Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Certification Updates

Erika Cravens

As you may have already heard, the next versions of Windows, Windows Server, and System Center have been announced! (See Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and System Center 2012 R2.) In light of these exciting product announcements, you may be wondering how the updates will affect the corresponding certifications.

The impact of each product update to its certification may vary. We encourage you to check the certification you are interested in obtaining for more details via

Whether you have started on the path to earning your certification or are just about to begin, we recommend that you continue moving forward. For Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 certifications, the exams you take now will still count towards your certification.

Here are a few things you can count on:

  • As more information emerges about the product updates, we will post information on the certification and exam detail pages to let you know when the exams will be updated and what the exam covers.
  • We will not be changing exam numbers, so it will be important to check the certification and exam detail web pages when planning your studies and preparing for exams.
  • Training content will be made available prior to any certification exam updates to help you prepare. Any training you have already done has set you well on your way to learning the skills you need to earn the certifications.

Speaking of training, Jump Start courses for Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 are now available!

Read our FAQs to find out more:

  • KevinM
    | |

    One challenge that I see with this is that Microsoft's stated direction going forward is an annual development cycle.  If Microsoft is going to push out R2 editions or new releases on a (roughly) annual basis then the training and certification exam lifecycle needs to keep pace with this.  With certification exams being "downstream" from code releases, you may find yourself having to paddle pretty fast to keep up.  Even worse, there are providers of training materials targeted at learning and certification exams that are yet further downstream than MSL and the certification exam developers.  For an example, look at the Microsoft Press training guide for the 70-414 exam (Server 2012 Advanced Architecture).  It won't be released until September of this year, almost a year after the 70-414 exam went live, over a year after the product shipped, and potentially just a couple of months before the successor product ships.  I see this as a major challenge to keeping skills current.  While there are no doubt plenty of customers who will continue to deploy Server 2012 (and 2008, and possibly 2003) well after the R2 release ships, you are creating an immense challenge for those of us whose careers hinge on being up to date on the most current version of the technology.

  • Bjorn Houben
    | |

    I agree with KevinM training material takes too long to become available.

    PS: I also hope there will be a windows 8.1 jumpstart soon.

  • James Saunders
    | |

    KevinM is right, accelerating the release cycle of the major products is going to make it very difficult for IT professionals to keep their certifications up to date. Those of us who don't get hands on experience with the latest and greatest Microsoft has to offer have to rely on training material that lags behind the release of these exams. This could be quite a game changer.

  • Mikhail
    | |

    Nice to see jump start events, any plans to redo them in more appropriate time for other time zones? Like Moscow Time?

  • Marcelo Estrada
    | |

    For the most part I agree with everything it´s being said here thus far, in fact I just earned my MCSE Server Platform together with MCSE Private Cloud and MCTS SCCM 2012 a few months ago and if I understand correctly this means that I´ll have to revalidate (recertify) again by the time these updates are released? This is indeed quite strange because as far as I remember MCSE, MCSA and the others are required to recertify each threes years, so what exactly is it going to happen now with these new releases? is that time going to get shrinked dramatically to one year or less?

    This matter definitively requires further explanation  and hopefully a proper clarification and feasible solution if it´s indeed the plan (which I doubt it) because as KevinM stated, it will become extremely difficult for us (devoted MCPs) keeping up with it. Really looking forward to receiving an official reply on this soon!

  • KevinM
    | |

    @MEstrada:  Though this isn't a Microsoft response, I think that this may be one of the reasons that the MCSE certifications have dropped the specific version number from their name (i.e., no 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, etc).  They are intended to certify you over a broader range of technologies, and the re-certification requirement should ensure that if you hold an active/current certification that you are relatively current on technology.  On the MCSA side though I believe that it is more version-specific, and of course they do tend to update exams with newer tech when newer versions of the OS are released.  I wouldn't expect that the re-certification time frame will change from what has already been announced.  To be honest, I'm curious how the re-certification requirement will be fulfilled via exams.  I know with the one of the older exams they did release a "re-certify" exam to meet some ISO requirement for that particular certification.  I wonder if that's what we'll have, or if we'll have to pass the equivalent of an "upgrade" exam like the 70-417?

  • AlanI
    | |

    Sorry, I'm still a tad confused.  To clarify: If we're talking about the 70-410 exam, for example, you're saying that at a future date post R2's RTM, the 70-410 exam will be modified to include R2-related features (and old training material, like books, for the 'non-R2 70-410' exam are likely to be outdated)?  So effectively we end up with:

    Exam 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012

    Exam 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 R2

    If that's indeed the case, are we able to ability to specifically elect to do the 'non-R2' exam?  (This would all make sense if the new exams had new numbers, but the fact that the R2 numbers appear to be keeping the same exam number if confusing me)

    So if I'm in the middle of obtaining my MCSA, and say I've done the 70-410 exam, studying for 411, and intend to do 412 later down the line it's possible I could be completing the first exam for the RTM version of 2012 and the second and third on R2 version?

    Basically the scenario I'm scared of is: I decide I want to do the 70-413 exam.  I buy books, practice tests, online training and spend four months studying it and get to the point where I'm really confident in the material. I go to book in my exam, but am told the 70-413 exam has been discontinued, can no longer be taken, and been replace with '70-413 R2'.  Suddenly the exam contains content I'm no longer prepared for and I fail.  All the books/practice exams/online training I took are worthless.

    True, I'm exaggerating given that the material in the RTM and R2 exams (I'd imagine) wouldn't be /that/ different, but still, it's disconcerting to have additional examinable content thrown in at the very last minute that you (and the authors of all the practice material) didn't consider when you learning it.

  • Erika Cravens
    | |

    Hi All!  

    My apologies for the late reply.  Hopefully I can clarify some of what is happening.


    - Recertification is in fact every 3 years for IT Pro certifications and will remain as such

    - The MCSA does not require recertification


    - We are not changing exam numbers to earn the MCSA: Windows Server 2012, MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure, MCSE: Server Infrastructure and the MCSE: Private Cloud certifications

    - Additionally, we are not changing the name of the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification or the exams to include R2 in the name, they will remain with just Windows Server 2012 (this is because if I did change the names then the people that took it before they were R2 would all of a sudden reflect they took an R2 version and we don't want that)

    I think you all stated the issues correctly.  If Microsoft is going to release revisions of the software every year, it wouldn't make sense for us to change exam numbers and exam names every year to reflect that.  If we did, we would have a serious mess on our hands with people trying to figure out which exams to take.  They would start down one path and then all the sudden the exam numbers change and have new names.  That would really be confusing.

    The other issue stated above is knowing when the exam will cover content with the newer version of the software.  We plan on providing advance notice of when it will be included in on the exam page.  A note will indicate when the newer content will be on the exam so you can plan in advance (think 3-6 months in advance).  Additionally, we are doing our best to have training content out in advance of the exam updates as well.  So, this way you can start training before you take the exam.

    I hope this helps clarify the situation.



  • Claudio Astapenco
    | |

    Hello, same thing happened when Windows Server 2008 R2 was released.

    5 exams were requiered to earn the MCITP Windows Server 2008 certification.

    I passed 3 exams before the Windows Server 2008 R2 version was released.

    When I was going to take the next exam it changed to cover content with the new R2 version.

    So I was in a situation where I prepared and I had read the MS Press Book (Training Kit) for the 2008 Exam but I was forced to take the exam with content of the new 2008 R2 version.

    New MS press book was available with the same name but it said "2nd version"

    The book was almost the same but with a few new features and some terminology changed, for example "Terminal Services" changed to "Remote Desktop Services" and so.

    So didn't want to read the full book again only by the fact that minor changes appeared.

    I checked on the web for the changes, and I installed a Windows 2008 R2 to learn and practice and then I took the exam. Luckily save.

    After that I gave the last exam remaining to get my ITPro cert, this time studying from the beginning with WS 2008 R2 material.

    I guess this time it will be the same so it should not be a major complication. Same number of exams and practically same skills tested.

    Well I hope it is helpful to having shared my experience with you.



  • Dan Johnson
    | |

    Thanks for the info Erika,

    Just to clarify, will R2 question be included before the general release of 2012 R2? I have been studying for the MCSE 2012 & plan to take exams in the next 2-3 months and don't want to be surprised by R2 questions before the OS has even been released

  • Erika Cravens
    | |

    Hi Everyone!

    As for when we will include new content into the exams, I can't tell you timelines right now, but hopefully in a few weeks I can.  What I can tell you is that we will announce as soon as we can about when new content will be added on the exams and they will show on the exam detail pages.  That said, our goal is to provide this information a minimum of 3 months in advance, but ideally 6 months in advance.  



  • ImmoRhys
    | |

    Exam 70-414

    Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure

    Published: December 12, 2012

    Exam Ref 70-414: Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure

    By Steve Suehring

    Publisher: Microsoft Press

    Released: December 2013 (est.)

    Pages: 400

    Now, will the 1 year late book be Server 2012 or Server 2012 R2 ?

  • jhelton
    | |

    Meanwhile the 70-414 Exam Ref book release is pushed to December 2013....the same time my MCSE 2012 exam pack vouchers EXPIRE. Thanks for that MS. These will probably be the last MS certifications I take part in if you can't even get training materials out within a year and a half of an OS releasing. Thanks for wasting my money.

  • Erika Cravens
    | |

    Hi Everyone!

    I have an update on updates to the exams for you.  This isn't on our website yet, but I am working on updating the website.  I wanted to let you all know right away.

    The following updates to Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) and Microsoft Certification Exams will happen as follows:

    January 2014 -

    - MCSA: Windows Server 2012 - Exams 410, 411 and 412 will be updated to included Windows Server 2012 R2 content

    - MCSA: Windows 8 - Exams 687 and 688 will be updated to include Windows 8.1 content

    April 2014 -

    - MCSE: Server Infrastructure - Exams 413 and 414 will be updated to include Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 content

    - MCSE: Private Cloud - Exams 246 and 247 will be updated to include System Center 2012 R2 content and Windows Server 2012 R2 content

    I will update our website with more specifics soon, including the exact changes you will see in the exams.



  • KevinM
    | |


    While I appreciate the update and giving as much notice as you have, this is not a positive situation.  I know that many of us were waiting on training material for the 70-413 and 70-414 to become available, with release dates for official Microsoft Press/MSL content ranging from September to December of 2013.  Basically, you're only going to have 4-6 months of time when the training material is "valid".  Compare this to the length of time that Server 2012 was in the market before 2012 R2 is released (roughly 14 months), or the length of time that the non-R2 versions of the exams will have been available (15-19 months).

    On top of that, to date there's only a single vendor who provides CBT for the 70-413 and 70-414 exams, and the content of that course is questionable at best.  Many training providers are still putting together their own training packages.  Practice exams from reputable vendors are still nonexistent.

    While a lot of us self-study using TechNet and hands-on experience (myself included), I still find it difficult to pass exams without some form of solid training material, be it CBTs, reference books, etc.  With such a short window of opportunity during which both the exams and related training material is available, you are going to make it very difficult for people to obtain all of the required materials, study, and pass the exams.

    What's more, you are going to make it extremely difficult for companies who currently provide training materials to continue to do so.  It takes a great deal of time and effort to produce high quality training material, and when it's only going to have a 4-6 month shelf life it becomes much more difficult to profitably develop high quality content and justify the effort.  I fear that we will be seeing considerably fewer self-study options available in the near future, making life more difficult on test-takers.  Incidentally, I am also concerned that this will lead to increased use of illegitimate means to attain certifications as well.

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