from home? You can verify who I am on camera, and I promise if/when I pass not to do the victory-dance-in-just-my-pants. Much.

    Sure, there is the argument that home testers could look up the answers. But isn't that what we do at work if we don't know how to solve the problem? Surely the knowledge on how to find the right answers is a better skill than rote learning?