Interested in Developing Microsoft Exam Content? What You Need to Know about the Conflict of Interest Statement

Interested in Developing Microsoft Exam Content? What You Need to Know about the Conflict of Interest Statement

Liberty Munson (Microsoft)

I was at the MCT Summit in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and as soon as the I walked in the door, I was bombarded with questions about that pesky conflict of interest statement that you're asked to sign if you are interested in participating in MCP exam development (this doesn't apply to all of our exams, but it does apply to most of our TS and Pro exams). To clarify the requirements, I was asked to blog about what this COI really means. It really boils down to two restrictions:

  • Teaching restriction: Any SME who participates in the alpha session cannot teach a course that is considered preparation for that exam for 12 months after the alpha. This ONLY applies to those who participate in the alpha.
  • Learning content development restriction: SMEs who participate in any phase of exam content development and/or an item idea generation session (usually a part of the development of the content, or objective, domain) are prevented from developing any learning materials that would be considered part of the learning path for that exam. SMEs can develop training and other learning materials that are related to the use and functionality of the technology as long as their primary purpose is not exam preparation.

Why do we have these restrictions?

  1. Our exams are intended to be independent evaluations of your skills. From a certification perspective, we don't care how you get those skills as long as you have them. If someone writes content for our exams as well as learning materials that are considered exam preparation, we may unintentionally create exam content that is actually a post-training test rather than that independent evaluation of your skills. One way to ensure that doesn't happen is to restrict exam authors from being courseware authors and vice versa.
  2. This separation is required by most accrediting bodies and the standards that they use to evaluate the quality of a certification or testing body. As you know, some of our certifications have been accredited by ANSI and a few other similar organizations around the world. To maintain those accreditations, we have to maintain this separation. However, even if we didn't have this accreditation, we would still maintain this separation (see point #1).

What other questions do you have about this?

The happy ending to this story is that I was able to clarify the requirements with the MCTs who were interested in helping us create the SQL Server 2012 exams and our content development vendors as soon as I knew there was a misunderstanding... if I know there's a problem, I'll do everything in my power to fix it, but I can't fix it if I don't know. You have to tell me if something's broken, seriously. Reach out to mslcdm@microsoft.com if you can't figure out who can solve your problem. We'll figure it out.

Want to develop exam or learning content for Microsoft's Certification program? We'd love to have your help! To get involved, sign up for our SME database. You can click here to go directly to the survey on Microsoft Connect, or click here for a link to a post with more complete instructions.

Comments
  • Renato Martins
    |

    Hi Liberty,

    so the only restriction for teaching is with we attend the alpha? If I go to a standards setting, item selection, review items, or even write exam items, there's no restriction for teaching the course related to the exam?

    Thanks,

    Renato

  • Liberty Munson (Microsoft)
    |

    Hi Renato,

    You are correct. The teaching restriction ONLY applies to people who participate in alpha. If you see the entire item pool, you can't teach for a year afterward.

    Thanks for asking!