You’ve Been Banned


Yes, we take cheating seriously.

You’ve seen me talk about brain dumps and appropriate test center behavior. (We'll discuss proxy testers in my September blog post.) It is an unfortunate facet of the exam business that some people will try to find ways to cheat on an exam, or engage in other fraudulent activity that gets them a certification, without earning it. Because we want everyone to have a fair testing experience, we take fraud in test-taking very seriously. Seriously enough to ban cheaters from our program all together.

This approach may seem Draconian, but to those who study and prepare legitimately for their exams, it probably seems fair. I mentioned once how a good number of ITCC Survey respondents told us that cheaters should be dealt with harshly. A cheater undermines the hard work a candidate has put into their test preparation. We work with our exam delivery providers to provide a secure environment that makes cheating difficult, and employ a variety of methods for catching fraud outside of a test center. We monitor diligently and constantly evaluate our security policies and procedures to stay one step ahead of the bad elements.  

All candidates are required to accept the exam policies before they test, which outlines behavior we consider in violation of that agreement, and the possible consequences. The full policy, including an appeals process, can be found on our exam policies page: 

For these reasons, when we catch and verify an incident of fraud or cheating, we don’t tolerate it. The cheater is banned from registering for any Microsoft exams, now or ever. We may also take away their certifications. It’s a pretty harsh way of dealing with nefarious test-takers, but we think our hard-working MCPs appreciate it.

Got a tip for me? Let me know at

  • markus_hengstler
    | |

    Hi Kerri,

    The link to the policies page seems to be not working. It gets me only to the de Default page.



  • Veronica Sopher - Microsoft
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    @Markus - I've updated the link to the exam policies page. Thanks for the heads up!

  • ImmoRhys
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    I've never cheated any exam. Took me 4 minutes just then on Google to find a PDF of actual 70-413 exam questions. I've sat that exam, can confirm they are actual exam questions. The one I found online has actual diagrams, thats not a brain dump, thats an actual copy of the exam. Someone is selling them.

    I gave up on the MS certification, exams are rubbish, MS press books are versions/years behind and employers actively avoid anyone with MCSE now.

    You're 20 steps behind and not catching up. Prometric don't care about cheating, the more people that turn up knowing they'll pass, the more money they make.

    If you need me to email you the link, you need to stop using Bing and try Google.

  • bcb535f4-5a47-421c-95c5-0484df8a4988

    Microsoft should begin creating practice exams similar to what Sun does for the SCJP or SCEA. I know that there is the Master Certification but it is very expensive (almost $20.000). A practice or lab exam is the the only to test if the professional has the experience and knowledge necessary to work with technologies such as .NET and SQL Server.

  • Juan Pachiarotti
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    Now it's working! thanks.

  • Robert L Davis
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    To, I agree with your suggestion of MSFT creating their own practice exam. I used to be the PM who ran the SQL Server Certified Master program at Microsoft Learning, and I still hear feedback today from a lot of certification candidates about a variety of topics. One I have heard about a lot recently is how poorly the practice tests by 3rd parties are written with lots of very wrong answers given as correct.

    I also wanted to point out that the Master certification is no longer almost $20,000 for all programs. In 2010 we scaled out the program (SQL Server was first, others are following) to remove the mandatory training component on-site in Redmond, WA and made the exams available in highly secure Prometric centers. You have to pass 2 exams (not counting the prerequisites), a multiple choice knowledge exam (costs $500) and a lab exam ($2000).

  • Tim Lorge
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    A bit off the main topic here ... while I agree that the third party practice exams are a bit lacking, should MSFT bring the product in-house, please do not follow the IBM model which is roughly $30 US for each practice test attempt. There are no other alternatives which at least now we have.

    As for IBM, considering I no longer work with their products, I have stopped keeping current because the costs have become outrageous. Far too many other former IBM certification holders have done the same. As a result, their certs are not some “exclusive thing that only a rare few obtain” but are a joke and worse than worthless. Product evangelization happens long before someone enters a work environment and stumbles into a product.

    I would hate to see any of this happen to the MSFT program.

    As for the CM programs, those are brilliant and something to which every IT professional should aspire. Good on MSFT for making the changes.

  • Vimal Caleechurn - MCT
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    This couldn't be better now!! This is what we expect.

  • 3steveco33
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    Integrity will prevail...

  • Stephen Russell
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    Brain dumps have been around since the 90s, and MSL has had no success in stopping them devaluing certifications. So why should yet another threat that cheaters will be "dealt with harshly" be treated any more seriously than the earlier ones?

    If MSL wants its certifications to mean something, it needs to

    - provide high quality training courses that employers recognise as valuable in their own right

    - issue certifications that reflect knowledge and ability, rather than relying on memorising answers to multiple choice questions.

    It can be done, though I doubt MSL has the skill or budget.

  • Andrie Schoombee
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    How can you expect people to "honestly" pass an exam when the recommended training is not sufficient? Take exam 70-461 (Querying SQL Server 2012) for example. The recommended training is MOC 10774. This is the official recommended training course to prepare one for the exam, but when you sit the exam, you get questions about topics not even mentioned in the course (e.g. XML queries, triggers, locking, etc).

    I've seen this time and again where the exam objectives and the courseware objectives are not aligned at all. How can you expect everyone to stay away from dumps when they can't know for sure if their preparation is sufficient? Yes, all the exam topics are listed on MS Learning (with links), but the information is in a documentation / reference format. If you want people to stop using dumps, publish proper courseware that covers the exam completely, so that anyone who attended a MOC training course can confidently and honestly write the exam and prove their skills and knowledge.

  • mhodge00
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    Andrie - I bet if you look somewhere on the 70-461 pre-reqs it states "This exam is intended for SQL Server database administrators, system engineers, and developers with two or more years of experience, who are seeking to validate their skills and knowledge in writing queries.".  Took me only a few seconds to find that.

    What does this mean?  It means that you should already know those things you mentioned.  No way I'd expect to sit MOC 10774 and take the test if I didn't already have experience with the subject.

    Just my .02...


  • Veronica Sopher - Microsoft
    | |

    @Andrie - Microsoft exams are not intended as post-tests of any preparation or training product created by Microsoft or any third-party provider. All learning materials related to exams, including Microsoft Press resources, are developed independently of exam content. Authors of such material have access to preparation guides but not to the exam questions. Training is a great first step in preparing for a Microsoft Certification exam, but it is not required and does not guarantee that you will pass the exam.

    The best way to prepare for an exam is to practice the skills listed in the Exam Details page. Hands-on experience with the technology is required to successfully pass Microsoft Certification exams. MCT Bert Wolters blogged about this a while ago:  Our ACE team also regularly shares exam prep tips at . Hope this helps!

  • SRMcEvoy
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    Just wondering if there are any stat's on people being banned and or having certifications revoked? I have heard about this for years, but never heard even of a friend or a friend type stories of it actually happening? Also MS used to publish stat's on how many people we certified at each level. Are there any recent stat's available? Number of MCP's MCSE Server 2012, MCSE SQL 2012 ...

  • Andrie Schoombee
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    @mhodge00 @Veronica Sopher (Microsoft Learning)

    I understand that the exams require actual experience with the technologies, which is fair since a MCSA / MCSE is proof that one possesses the skills listed in those exam topics. But then again, why do Microsoft have Partners for Learning, whose goal is to prepare students theoretically and practically for the MS exams? Many people need the certification in order to get a job (although only a junior position) in order to gain experience. IMO, IT pros who have lots of experience are able to quickly do revision about the exam objectives, and then pass the exam. People who want to learn new technologies (i.e. server admin who want to learn SQL), or even people making a career change towards IT, should be able to attend a course (such as 10774, which contains lots of great practical training) and pass the exam, or at least be covered on all topics.

    My point was more about people using dumps because the only way to know if you're ready is to dump. And the only solution to that is to ensure that there are quality training available which at least covers all objectives listed for the exam. If I attend a course at a MS Partner for MCSA SQL Server 2012, it would be my expectation that I can pass the exams after training, obtain the credential, which I worked hard for, and grow my career.

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