ACE team blog

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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 AppRevToCert@microsoft.com

  • 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) https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcse-communication-certification.aspx

    MCSE: Messaging (Exchange) https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcse-messaging-certification.aspx

    MCSE: SharePoint https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/mcse-sharepoint-certification.aspx

     

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Do you have a MCSD or MCSE that's about to expire? Want to keep your certification current? Wondering how to recertify? You're not the only one with questions, but Briana and Liberty have answers. They share what's going on with recertification in the first installment of the ACE NewsByte. They answer your core questions about what is required to recertify and when recertification will be available!

    We're also introducing the ACE NewsByte (did you notice I said "first installment"?!). Wondering what this is? It is totally awesome, of course! NewsBytes are intended to be short videos highlighting the latest news, and provide tips and information about Microsoft certifications, our program, and exams that you may not know. We would love to use this format to answer your questions, too, so let us know what's on your mind!

  • Have you ever wondered who is responsible for the quality of Microsoft’s exam content? Hint: Content development managers (or CDMs, because this wouldn’t be Microsoft if we didn’t have an acronym for this role!) with help from subject matter experts (SMEs). Super Sigma and Psychometrician interview Cari Mason, new to the ACE team and Microsoft, to learn more.

     

    In the last episode of our "Day in the Life of" and ACE Chronicles series, you will learn, along with Cari, about roles and responsibilities of CDMs on Microsoft’s exam development team, what they do every day, and how they work with SMEs to design the content domain and ensure that questions meet Microsoft’s item writing standards and measure the right skills. Because SMEs are so important to the ensuring the quality of the content, Cari has a special request for you…Stick around to the end of the video, and you’ll also learn how to become a SME yourself! You might find yourself working with Cari in the future! She’d love to meet you!

    Not only is this a great episode, but we have more great stuff planned for you. Stay tuned as we continue to reimagine how to keep you up to date on the latest breaking news and happenings in Microsoft Learning Experiences!

  • ​Microsoft Learning and Premier Field Engineering are off to a great start with the App Review To Cert Pilot Program launched on July 3rd, 2014.

     

    Over 60 MCPs have applied for the program to earn credit towards MCSD: Windows Store Apps certification through review and submission of a C# or HTML5-based Windows Store App.

     

    Space is still available, so review the program details here and sign up today at AppRevToCert@microsoft.com

  • Are you planning on taking Exchange Server 2013 in the near future? Then I have an update to share that may affect how you prepare for it.

    Exchange Server 2013 exams – specifically 341 and 342 – have now been updated for Service Pack 1. Exchange Server 2013 Service Pack 1 introduced several new features and is compatible with Windows Server 2012 R2.

    Although Microsoft Learning Experience takes a few different approaches to exam updates related to service pack releases, in this case we had Exchange SMEs view all of the questions on both exams and update them to remove any possible ambiguity in those questions. When a question is specifically referring to SP1 functionality, it is called out in the question, making it easy for candidates to know when service packs matter in terms of answering the question.  

    The first service pack of any product is a very important milestone that usually triggers many large organizations to start planning and deploying that version of the product. So if you use Exchange Server in your role, now’s the time to get certified, stay ahead of the game, and show your organization that you’re committed to keeping up with the latest changes in technology. On that note, go register for your exam today!

    Related resources:

     

  • Just in case you didn't get a chance to read this week's MCP newsletter, here's info on an exciting new certification pilot program we launched today...

    To align with the needs of software developers for a real-world performance-based alternative to exams for validating their technical skills, Microsoft Learning is partnering with the Microsoft Premier Field Engineering (PFE) team to launch an App Review To Cert Pilot in July 2014.

     

    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-Sept 1 and is limited to the first 100 applicants meeting the following qualifications:

    1. Must reside in United States, Canada, United Kingdom, or India
    2. Must have an original application that they alone have authored which:

    • has not yet been submitted to the Windows Store
    • 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 AppRevToCert@microsoft.com

  • Microsoft is developing Exam 70-517: Recertification for MCSD: SharePoint Applications, and we’d like your help.

     

    If you have experience with developing applications for SharePoint 2013, we need your feedback for our blueprinting exercise.  The blueprint determines how many questions each skill in the exam design spec will be assigned.

     

    This online survey should take no more than 20 minutes of your time.  If you’re willing and able, please complete the survey by July 16th.  Please also feel free to forward the survey to any colleagues you consider subject matter experts.  If you have any questions, please contact certquest@microsoft.com .

     

    Note: If you’re viewing the survey in Internet Explorer 9, you’ll need to switch to Compatibility Mode for the survey to function properly.

     

    Click here for the survey: http://microsoftlearning.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_cv8uWDukpqe7yVT

  • NOTE:

    My thanks to all that provided feedback on this thread.  Based on concerns you raised about maintenance of multiple MCSD and/or MSCE certifications, we have been able to make a change to the recertification deadline to ensure that all individuals will have a minimum of 12 months to prepare for and pass the associated recertification exams.  Below is the updated text, with an FAQ to address the additional points raised in the thread.

     

    UPDATE:

    Microsoft Learning has completed its review of recertification options, and will be releasing recertification exams over the next several months.

    Between Aug 2014 and Mar 2015, recertification exams will be released for all MCSE and MCSD specialties, starting with MCSD recertification exams in the Aug-Sep 2014 timeframe. 

    Recertification exams will cover material from the exams taken to originally earn the credential, with particular emphasis on the most recent product and process changes.  Exam details will be available from the Certification Planner tool at least one month prior to release. 

    Recertification deadlines for all MCSE and MCSD credential holders will be examined and adjusted, if needed, to ensure that these individuals have at least twelve (12) months to prepare and pass the recertification exam.  Please note that, if you do not recertify by the recertification deadline, your certification will become ‘Inactive’.

    FAQ

    Q: Is this certification update announcing any changes to recertification policy?

    A: No, MCSE and MCSD certifications have always had a recertification requirement to maintain the credentials, since their launch in Spring 2012.   The recertification period for MCSE is every 3 years, while the recertification period for MCSD is every 2 years.  The open issue that has now been resolved is the timing for the release of the associated recertification exams.

    Q: What certifications have a recertification requirement?

    A: Only current Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) credentials have a recertification requirement.  No other certifications - including, but not limited to, MTA, MCITP, and MCSA - require recertification.

    Q: I've already received "Microsoft Recertification Due Soon" email notifications.  How does the release of the recertification exams impact my status?

    A: The recertification deadlines for each of your MCSE and MCSD credentials will be adjusted to ensure that you have at least 12 months to take and pass the associated recertification exam.

    Q: When I take and pass a recertification exam, what will be my new recertification deadline?

    A: For MCSD certifications, your new deadline will be 2 years from the date you pass the recertification exam.  For MCSE certifications, your new deadline will be 3 years from the date you pass the recertification exam.

    Q: What will happen to my certification if I do not take the associated recertification exam by the deadline?

    A: If you do not take the recertification exam by the deadline, your certification will remain on your transcript in the "Inactive" state.

    Q: What actions can I take once my certification is in the "Inactive" state? 

    A: You should evaluate available certification paths at that time.  If a certification path with component exams different in exam number from those with which you originally earned the credential is available, you may pursue that path.  Per Microsoft Learning's Exam Retake Policy, if a candidate achieves a passing score on an exam, the candidate cannot take the exam again.

  • You may have heard that Microsoft is changing the score report based on feedback from key stakeholders such as yourself. In this installment of ACE Chronicles, Psychomagician and Super Sigma provide a high level overview of the improvements coming to score reports, including changing the anchors on the bar chart to reflect the percent of points earned in each functional group, a comparison of the test taker's performance to those who have taken the exam in the last 6-12 months, more detailed information about available learning resources, and, for those who fail, a list of the three skills (objectives) that by practicing should have the most effect on the test taker's overall performance on the exam.

    These updates will roll out as exams are published either because they are new exams or as a result of our sustainment efforts (you know the process that we use to ensure that the exam continues to be valid and reliable over time). They are already generated as part of our most popular exams, such as Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8. If you haven't seen one, watch this video to learn more, take an exam, and let us know what you think.

    Oh, and Psychomagician has a surprise for Super Sigma that changes everything... curious? Watch the video!