ACE team blog

  • We’ve just released two new exams for beta testing -- Exam 695: Deploying Windows Devices and Enterprise Apps and Exam 696: Managing Enterprise Devices and Apps.

    These new exams are part of the new Enterprise Devices and Apps MCSE, which enables technologists to demonstrate solution-level skills for device management in today’s BYOD enterprise. You can earn the new MCSE by having a Windows 8 MCSA (or a Windows Server 2012 MCSA) and passing exams 695 and 696. Please note that because exams 695 and 696 are beta exams, you will not know your results until after the exams are scored.

    Stay tuned for more information about the Enterprise Devices and Apps MCSE.

    To register for the beta exams, please go to


  • It has been a while, so I have no right to hope you didn’t forget me. I could go on and on with all the reasons for this, but, truth be told, I have been extremely busy at work and in my personal life. We all prioritize when we go through these periods, and sometimes the things that bring you the most joy are the ones that suffer the consequences. I know that I’m not the first or the last to have to balance it all. In fact, when I was talking to my friend and co-worker Andrew, I kind of discovered he was going through the same thing. (You might remember him from the video series, Ask a Certification Expert.) 

    Andrew is my unofficial IT “go-to” guy. Most of the time, if I have an issue with my laptop at work, I just call him and he fixes it for me. So one day, while we were waiting for a meeting to start, I asked him, “Where did you learn all of this?” That was when I found out that he really was an IT guy in his previous life—he had taken some exams before, and he wanted to do it all over again, but life was crazy for him at that moment. Somehow, something struck me. I knew I needed to push him—and myself—so I publicly challenged him to take an exam, and I challenged myself to follow his journey and to blog about it. That way we would both be doing things that bring us lots of joy.

    We are going to show you everything, or, as I like to say, we are going to show you “the good, the bad, and the ugly”—from preparation to when he actually goes to take Exam 687 - Configuring Windows 8.1 on January 6, 2015. I ask him, “Why are you pursuing Exam 687 - Configuring Windows 8.1?” And Andrew says, “Pursuing certification to validate my perceived skills with Windows 8.1, to prove to myself that my technical capabilities have kept up with the times, and to experience what our exam candidates go through as they use our products.”

    Today, you can see the first step of his journey in this very short video and hear more about why he accepted my challenge.  

    Talk to you soon, and don’t forget to breathe when life gets busy! 




  • My team is constantly looking for new, creative, better, and FUN (yes, I said it... exams can be FUN!) ways to assess your skills. One of our content development managers is particularly creative in this area. She's always working on something new. Well, in a few months, you will start seeing a new question type on select exams. We're calling it "Assertion-Reason."


    What is it?  

    This question type consists of two statements that are essentially an assertion (statement of fact) and a reason (explanation for why that assertion is true). To answer these questions, you must first determine whether each statement is correct. If both are correct, you then must determine whether the reason correctly explains the assertion. The statements could be based on a situation described in the question stem or a case study and may include an exhibit. 


    Why are we trying it?

    • It can be used to explore your understanding of cause and effect relationships as well as your ability to identify those relationships.
    • It can test both knowledge and understanding of how or why something works as well as your ability to apply that knowledge to solve a problem. In other words, it can test not only whether you understand the practical applications/implications of a possible solution but also why that solution should (or should not) work.


    An Example:

    This question consists of two statements. If Statement A is correct and Statement B is correct, determine whether Statement B is the correct explanation for Statement A.

    Statement A: Microsoft Office 365 provides companies with many authentication options to authorize user’s access to the Office 365 services. When a company wants to control the password policy of users they can deploy an Active Directory Federation Services topology and integrate it with Office 365.

    Statement B: The Windows Azure Active Directory Synchronization (DirSync) tool of Microsoft Office 365 provides companies with password sync mechanism that synchronizes user password hashes every 5 minutes.

    A. Both Statement A and Statement B are correct and Statement B is the correct explanation for Statement A.

    B. Both Statement A and Statement B are correct but Statement B is not the correct explanation for Statement A.

    C. Statement A is correct but Statement B is incorrect.

    D. Statement A is incorrect but Statement B is correct.

    E. Both Statement A and Statement B are incorrect.

    Answer is B.

    Rationale: Password Sync and ADFS is mutually exclusive you deploy one or the other, but not both. Both does gives companies the ability to control the user’s password policy.


    Your call to action:

    This question type is a bit more complicated than some of our others, so I want your feedback. Specifically, do you understand what you need to do to answer this type of question? How clear are the instructions and requirements for answering this question type? What other thoughts do you have?


    I look forward to reading your thoughts and feedback about this question type!

  • UPDATE: Global Knowledge has extended its IT Skills and Salary Survey until 5-Nov. Take this opportunity to share your opinions, if you haven't already done so.  Here are the details:

    How does your salary compare to national averages? Which skills are in demand? Do training and certifications impact salary? Global Knowledge and Microsoft are conducting one of the industry's most extensive surveys of IT and business professionals. Last year's survey had more than 16,000 participants. Be part of the research to see how much IT and business pros earn, which training and certifications matter most, and other critical issues facing workers today.

    The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll receive a complimentary copy of our IT Skills and Salary Report when it’s published in March.  Start the survey.

  • Briana and I just learned about a new MVA series that we think is totally awesome! Microsoft is hosting a series of MVA courses on game development that will introduce people to a wide variety of game development platforms and provide insight into how to get your game into the Windows Store. There is something for everyone... from those of you like me who are new to the developer world in general and/or to the game development world specifically to more experienced game developers who want to dig into the hard core aspects of designing and developing games. 

    Want to be the cool cat (or dog Smile) on the block and have a game in the Windows Store? Well, this series can put you one step closer. Every Thursday through March (and possibly longer), you can join a live broadcast on one of the many game development platforms that we will be featuring in this series. The platforms range from those where no programming experience is required (e.g., Construct2, Gamemaker, or Marmalade) to those for more advanced developers (e.g., Unity, Cocos2d, HTML, C++, or DirectX). Can't join on Thursday mornings or missed one that you wanted to see? No worries! The videos will be available through MVA shortly after the session.

    Want to learn more about the series, the speakers, and platforms that will be included? Watch this ACE NewsByte!

    I cannot tell you how excited I am about this...I am seriously fascinated by developer world; the logic, creativity, and problem solving needed to write "elegant" code appeals to my mathematical mind. My husband is a developer, and he often says that I would make a great developer. Maybe, he's onto something... As part of Hour of Code initiative, I was sucked into learning basic coding through touchdevelop and was instantly hooked! I plan to attend one of the entry level courses. I hope to "see" you there!

  • Did you hear the news that you now have more options for earning your MCSA: Windows Server 2012 and your MCSA: SQL Server 2012? In both cases, two predefined exams are required, but you now have choice to take one of four exams to meet the third requirement for earning either of these certifications, moving us one step closer to truly flexible certifications (could a "build your own certification" idea be far behind? Hmmmm... let me noodle on the psychometric implications of that--I love a good challenge!). Giving you an option on how to fulfill the third requirement ensures that your certification is measuring skills and abilities relevant to your career path and/or the work that your currently doing in your organization.

    Oh, and once you earn your certification, don't forget to get your Certified MCP shirts for Xbox Avatars in the Xbox Store! So cool!

    Want to learn more? Check out this ACE NewsByte as Briana and I explain the details of the new elective process for each of these certifications.

  • SQL Server Recertification Exams Released

    The second wave of recertification exams, corresponding to SQL Server-focused MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence certifications, 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 Now Offered Through Online-Proctored Exams (US Only) 

    To make recertification as frictionless as possible, Microsoft Learning is now offering all Developer and SQL Server Recertification Exams through our new online-proctored delivery option.  Online proctored exams allow you to take an exam in the comfort of your home or office, while being monitored by an offsite proctor.  At this time, online proctored exams are only available to customers in the United States - additional geographies will be added in the months to come. 

    For more details and to register for these exams, please visit:

  • UPDATE: The survey will be closing on 24-Oct, so don't forget to participate, if you haven't already done so.

    How does your salary compare to national averages? Which skills are in demand? Do training and certifications impact salary? Global Knowledge and Microsoft are conducting one of the industry's most extensive surveys of IT and business professionals. Last year's survey had more than 16,000 participants. Be part of the research to see how much IT and business pros earn, which training and certifications matter most, and other critical issues facing workers today.

    The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll receive a complimentary copy of our IT Skills and Salary Report when it’s published in March.  Start the survey.

  • Microsoft Learning recently announced that candidates can take certain exams from almost anywhere through VUE's online proctoring option. We are one of the first large certification programs to offer candidates the option to take exams online (from almost anywhere, including your home or office) rather than at a test center. And, we want you to help us make this part of the certification landscape...shouldn't you have the flexibility to take an exam when you want from where you want? Shouldn't this be part of the DNA of certification testing? Yes, it should!

    To do this, we need you to take one (or more) online proctored exam and share your feedback. Because the online proctored scenario must mimic the test center experience, there are certain things you need to do to prepare for the exam, which ensures the security of the exam content and the integrity of the process. Rather than list the requirements in a blog post (how boring!), I think it will be more fun to watch Briana and me provide some of the ins and outs on how online proctoring works, what to expect, and other tips to ensure that you have the best exam delivery experience possible in an ACE NewsByte. So, check it out!

    Because this is groundbreaking not only for Microsoft but for the certification industry and for YOU, we are launching this very much like a beta exam, and we are learning along the way--as you can see from the video, even in the time we filmed this (just a week ago!), a few tidbits have changed, like the days and times when the exams will be available. For the most up to date information about online proctoring, requirements, etc., be sure to review the information here before you launch your first exam; as we roll out online proctoring for more exams, languages, and countries, we will update the information on that page, so check it often.

    We really want your feedback on how we can make the experience better. Watch the video, take an online proctored exam from the comfort of your own home or office, and most important, let us know what you think!!

  • Have you heard the news? We have three big and fun announcements to share with our community!

    1) Microsoft is creating more flexibility in how you can earn your MCSE Communication, Messaging, or SharePoint certification. You can now satisfy the prerequisites for any of these three MCSE certifications by earning the MCSA: Office 365 or MCSA: Windows Server 2012. Which one should you focus on? Briana and I have the answer in this NewsByte, and check out Holly's blog post.

    2) We're running the MCP Go Bigger campaign. Don't know what that is? Oh... you are going to love this! Hey, makes me wonder "What's your story?" I'd love to hear it!

    3) Finally, we just published two Azure exams that you can take to demonstrate your prowess in cloud-based solutions.

    These exams are available now! Register today!

    So, what are you waiting for? Watch the video to learn more, and tell us what you think about each of these exciting announcements!

  • Hey, loyal fans and new followers! Liberty and Briana have some big news for you!


    You can now register for your exams through Microsoft Learning’s website, AND you can take exams at either Prometric or Pearson VUE.


    Check out the NewsByte for more information. No more excuses! Register for your exam today!

  • To support the Microsoft community in adoption of Microsoft Azure as the cloud for their modern businesses, Microsoft Learning is proud to announce the availability of two new Microsoft Azure exams.  Each of the following exams awards individuals with a Microsoft Specialist certification, validating knowledge and skills in a specialized area of technology:


    The new Azure Specialist certifications complement existing Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer credentials:

    • For developers, enhance your Web Applications and Windows Store Apps by learning how to build your own cloud services and validating those skills with Exam 532. 
    • For IT Professionals, expand your Windows Server and SQL Server on-premises prowess and validate those skills with Exam 533.


    Five-day instructor-led training courses are scheduled for late Sept 2014 release.  Please see the exam pages for additional details.


    Students are encouraged to visit the Microsoft Virtual Academy Azure page for additional training resources.

  • 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.)