ACE team blog

  • 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!

  • Did you know that you can help us improve our certification exams? It’s easy! We have three different ways that you can provide feedback on our exams.


    Did you see something that you thought was technically inaccurate, unclear, or had multiple correct answers while you were taking an exam? Let us know through the 1) exam challenge/escalation process or 2) by providing comments when you have the opportunity to do so at the close of your exam.

     

    What did you think about the overall quality of the exam and exam experience? 3) Tell us by completing the Exam Satisfaction Survey!

     

    Curious about how each of these works? Super Sigma and Psychomagician investigate how YOU play a role in improving the quality of our exams and how YOUR feedback is used to drive improvements in existing exams as well as our exam development process! Learn more by watching this video!

  • In response to my recent "Dissecting Your Score Report" blog series, you have posted a number of comments and questions that I want to answer with more detail than what I might provide in a comment to the post. I also want to address a few frequently asked questions related to scoring and score reporting.

    Are exam questions weighted? No. Each question is worth 1 point unless otherwise stated in the question itself. If a question is worth more than 1 point, it is "polytomously scored" (questions worth one point are "dichotomously scored"). If a question is worth multiple points, partial credit is possible. This means that you can get all, some, or none of the points possible. This is different from weighting. In weighting, you either get all of the points or none of them. In a recent post, I went into detail on how scoring works. Check it out to learn more about the difference between weighting and partial scoring and how that all ties to the score you see on your score report. Want to learn more, check this out!

    If an item is worth more than 1 point, how does scoring work? You receive points for every correct action you take or combination of actions that SMEs have deemed are worth one point. For example, if you are matching words to their definitions, you will likely get one point for each correct match you make. In the case of a build list or drag and drop item that is worth multiple points, you may get a point for each correctly placed object or step, or you may get a point for correctly placing "sets" of objects or steps. The goal is create equivalence between the actions required by any question and the number of points earned. In other words, SMEs who help us establish scoring consider what must be done to answer the question correctly and how that relates to what needs to be done to answer a typical multiple choice question correctly on that same exam. We have not implemented polytomous scoring on drag and drop and build list items, but if and when we do, this will be noted in the question itself, so you know how it is scored.

    If there are multiple ways to solve a problem, will I get credit if I answer using any of those ways? Yes. Scoring is set up such that all possible correct answer combinations receive credit (except in the case of best answer where multiple answer choices might be correct but only one is best given the technical and business requirements outlined in the question). For example, if you are asked to put steps to complete a task in order but the order of two steps doesn't matter, our scoring algorithms take this into account. In other words, you will get credit if you put A before B or B before A. We are adding a statement to our build list questions that clarifies that if multiple paths are possible, you will receive credit regardless of the path you select (as long as it's correct!).

    Can I find out which questions I answered incorrectly? No. Microsoft Certification exams are designed to measure candidates’ skills and abilities in various technologies, not their ability to study or memorize specific questions on exams. Qualified candidates will be able to pass this exam regardless of the questions asked. In addition, to protect the integrity of the certification process, Microsoft does not share information about the specific questions that were missed.

    Can I see a lower level of detail on my performance on upgrade exams? No. We don't ask enough questions at the objective level to be able to provide a reliable estimate of your ability for each of those skills. Providing this level of information would be a disservice to you because it would be very unreliable--we very easily could be telling you to work on skills that don't need improvement, or worse, suggesting that some skills are strengths when they are not.

    And, because I misrepresented how upgrade exams appeared on transcripts in my original post, let me clarify...

    Why must you pass each component of an upgrade to pass the overall exam? Because you must pass each exam to earn the certification, you must pass each component of the upgrade exam. This ensures equivalence across the different ways that this certification can be earned. Essentially, we have confirmed competence in each of the significant content domains (i.e., each component exam) covered by the certification regardless if you take each component exam individually or the upgrade exam.

    Other frequently asked questions related to scoring and their answers can be found here.

    OK. What questions did I miss? Or, do you want me to expand on any of the answers to the FAQs posted here? Ask away!