The Certification UI Team Wants U!

Stephanie Jordan (Microsoft)

Or at least we want your opinion.  If you’ve taken more than one of our exams, you may have noticed that the UI has stayed… well… let’s just call it “stable”… for many, many, many years.  While tradition can be comforting, we want the best possible experience for our candidates.  We’re taking a close look at the current design and we’d like to hear your stories.

Want to participate? 

Anything you want to tell us, I want to hear it:  the good, the bad and the ugly.  What was memorable about your last exam experience?  What worked well/not so well?  Some strong opinions have been expressed on BTL and I’m hoping to hear more.  Please leave a comment here, contribute to the UI feedback forum, or send me an email.

Next, keep an eye on the blog – I’ll be posting sneak peeks at the interface and asking for feedback on some of our ideas.  Our designer will make the UI better, but this community can make it great.  I’m looking forward to your stories.

Thanks for your help!


  • Anonymous
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    Personally, it seems too Windows 98-2000ish. It's slow and just ho-hum. I don't want to see it prettied up with the glassy look and all that. But, an updated look would be awesome.

  • Anonymous
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    It's comforting that you guys visit upon this, since it pretty much have stayed the same since - well at least since the NT 4 certifications, that's the earliest I've got.

    However, I think the current look-and-feel is ok! It works. It may not be very pretty, but it stable and you know what to expect when you arrive. After all, certifications is all about the content and not (so much) the presentation.

    I can think of several horror stories from students of mine when you played this game with the Windows 2000 certs. It was not pretty, because good people did not pass their hard earned certifications... they were too worried about how you were going to present the questions, rather than taking the exam itself..

    If you are going to change the exams, provide real tests on your website for download - remember when you did this? I would rather have several self-tests available online (Go cloud?), than a change of UI!

    TL;DR - Don't change- provide self-tests instead

  • Anonymous
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    If the question involves long paragraph of background to judge the correct choice, it helps if can provide highlighting tool (possible with a few different colors) for candidates to highlight the key points.

    Well, not exactly that I experienced this problem in certification exams, just experienced this when taking assessment for Microsoft Certified Partner's renewal... and thought it's possible to help here.

  • Lars Helbig
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    I would suggest not trying to fix something that ain't broken. The current system works. My main complaint would be that it is somewhat slow, but giving it a newer UI will probably only make it even slower.

    Also keep in mind that the computers that the actual exams are taken on tend to be old and slow themselves. If you make a new UI it will likely not run very well on the current crop of PCs that are deployed in many exam centers. This will either force them to upgrade their hardware or they won't end we will be stuck with a frustratingly slow testenvironment .

    I would prefer a DOS-based text-UI as long as it is fast and stable to a pretty Aero-themed distraction which isn't.

  • Terence Rabe
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    I've completed over 35 exams so to be honest I'm struggling to remember what the UI looks like :-) It's just there in the background and it lets me focus on the question, which is the way it should be. I'm not automatically opposed to change but like Lars said, I don't see anything that needs fixing. If MSL is going to change it then I'd suggest looking at things like application responsiveness, readability of the text, improving the quality of the exhibit graphics (Visio?). Whatever you do I think you should expose screen shots, or even better, working demos, to the community for feedback before going live.

    BTW, I'm not a fan of the mega-multiple choice question as seen on 070-662. C'mon guys, 13 choices for 1 question?

  • Terence Rabe
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    PS: Maybe you should let VUE have a go ;-)

  • Claudia Woods
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    Ditto what Terence Rabe said.  Especially his PS...

  • Anonymous
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    I'm ok with the current UI, a new one will bring the system more slow than what it is now. Not all test center PC's have an Intel i7 processor (just to mention somethig), most of them are still using slow computers plus a slow broandband connection, so I think that a new, heavier UI wouldn't help.

    I prefer to have the exams to  highlight the key points, improve graphics, responsiveness, readability, bring some ideas from exam 83-640 and improve them.

  • Anonymous
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    Not sure if this has to do with the testing centers, or the UI itself... The scroll wheel in the mouse never scrolls, which is a shame on big questions. You need to use  the scrollbar.

    The UI, I like the way the "design" questions are presented, with one button on the left for each "section"

    - Background info

    - question

    - diagrams

    I really don't like to click on the exhibits to show as pop-ups.

    But it's realy ok, as Terence said, it simply stays in the background, allowing me to focus on the questions and options.

  • Anonymous
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    Yes, bring Vue back.

    I LOVE the idea about the highlighter.  Some questions can get pretty long (especially on the more advanced exams) and it can take a lot of time to take notes on key points of each question.

    The other problem that I have with the exams is that it seems like every time I take an exam I am limited to a screen resolution of 1024x768, regardless of what kind of monitor is in use.  That results in there being a lot of scrolling around to go back to key points, which I may not have taken notes on.  Some exams use "pop-up" exhibits, but I find myself having to switch back and forth between exhibits and the exam text way too much.  What we really need is to join the 21st century and have exam stations with two monitors.  One for the question, one for the possible answers.  Being able to compare them side by side instead of scrolling all day long would be a godsend.

    I would also like the capability to put a note on a question when I tag it for comment or review later.  Sometimes I go through an exam and tag 5-10 questions, and then when I go back to review them or comment on them I forget why I marked them and have to re-read the whole thing again.  I have taken to making notes on the dry-erase card about why I tagged each question, but it would be nice if I had something in the UI for that.  It would take me literally 3-5 seconds to put in a couple of sentences about the question to jog my memory versus writing it out.  And on the bright side you might actually have more data to review when you do your statistical analysis.  I would be shocked to learn that Liberty doesn't have some sort of data on what questions get tagged most frequently (hinting at poorly worded questions).  Having our comment next to the question could be valuable to help weeding out/tweaking some of the poorly written questions I have seen.

  • Stephanie Jordan (Microsoft)
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    This is great info - exactly what we're looking for (thank you!).  I don't want to bias anyone's feedback, so I'm going to hold off on replies for a little while.  But please keep the comments coming - the team is listening...

  • Ed Liberman (MCT Regional Lead - Eastern USA)

    I think most of my opinions have already been stated.

    @MCP ID 1650002: I think the current look-and-feel is ok! It works. It may not be very pretty, but it stable and you know what to expect when you arrive. After all, certifications is all about the content and not (so much) the presentation.

    @Cheong: I like the idea of the highlighting tool.

    @Lars Helbig: I completely agree with your entire comment.  I would also like to add that if Microsoft does an upgrade which then requires the test centers to upgrade that the result is that we will end up with even fewer than the already too few test centers available.  I have worked for a few different test centers and they all operate at a loss already.  This is mainly why there is such slow equipment generally being used.

    @Terence Rabe: I fall into the same category as you and just like @Claudia Woods, I completely agree with both of your comments.

    @MSLUser: Agreed.

    @Renato Martins: I agree about the scroll wheel issue.

    @OtherKevin: I completely agree with you.  I hate having to jump back and forth between exhibit windows and the test question.  The only thing I will add is that I think we need to get the test centers more money so they can afford the hardware upgrade.

    Overall, my opinion is that the look of the interface does not matter.  The content of the questions and the usability and responsiveness is what matters.  Other than a couple small feature flaws, the current environment is fine.  If it ain't broke then don't fix it.  I would rather MSL focus on stuff that actually is broken.

    MSL has already done enough to deter people from going to take their certification exams (dumped MCSE, got ISO certified, raised exam prices, etc).  If the interface changes in a way that makes it difficult or distracting to take an exam then I might have to join the others who haven chosen to stop taking Microsoft exams (it will be a sad day since I have lived, breathed, slept, ate, and drank Microsoft Learning for almost a decade and a half).


  • Umapathy
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    I have been certified as an MCP since year 2003 I really like the idea of certiport exam which I have this  year 2011 to provide a testing environment with the real software. I am sure you guys have Remote Desktop, Remote Assistant now with the purchasing of Skype you even have even skype to assist connecting to another machine. I am sure that you can connect to the test server at Microsoft to check the hands on experience rather than providing a chance to the crammers by providing plenty of multiple choice questions.  Further 17" CRT monitor is not the same viewable area as 17" wide screen monitor it may be equal to 18.5" or more.

    In real life troubleshooting of client operating system we also use Sysinternals (it's a part of Microsoft for several years). I have not even seen a single questions so far in the client OS exams.

    I think what is more important to Microsoft is to get the what the users are answering put it to a safe database and see do some analysis to see if the answer has been answered 99% correctly in that case it may be an leaked question. Or 5% only answered correctly may give an indication that the question may be worded ambiguously or even the worst case the answer was decided as the correct one may be the wrong ones? who knows.

    To be honest I largely works on command line that has not been changed over the years that significantly saved my time rather than remembering how to navigate in each and every version of windows that's been release. For instance I use the command ncpa.cpl if there is any problem with the network card. That works irrespective of the WinNT operating system family.

  • Anonymous
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    As we do not have the plastic cards anymore for years, may I have an app on smartphone to do the same job ( or plus more value add functions)?

  • drsutton
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    Well - I guess I'll disgaree with some of the others ... normally I am also a "it's not broken don't fix it kind of guy"......especially in production systems.....but

    As a Student, Engineer, and instructor I wouldn't mind some change ...

    It has been the same style since I can rememeber testing in the 1990's

    I really enjoyed the 83-640 (Active Directory - virtual server) testing experience -- hands-on...real world

    granted everyone else in the testing center was grumbling and cursing...but I thought you were on the right track

    (the delivery seemed to be the problem...not the exam structure)

    eventually we need to get away from multiple choice (Multiple Guess) and head towards testing comprehesion, knowledge, troubleshooting and apptitude.

    Today's testing can be easily by-passed with what is available to students - as online 'study materials'

    We will never free ourselves from paper MCSEs until we change the way we test.

    MS has always appreciated and rewarded innovation - we as MS users, supporters and trainers also value innovation.....just make sure it works!!!

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