• The very first Microsoft Ignite conference is happening during the first week of May 2015. Just as we have done at many larger Microsoft conferences in previous years, our team will be bringing certification and training resources to you. At “Certification Central” during Ignite, you’ll find exam prep sessions delivered by Microsoft Certified Trainers, a study hall full of learning resources, and an onsite testing center managed by our team for your convenience. 

    During the conference week, all Microsoft certification exams will be available to attendees at 50% off the regular price. Exam appointments are available Monday through Friday. You can pre-register for your exam(s) now to avoid the rush onsite and secure your preferred times. The discount code and registration instructions are at the end of this post.

    For members of our community, you will have a chance to meet and chat in person during Ignite with some of our team members you’ve come to know and love:

    • Kerri Davis, Anti-Piracy Project Manager
    • Holly Dickson, Certification Product Manager
    • David Lewis, Senior IT Program Manager
    • Larry Kaye, Certification Product Manager
    • Patrick Thomas, MCP/MCT Program Manager
    • Christopher Harrison, Content Development Manager
    • Kenji Onozawa, Community Manager
    • … and me! Look for more announcements from me in the coming weeks. I’ll be revealing news about special offers from our partners, exam prep sessions, MCT Ambassadors, the (bigger) MCP party, etc.

    I can’t wait to see you in Chicago. Now, here are Rick Claus and Joey Snow to tell you more about getting certified at Microsoft Ignite 2015!

    Exam registration instructions for Microsoft Ignite 2015 attendees

    1. Go to www.microsoft.com/learning
    2. Click on Register for an Exam, and select the exam you wish to take
    3. Click on Schedule Exam, then confirm your registration information (or register if you are new to the process) and click Submit
    4. On the Select Booking Method page, check “I will be scheduling for a future date at a test center” and then click Next
    5. Once you’ve selected your exam language, search for testing centers near Chicago, IL, select “Microsoft Ignite North America 2015” location, hit Next
    6. Look under month of May 2015, select your preferred date and time then Next, you will Proceed to Checkout and agree to Microsoft Policies
    7. Once you arrive on the Enter Payment page, click on Add Voucher or Promo Code, then enter ignitena and click Apply
    8. Complete the checkout process
  • |

    It takes a good amount of effort to pass a Microsoft exam. Beyond just scheduling the time to take the exam, for weeks and months ahead of that, candidates must commit a great deal of time to studying. Often, this means taking time away from other important things—and we here at Microsoft know it’s not easy.

    That’s why when you finally earn a Microsoft Certification or pass an exam, we want to ensure that it’s meaningful and valuable to both you and businesses out there. How do we do that? That's what I set out to learn! 

    In this episode of Inside MSL, I spend a few minutes with Holly Dickson, a product manager on our team. During the short interview, we discuss:

    • Her role and responsibilities.
    • How she goes about ensuring that exams are meaningful.
    • The best ways for people to provide feedback about Microsoft exams and certifications.
    • Her tip for someone trying to get a job at Microsoft.


    Get to know more faces behind our certifications, training, and testing:  

  • Nossa comunidade global de MCTs tem suas tradições e intensa participação dos membros contribuindo para amadurecimento e melhoramento do programa.

    Uma dessas tradições é o MCT Day Zero. Eu não conhecia esse evento até que comecei a comparecer ao TechED/US alguns anos atrás.

    MCT Day Zero é um evento de um dia organizado pela comunidade de MCTs com participação da LeX compartilhando informações importantes para nossas atividades em sala de aula. Assuntos como o futuro das certificações e dos MOCs e como conjugar MVA com MOC sempre acontecem.

    Além disso, MCT Day Zero também traz diversão. Concursos e passeios e jantar são completam o dia, com a participação dos patrocinadores do evento que normalmente trazem boas oportunidades em diversas áreas de tecnologia.

    É com grande alegria e expectativa que este ano, no retorno do TechED Brasil, ou no evento inaugural do Insights, nós teremos o MCT Day Zero/Brasil.

    Será um dia antes do evento, no prédio da Microsoft. Teremos um dia cheio com conferências com o pessoal da LeX em Seattle, com nossos amigos da Microsoft Brasil, evento especial na cidade, almoço e jantar.

    Como um Microsoft Certified Trainer você está convidado a participar do MCT Day Zero. A taxa de inscrição é de R$ 50,00 (cinquenta reais).

    Nos vemos em São Paulo.

    Armando Lacerda – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil

    Emílio Mansur – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil

    André Calil – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil


    Our worldwide MCT community has its traditions and intense participation by members of the community for the improvement and maturity of the program.

    One of our traditions is the MCT Day Zero event. I was not aware of this event until I started attending TechED in US a few years ago. Now I can’t wait for the next one.

    MCT Day Zero is a one day event put together by the MCT community. We have LeX participating sharing important info regarding certification and MOC evaluation and future, important information for us when in classroom.

    We will also have lesure time. Contests, city tour, lunch and dinner are included in the program with sponsors bring new opportunities on many venues.

    É com grande alegria e expectativa que este ano, no retorno do TechED Brasil, ou no evento inaugural do Insights, nós teremos o MCT Day Zero/Brasil.

    It will happen on the day before the brazilian version of former TechEd, now Insights. Down in Brasil they’ve named it Insights powered by TechEd. Yes, a mouth full name. We have a long naming tradition inherited from Portugual. J

    As a Mirosoft Certified Trainer you’re invited to register for MCT Day Zero. Registratoin fee is R$ 50,00 (fitfy reais, local currency) which is about US$20.

    See you in São Paulo, Brazil.

    Armando Lacerda – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil

    Emílio Mansur – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil

    André Calil – MCT – Regional Leader Brasil

  • Studying for your SQL Server certifications can be a daunting task, but Microsoft has just made it easier for you by offering a complete portfolio of online resources on Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA). 

    This month, we added exam prep sessions to help you prepare for MCSE-level SQL Server exams (464 through 467).  These courses cover SQL Server 2012, along with performance tuning and high availability features of SQL Server 2014:

     These new courses complement the existing online exam prep resources for MCSA: SQL Server 2012 exams:

     So, now, no matter where you are in your SQL certification journey, MVA can help you.

  • Congratulations! You've made it into the final week of the Know It. Prove It. challenge! We're headed to the finish line and, as I said yesterday, I truly believe you are all champions in your own right. The fact that you grabbed on to this opportunity and learned something new is inspiring to others, me included!

    So, another week is in the bag, how are we tracking?

    I'm loving the fact that even more of you have joined in the challenge since last week. We now have well over 53,000 developers, students and IT professionals all taking part - that's you! And almost 38,000 of you have enrolled in a challenge. 

    Last week I noted that we had 48,000 challenges going on - well, this week that number has grown to 51,000. A fresh new 3,000 challenges have been started this week. I know that a number of these will be from some of those newcomers who have signed up for Know it. Prove it. but we also have a number of you who have decided to take on a second or third challenge now that they've completed their first one. 

    How many have completed a challenge? Already, before we even entered the final quarter of the challenge, we've seen over 5% of you complete a challenge. That's amazing! But I'd love to see even more of you close out the month, can you help me show others in Microsoft just how committed KiPi's are to improving themselves with their learning

    And some of you are so close! More than a fifth of you have completed at least one whole course in a challenge. Take this next week and rock it out! Finish up the videos, the assessments. Don't forget you need to do everything in a course for it to be considered complete, even download the presentations, click the links to check out other materials, everything, to get that module complete, the course complete, the challenge complete. 

    I've got no fancy charts or pretty pictures today - just a massive thank you for participating and a big cheer from the sideline to encourage you to finish. 

    Woohoo! Let's do this thing!

  • You may have seen me mention this in a few other blogs or in recent ACE NewsBytes that I was interviewed by Greg Shields for Pluralsight at the beginning of December. It just occurred to me that while I have mentioned this in several different places, I have never actually blogged about the interview itself. Silly me!

    This was a spontaneous interview--in other words, Greg didn't give me a heads up on the specific questions that he would be asking, and many of them grew organically from our conversation and the responses that I provided to his first questions. In our preparation, he gave me the basic outline for what he'd like to discuss and then asked if anything was off limits. My response "Nope. If I can't talk about it, I'll tell you what I can and why I can't share any other details." Mostly what I can't talk about are topics related to privacy issues and information Microsoft considers proprietary (e.g., passing rates, volumes, number of people with a particular certification), but I can talk about nearly everything else in the space of exam development, program design, item writing, statistics, how we manage the rapid pace with which technology is changing, etc. All of these topics and more came up during this interview, and I have a feeling that the people who tuned in learned a few things that they didn't know about how Microsoft designs and develops our exams and certification requirements to stay relevant to our candidates, how we pilot test new item formats, the difference between a certificate and certification program and what that means in terms of the alignment between exam and learning content.

    Are you curious? Check out the webinar:

    I love doing this stuff. I love answering your questions. I had a lot of fun and hope to do something like this again. If you have questions, please ask them. If you want me to speak to your students or your colleagues or ???, I'm totally onboard. Let me know...

  • |

    Been playing with Windows 10? Want to be among the first to get certified in it?

    Earn your Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification in Windows 8 between February 15, 2015, and May 31, 2015, and you’ll be eligible to take a Windows 10 exam (Exam 697) for free when it’s published later this year! The Windows 8 MCSA covers Windows 8.1, so you’ll be current and ready to move to Windows 10.

    Here’s what you need to do:

    Step 1: Prove what you know. Earn your MCSA: Windows 8 certification by choosing one of the paths below:

      • Certified in Windows XP? Take Exam 692
      • Certified in Windows 7? Take Exam 689
      • Starting fresh? Take Exam 687 and Exam 688

    Step 2: When the Windows 10 Exam 697 is available (expected in the second half of 2015), sign in to https://www.microsoft.com/learning and register for the exam for free.

    Get more details about this offer now.

    Join the study group to prepare for your exams.

  • Since the launch in beta last September, online proctored exams have been growing in popularity. It is great to see so many candidates taking advantage of this new exam delivery method and giving us valuable feedback during this beta period. Because the availability of greeters and proctors are currently based on demand, we have run out of appointments through February 25, 2015. That means unless there is a cancellation, we have no more spots left for online proctored exams through February 25.


    Now the good news: we are updating the online proctored exam registration and numbering process. Beginning February 26, 2015, the updated exam registration process will allow you to select your preferred delivery mode (online proctored or test center) when you register for any MCP or Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exam. If you wish to schedule an online proctored exam, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/learning on or after February 26.


    For more information about online proctoring, such as system requirements and country availability, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/online-proctored-exams.aspx .


    Related reading:


  • Hola! Hej! Salut! Ciao! Привет مرحبا  你好 Hello! สวัสดี G'day! नमस्कार

    I hope you're all as excited as I am to be entering the second half of the Know it. Prove it. Learning Challenge! Just keep up the momentum and soon enough you'll be done before you even realize it!

    As promised, I wanted to bring you some more numbers about KiPi related to who all of you are and what you're doing. Because, you're all rock stars and it's important. :)

    Firstly, the big number. As of this morning, 51,000 people - 51,000 tech enthusiasts, professionals, students - 51,000 individuals - have all signed up for Know it. Prove it. 

    Mind blown.

    How about another big number. 22,000 people who have never registered on Microsoft Virtual Academy until now. Guys and gals, if you're one of those, on behalf of the entire MVA team, I welcome you to the fold, and certainly invite you to stick around, take in a live event, continue to grow your skills, be part of the global community of over 2.7 million others. 

    One last big number. 48,281. The total number of challenges that have been started on KiPi. With only 36,000 of you who have signed up for an actual challenge (come on, those of you who haven't signed up for one yet! It's not too late! Get in there and get started!) that means thousands of you are doing more than one challenge. Incredible.

    Just like the end of week one, Web Development has a commanding lead over the others, but every single challenge track has thousands of participants. Hybrid Cloud has 3000 learning, while the champion Web Development went over 14,000 last night. 

    But where are you all from? I've mentioned previously that there are over 140 countries represented, and I know we highlight the top ten countries, both overall and in each of the challenges, on the KiPi website. So this week, I thought I'd highlight some of the other countries that are taking part. Here are the top 50 countries who are taking part. So if you're in one of those countries who haven't been in the top ten and you've been wondering how far behind you might be to get up top, here's your chance to see where you stand.

    Country Name Total KIPIs
    United States 11958
    India 5722
    United Kingdom 3190
    Pakistan 1961
    Netherlands 1672
    Italy 1381
    Spain 1329
    Portugal 1045
    Australia 1022
    Philippines 985
    Poland 949
    Brazil 938
    Mexico 901
    Germany 869
    Egypt 837
    South Africa 810
    Belgium 805
    Norway 722
    Denmark 680
    Sweden 671
    Ireland 629
    Canada 628
    Finland 510
    Romania 473
    Russia 473
    Switzerland 406
    Austria 383
    Indonesia 352
    Colombia 339
    Nigeria 326
    Singapore 306
    New Zealand 304
    France 293
    United Arab Emirates 278
    Saudi Arabia 265
    Malaysia 257
    Ukraine 232
    Turkey 230
    Hungary 229
    Sri Lanka 215
    Lithuania 214
    Bangladesh 213
    Greece 209
    Czech Republic 204
    Argentina 197
    Bulgaria 190
    Venezuela 163
    Kenya 159
    Vietnam 156


    So there you have it - an amazing variety of countries taking part.

    To finish up today's post, I wanted to highlight the week two email you should have all received. We have some great info there and to make it easy on you, I've included it all below. Until tomorrow, rock on, KiPis!


    You've reached the midway point. Let's tune up!

    Let's be honest. "Know It. Prove It." isn't the soft rock of training challenges. You signed up to shred your mind in a month-long training binge. Now that you're half way through the challenge, it's time to buckle down, grind out training modules, and push your skills into a new realm of greatness.

    Whether you're locked in a groove cranking out modules or trying to find your training rhythm, you've got a few things going for you to reach your goal-time and resources. Follow the pro tips below to amp up your training today. Best of luck!

    Pro Tips: Week Two

    • Feeling behind? No reason to worry. You just need a plan. Here's an idea: print out the list of challenge modules and tape it to your fridge, door, or cat. Every time you walk by, commit to a time that day to finish the next one on the list.
    • Crank the tempo! Ever binge watch a TV show? You sit down to watch one episode and end up watching three. It's the same with the challenge modules-you'll be surprised how easy it is to complete a few modules in one sitting. Try it!
    • Get by with a little help from your friends. Have you visited the discussion boards? They're hoppin'! Sign in to chat about your progress and get the answers and encouragement to reach your goal.
    • Reward yourself! Plan little rewards for completing a set of modules and one big reward for completing the challenge.

  • If you’ve attended any of the Python and Flask courses that Susan Ibach and I have delivered, or many of the other development MVAs lately, you no doubt noticed we’ve been sharing our code via GitHub.

    GitHub, if you’re not familiar with the service, is the de facto choice for most open source developers, as well as those looking to play with code. GitHub offers tools for issue tracking, wikis and documentation. Put simply, it’s a great web site used for storing source code and developer collaboration.

    Inside of GitHub you can create what are known as repositories, or repos as the cool kids like to say[1]. Repos are containers for files of almost any variety, and those files can be organized into folders.

    The main question becomes, “How do I download the source shared on GitHub?”

    The first, and simplest, is to use the Download Zip button on the lower right-hand corner. This button, as you might expect, will zip up the contents of the repository and allow you to download it. From there you can extract the contents to a folder of your choice and away you go from there. The downside is that is a bit of a manual process.

    The second option is to clone the repository. Cloning a repository will give you a copy of the code, and allow you to download (or sync) any changes that are made to that repository later. The nice part about cloning is it integrates nicely with Visual Studio, and you can keep current on any changes. The downside is you’re not able to easily modify the code on your own as any changes you make would be overwritten the next time you chose to sync. That said, generally speaking, after an MVA is recorded few changes are made to the repository.

    To clone a repository, simply click the copy button (the one that’s circled) under the HTTPS clone URL heading on the lower right.

    Then, in Visual Studio, open the Team Explorer (View > Team Explorer), and click the Connect button (the one that looks like a plug).

    The last step is to paste the copied URL into the URL textbox in Visual Studio and click Clone. This will download all of the files into a folder located at C:\Users\<your username>\Source\Repos\<repo name>. After the files are downloaded you can double click on the clone name and it will list all of the Visual Studio solutions for that repo.

    The final option, and probably the best option, is to fork the repo. Forking will give you a completely separate copy of the repo on your own GitHub account. The advantage to forking the repo is you are free to make whatever changes you like to the repo as it’s all yours.

    To fork a repo, logon to GitHub. Then navigate to the GitHub repo you wish to fork, and then click Fork in the upper right-hand corner. GitHub will then prompt you asking which account you’d like to use (if you have multiple), and then fire up its copy machine to duplicate the code.

    Once the fork is created you have a new repo that is all yours with all of the code shared from the MVA. You can then clone that new repo into Visual Studio using the exact same steps above (click the copy button, then go into Visual Studio and clone the repo).

    Going forward you’ll notice most, if not all, MVAs that focus on developer topics will be using GitHub to share code. If you’re looking to put your newly honed skills to use, join Susan and I as we head back into the studio to close out our Python and Flask trilogy, digging deeper into Flask development and introducing relational databases. See you then!

    [1]I’m not actually a cool kid, but this is what I’ve been told.

  • Did you hear the news? In this ACE NewsByte, Briana and I discuss our new MCSE certification for those who are interested in Enterprise Devices and Apps! To earn this certification, you need to take and pass:

    • Exam 695: Deploying Windows Devices and Enterprise Apps and
    • Exam 696: Managing Enterprise Devices and Apps

    Interested? Register at: https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/exam-70-695.aspx and https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/exam-70-696.aspx.

    We are also pleased to announce a straightforward path to upgrade to your MCSA Windows 8. If you hold an XP certification, you can migrate to MCSA Windows 8 certification by passing exam 692: Upgrading Your Windows XP Skills to MCSA: Windows 8. Isn't about time that you did? 

  • In December, I participated in a webinar interview with Greg Shields from Pluralsight. We had great participation and a lot of questions from the audience. Although I was able to answer some of those questions, I wasn’t able to answer all of them in the time that we had. I asked the faciliator of the webinar to send me your questions so I could answer them over a series of NewsBytes. In this series, Briana will "interview" me by asking those questions that were submitted by participants.

    In the first installment, we will be discussing exam preparation. In this video, I will be answering these questions:

    • How do I prepare for an exam?
    • Where do I get study materials and test questions for practice?
    • How long would you say it takes to prepare for a Microsoft certification exam?

    So, I admit... the video is a bit long because we have a lot of great exam preparation tips, but you really want to watch to the end... Why, you ask? Because I will let you in on a little secret...I explain why there can be a disconnect between our learning options and exam content and what are we doing to ensure better alignment between them going forward.

    Got more questions? You know I love to answer them so leave them below!

  • |

    I’m lucky. I love what I do, and I love the team I work with—but that’s easy when you work for a team like Microsoft Learning. It’s easy because helping people learn new technical skills and add Microsoft Certifications to their resumes makes me smile. I know the certifications help them get jobs and increase their worth to their companies.

    If you’ve been following this blog, you know recently I’ve talked to a few of our Microsoft Certification experts about topics meant to help candidates at different points throughout their certification journey. For example, in past posts we've discussed recommended resources to use when preparing for Microsoft exams or suggestions on how to find the time to study. Hopefully, you've found these blog posts helpful and if you have, please let me know by leaving a comment below. 

    With that said, today I wanted to try something a little bit different. Rather than ask our experts for tips, in this post, I wanted to ask them about their favorite certification success story. That's because our exam experts routinely talk to or work with candidates who take our exams, and they often come across success stories about how earning Microsoft Certifications impact the lives of those candidates. Find out how they responded below! 


    [Question]: You talk to many people who have earned a Microsoft Certification. Do you have a favorite success story you can share?  

    Christopher Harrison, Content Developer, Microsoft Learning

    Years ago, I used to teach at a vocational school. I will always remember one particular student who had just left the Navy and was looking for a new career. He went through the six-month program we offered, and passed all of his exams at the end of it. A couple of months later he came back to the school for a visit, walked up, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you! Because of you I got that job!”

    That’s what certification, and training, is all about. Those types of successes. That next career step. That next promotion. That next validation of skills. That’s what it’s all about.

    Larry Kaye, Senior Product Manager (Developer and SQL Certifications), Microsoft Learning

    My own. In August 2013, a colleague of mine at Microsoft encouraged me to pursue the MCSD, and despite a full workload, family commitments, and a few exam failures along the way, I persevered.

    Gerry O’Brien, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Learning

    I don’t think I have one in particular, actually. Most people that I talk to who have gained a certification are happy that they have achieved it, and they display their certification proudly. Some use it for career advancement and it has worked for them. Others achieve it because it’s required, as in our certified trainers who need the certification to teach the subject material.

    David Elfassy, Consultant, Microsoft Learning

    My favorite story is the one of the five brothers that have all reached the highest level of Microsoft Certification by driving and pushing each other further. They have all chosen a different technology specialty—some Exchange, some SQL, others developers—but all have excelled. Together, they started their own consulting firm, working hard to apply their technology skills in the environments of their customers. As new certifications get released, the brothers continue to perfect their technical skills, and then achieve the new certifications. The certifications are a big part of their marketing for their firm, as much as a big part of the brotherly competition that exists in their technically savvy family.


    Do you have your own certification story you’d like to share? Share it with us on our story wall.

    If you’d like to see more tips from our Microsoft Certification experts, see these posts on Born To Learn:

  • WOW! What a wild ride the Know It. Prove It. challenge has been! We officially launched the challenge on January 20, and by February 1, we had tens of thousands of you all signed up and selecting your own challenge.

    A week in, we must be going okay, right? More than okay! Ready for the big number? It's kinda impressive.


    FORTY FIVE THOUSAND individuals, coming together as a global community, learning technology. That's staggering. That's humbling for me with my wild idea that stemmed from a belief that people value learning and would do it if we could dream up something fun. That's inspiring to all of us here at MVA to know tens of thousands of people, from over 140 countries around the world are helping each other learn, improving themselves and being part of a really big team.

    But what you are all doing? Take a look.

    As we've seen all week, the Web Development Challenge has been hard to beat, with 29% of KiPis opting in for skilling up on HTML, JavaScript and CSS. It enters into week two with a strong lead over the next big thing which is Mobile Development at around half the number on 15%.

    The other breakdown we've been super interested in here at KiPi HQ has been just who you guys and gals are that have decided to join us for this wild ride. So, why not look at it with another chart?

    This one truly is interesting to me. We have around a third of you who identify as developers, a quarter who put yourselves in various types of IT professional roles, and approximately 20% who are students. We've obviously hit the mark for all of you, but this is where it gets interesting. Remember the first chart I showed above? Yeah, the one that showed that the four Development Challenges make up two thirds of all challenge participation. That means there are plenty of you taking part in Know it. Prove it. to grow your skills beyond your own specialty area. In fact, there are several thousand IT professionals doing development learning. That is so cool! And don't think we've notice that there are a bunch of developers and students who are doing the IT pro challenges too - almost 3,000 of them.

    This is the kind of thing that fascinates me. We've created this challenge to help you kick start your year, and so many of you are taking it as an opportunity to learn something new.

    But I do have a bit of a bone to pick with several of you. In fact, about 4,000 of you. I guess that's more than "several". The KiPis I'm looking at right now are those who haven't identified what kind of technologist they are. Yes, you! At Microsoft Virtual Academy, we're always trying to provide you great learning opportunities (Know it. Prove it. is just our latest crazy scheme), but to help us to help you, we really would appreciate knowing who you are a little better. So, if you have a spare minute or two, please go into your MVA dashboard, and select your primary function. By default, we set this to blank but that doesn't help at all! I know there's an Other category in there, but I'm hoping you can identify with something else on the list.

    Oh, and while you're at it, we'd love to be able to stay in touch with you about other MVA events, live events, and maybe even a newsletter that tells you of new courses and features. If you think this would be something you could handle, scroll a little further in your profile and check this lovely little checkbox.

    Don't forget to click the Save button!

    By the way, NICE WORK to the 7% of you who identified as being in a "Non IT" job! I absolutely love seeing people stretch themselves and try out technology.

    For right now, I have one last staggering number I wanted to run by you. How many people do you think have already completed a challenge? A dozen? Maybe ten per challenge? A couple hundred? Try ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE. One thousand people have completed a challenge. Already. In the first week. To those over-achievers: absolutely brilliant work. Make sure you tell all your friends and colleagues and encourage them to sign up. If you could do it in a week, they can definitely do it in the three weeks remaining! Let's get so many people into Know it. Prove it. that people who find out about it later regret they missed out and want to join in next time. ;)

  • A few months ago, I posted a blog post where I had the audacity to say that exams could be "fun." Based on some of your reactions, "fun" was clearly not the best word to use. I meant that exams should be challenging in a good way--in my own experience, a good challenge is something fun, but this is not true for everyone. More specifically, what I was trying to say was that when you complete an exam (whether you pass or fail), you should feel a sense of accomplishment. You should feel that you were tested on the right skills in ways that fairly and effectively evaluated whether or not you have those skills. Even more, we want to create an “engaging” experience by using question types that require you to think in ways similar to how you would have thought had you faced that problem in the real world (even if you personally would not or have not experienced that particular problem).

    But, your reaction to the word “fun” creates an interesting question for me. Across the certification industry, the notion of “gamification” is taking hold. It is becoming more common in training, and it’s only a matter of time before it finds its way into certification. Because it requires immersive, interactive technologies, gamification enables new forms of engagement, personalization, and assessment within training and, possibly, within exams. Games have become a medium for giving students engaging experiences in areas where it might be otherwise impossible in terms of training… why couldn’t it be used to change the face of certification exams? Imagine an exam that simulates your experiences as an ITPro or Developer in an organization as a game like experience. As you make decisions on how to solve problems, the parameters of the game change to reflect those decisions. As you complete easier tasks, the tasks become more challenging.

    Don’t get me started on the psychometric challenges of implementing the level of personalization for exams because this will be extremely complicated…but imagine a world where this is not an issue, what do you think of this idea? Do you see an opportunity for gamification within our certification exams? How do you think it can/will play a role in a certification context?

  • “I’m Microsoft Certified. Now, how do I get a job in Redmond?”

    Among all the questions I receive, this is one of the most common. It makes sense though, right? One of the many reasons that professionals choose to get certified is to advance their career, and for many, Microsoft is one place they aim to be.

    To further explore this question, I sat down with Ken Rosen, a longtime member of the Microsoft Learning team. Prior to joining the team, Ken earned several certifications and was a charter Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), so he’s an ideal person to address this question. Many of you may already know Ken as he’s worked directly with our online communities and was a founding contributor to the Born To Learn blog.

    In this short video, I sit down with Ken as he talks about:

    • His role and responsibilities at Microsoft.
    • The certifications he’s earned.
    • Why he first wanted to earn his Microsoft Certification.
    • His favorite Microsoft Certification success stories.

    Thanks very much to Ken for his time and for letting me bug him with my video camera!

    Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned to Born To Learn for more Inside Microsoft video interviews. 

  • There has been some confusion expressed over the two MCSE certifications... 


    And at first glance, it is fairly easy to see why. If you look at the products included in these MCSE level exams, you might think these are just updated versions of older exams.

    If you dig a little deeper, you can see that the underlying Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certifications are, in fact, based on entirely different exams and products.

    The MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification requires the Windows Server 2012 exams (70-410, 70-411, and 70-412) whereas the MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps certification has the Windows 8.1 MCSA exams at its core (70-687 and 70-688).

    So, one certification is specifically a Windows Server-based qualification and the other certification is a client-based qualification. The second set of differences are found in the two higher level MCSE examinations.

    For the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification, you are required to pass Exam 70-415 and Exam 70-416, which cover the desktop infrastructure and the desktop application environments. The MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps certification covers deploying devices and enterprise apps in Exam 70-695 and managing devices and apps in Exam 70-696. One of the key tools highlighted in Exam 70-696 and Exam 70-695 is Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager. Configuration Manager provides a single administrative console to deploy and manage Windows servers and applications across your entire infrastructure, including cross-platform management of Mac OS X, Linux, and UNIX. The target audience for the exams are enterprise IT administrators that use previously-deployed Microsoft tools to manage and maintain desktops and devices, including phones and tablets. Exam 70-695 also covers using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) by itself or in conjunction with Configuration Manager.

    The differences between the two MCSE certifications can be highlighted by examining the detailed areas of study from the exams. When doing this, it becomes clear that the related qualifications require a different skillset.

    Let’s have a look at some examples:




    Whereas the Desktop Infrastructure covers the following:  



    Just from perusing the top-level topics, you can see that the MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps certification is split into the deployment infrastructure and deploying and managing applications and devices. The MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification is entirely aimed at desktop technologies and solutions. There will always be some overlap as the products used to develop the infrastructure and solutions are the same.

    The bottom line for me in the differentiation of the two certifications is the underlying MCSA exams required to achieve the end result. Those who focus on server tasks and responsibilities are more likely to study for the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification as it carries the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 R2 certification, whilst pure desktop/device professionals are likely to concentrate on the new MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps certification as it carries the MCSA: Windows 8.1 certification as a base.

    Whichever route you take, you can prove your abilities and enhance your career opportunities. Unless you have a specific need at work, are an “examaholic,” or a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), the need for both certifications will rarely arise.

    When the original MCSA: Windows 8 certification was released, I blogged about the strategy behind it and the standalone MCSA without an MCSE to support it. This was especially important as there is no client exam in any of the other MCSE certifications. If your expertise is Windows, and more especially Windows in the enterprise across multiple devices, then this is the MCSE for you.

  • When we started the Andrew’s Journey to Exam Success series at the end of October 2014, we planned to show you everything, or, as I like to say, we were going to show you “the good, the bad, and the ugly” as Andrew prepared to take Exam 687: Configuring Windows 8.1 on January 6, 2015.

    Well, January 6 has come and gone, and you're probably wondering what happened. Did Andrew pass the exam? Did he take the exam? Well, truth to be told, Andrew rescheduled his exam. In this short video, he explains the reasons why. No excuses, just raw Andrew since we're keeping this real.

    Stay tuned for our next video, which will cover Andrew’s exam preparation a bit more!

    Talk to you soon,


  • In this ACE NewsByte, Briana and I highlight some really awesome program updates that YOU need to know about!

    First, we have updated the Certification and Training Roadmap to reflect changes we've recently made to the program (e.g., electives, new Azure exams, new certifications, etc.)... this includes updating the associated app, which you can get from the Windows Store today (updates will be complete shortly).

    Second, we want let you know of several really cool MCP benefits that were recently announced in case you missed them:

    Finally, have you heard of the Know It. Prove It. campaign? Throughout February, challenge yourself to learn a new skill in one of eight areas, including cloud development, game development, Office365, and SharePoint.

    We hit the highlights in this video! Watch and get excited about training, certification, challenging yourself to do more, and being (or becoming) a MCP!

  • |

    We’re excited to announce we've updated the Skills and Certification Roadmap, which has been revised to reflect the latest skills development and certification information. This popular resource provides a one-stop-shop for certification pathways. The updates include the new Devices MCSE, Azure exams and exam electives. You can download the roadmap as PDF here.

    We’re also updating the Training and Certification Guide app to reflect the updated information. Watch for an announcement on that soon!

    Download the FREE certification roadmap: 

  • We are making some changes to exam times that should make it easier for you to plan for your exams. For those of you who are transitioning from a previous version of our technology to the newest and do this through our upgrade process, we are also making a change to how time is allocated during upgrade exams. Want to know more? Of course, you do!

    Check out this ACE NewsByte where Briana and I discuss how we're standardizing exam times by "type" and the change we've made in the way time is allocated during upgrade exams...

    Short story:

    Exam time varies based on the type of exam you take.

    Exam time*

    Seat time*

    MTA exams delivered by Certiport

    45 minutes

    50 minutes

    MTA exams delivered by Pearson VUE

    45 minutes

    75 minutes

    MBS/Dynamics exams

    90 minutes

    120 minutes

    MCSA exams and exams not specified elsewhere

    120 minutes

    150 minutes

    MCSE exams, any exam with case studies, and upgrade exams

    150 minutes

    180 minutes

    Recertification exams

    140 minutes

    170 minutes

    As for upgrade exams, we are no longer timing each component exam separately. The time you see for upgrade exams in the table above is the time you get for the entire exam rather than having it split between the component exams. For example, on 417, rather than having 50 minutes to complete 410, 50 minutes for 411, and 50 minutes for 412, you will have 150 minutes to do use as you wish. You might choose to spend 60 minutes on 410 and less time on 411 and 412 components.

    What's the difference between seat time and exam time? Want to know why we made the change to the timing of upgrade exams? Watch the video to learn those bytes.

  • |

    When it comes to Microsoft Certifications, it’s probably no surprise that some of the most knowledgeable people on the subject are Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs).

    Not long ago, I got a chance to talk to some of them while attending the MCT Summit North America, a conference for those who have earned this special certification. During the event, they get updates on what’s new in the world of Microsoft exams and training, learn from other trainers, and connect with the incredible MCT global community.

    At the event, I met four MCTs who let me pick their brain. Specifically, I asked them:

    • For a quick introduction.
    • How Microsoft Certifications have benefited their career.
    • What two or three words they would use to describe the benefits of Microsoft Certifications.

    To find out how they responded, watch this short video:

    Thanks very much to Mike Corkery, Brian Bork, Gary Grudzinskas, and Sidney Andrews for allowing me to bug them with my camera!

    To check out our previous installments of MCT Answers, please see the following posts:

    Learn more about becoming an MCT.

    Thanks, everyone!

  • Have you heard about Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)? On it,  you’ll find hundreds of online Microsoft training courses delivered by experts designed to help you learn the latest technologies and build your skills.

    Did you know that something new is released almost weekly? Well, Briana and I thought that it might be helpful to hit some highlights every quarter so you know what's new. Check out this ACE NewsByte for our first MVA "roundup." 

    And, by the way, all of this content on MVA is FREE!

  • Hello MCPs! I am happy to announce a new offer, Bing Rewards for MCPs! Take an MCP exam (MOS and MTA Exams do not qualify for this offer) in the month of January or February 2015 and receive 525 Bing Rewards Credits. Redeem credits for rewards in the Redemption Center. Choose from popular brands including Starbucks, Xbox, Fandango, Skype, and more! You can even donate your credits to your favorite charity.

    Here is what you need to do to participate:

    1. Take an exam in January or February.
    2. Ensure that you are “opting in” for promotional communications from Microsoft by visiting your Microsoft Profile.
      1. To opt-in log into your Learning Dashboard and click on Account in the upper right-hand corner
      2. Go to Account Settings and click on Manage Communications and then select  My contact preferences
      3. Check the box for E-Mail Address to allow Microsoft to contact you
    3. Look for an email from us the month after you take an exam.
    4. Follow the instructions in the email and redeem your credits!

    We're really excited about this offer and we hope to expand it as participation grows.

    That's it for now. Stay tuned for more MCP Program announcement!


    Pat Thomas

    MCP Program Manager


    Reminder, this is a pilot offer and it is for exams taken in the United States only. Offer is good on one exam only. Excludes MTA and MOS exams. Credits do not accumulate no matter how many exams are taken in the months of January and February. The Bing Rewards Program is subject to the Bing Rewards Term of Use.

  • I know you've been waiting on pins and needles in great anticipation, wondering when I would post my annual "year-in-review" blog post. Well, the wait is over! Let’s take a look at what happened in 2014 in the world of certification exams:

        • Published more than 350 total Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), Microsoft Dynamics, and Specialist exams, including new publications and republications related to updating exam content and maintaining the validity and reliability of the exams over their lifecycle.
        • Approximately 250 of these exams were “English Language Exams” and about 100 were in localized languages, with the most popular languages being Japanese and German, followed by French and Chinese (Simplified).
        • Published approximately 30 new exams.
          • Of these, 11 were Microsoft Dynamics exams, 17 were MCSE/MCSA exams, 2 were Specialist exams, and a few others were mixed.

        • Published 4 beta exams taken by more than 500 candidates with nearly 500 comments—all of which I read. By the way, this number is much less than what I typically see for beta participation. I'm not sure what's going on here, but if you have ideas, let me know what we can do to boost these numbers. I need qualified candidates to take our beta exams so I can understand the psychometric performance of our questions and exams.

    And, more importantly, what did I do this year? Here are the highlights:

        • Psychometrically analyzed more than 100 exams, some more than once.
        • Psychometrically analyzed more than 10,000 items. Not only is this information used to make decisions about the effectiveness of our questions in terms of differentiating qualified and unqualified candidates, but we also use this data to inform our question-development process and to make decisions about which item types are more psychometrically sound for our various audiences.
        • Added some new question formats to our exams, including table/code analysis, graphic interpretation, multi-source reasoning, magnetic word, and matching (on MTA exams only). I have reviewed the psychometric performance of these new item types, and they appear to be strong measures of your skills and abilities.
        • Read more than 10,000 comments. I also created a process so that I am emailed when a question on an exam has more than 25 comments, which is a good indicator there's a problem. You're probably wondering why we haven't done this before now. Well, we simply haven't had the technology in place to have this level of automatic (this is the key—I don't have to generate these reports...they are sent to me automatically) insight into our exams until recently.
        • Incorporated polytomous scoring into our exams. Now, some questions on some exams are worth more than one point. If a question is worth more than one point, we will tell you in the question instruction statement. So, don't skip it—read it.
        • Tracked candidate perceptions of the quality of our exam questions on more than 100 exams weekly. This information comes from candidates who take the time to complete the Exam Satisfaction Survey (sent by ComScore, a third-party who manages the distribution of the survey for us). I really do monitor these results weekly and plan our sustainment efforts accordingly.
        • Started a process whereby we evaluate value perceptions of our certification program quarterly rather than annually. This allows us to be more proactive in providing you with the certification paths that are of most value to you.
        • And, of course, my favorite part, talked to people about our exam design and development process and how we maintain the integrity, validity, and reliability of our program and exams. I launched ACE NewsBytes with Briana Roberts (my rock star partner in crime), blogged, tweeted, attended the MCT Summit in Bellevue, and was interviewed by Pluralsight.

    Wishing you an awesome 2015! And for fun and for your viewing pleasure, a picture of me doing my favorite thing with my favorite people.