• Continuing in the series of ACE NewsBytes covering the questions posed by the viewers of my webinar interview with Greg Shields from Pluralsight, this one covers those related to exam development:

    • How many questions can candidates expect when they take an exam?
    • Are the questions tested in a real world situation before appearing on an exam?
    • Why do require candidates to memorize commands when answering questions on these skills?
    • How can someone become a subject matter expert for Microsoft’s exam development?
      • Because I haven't mentioned this in awhile, here's the short answer... JOIN the SME Database today! Doing so will increase the likelihood of being invited to participate in beta exams and being asked to help design and develop Microsoft exams, courseware and books!
    • How often do we use internal Microsoft employees in this process?

    Want the answers to these questions and more? Watch this ACE NewsByte!

    As a reminder, in our first installment, we answered your questions related to exam preparation and alignment of learning content to exam content. In the second installment, we discussed question formats/item types, and in the third installment, we discussed questions about scoring.

  • |

    Calling all Windows Phone and Windows Store Apps developers!

    Microsoft is supercharging its AppToCert program for Spring 2015, broadening appeal to a wider segment of developers.  Here are the updated details:

    We know that you have real world experience in building apps, and hard decisions on how to spend your limited time and money for training and certification. So, why not simplify your life and get credit for those apps you’re building? Elevate yourself by getting certified as a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer through a special streamlined path, courtesy of Microsoft Learning and Microsoft Developer Support Experts.

    With the AppToCert Program, HTML5/JS or C#/XAML developers can save hundreds of dollars and get credit for up to two exams by showing the app development work you are already doing. 

    Along the way, the app review will provide you with tips on app design and implementation, and address common pitfalls and blockers to getting apps into the marketplace.

    Earning credit towards certification through AppToCert can now be achieved simply by completing these three steps:

    1. Pass either a Core or Intermediate technical review of your application by a Microsoft engineer
    2. Publish or update your application in the Windows Phone Store or Windows Store
    3. Take and pass one Microsoft developer certification exam from a list of Web, SharePoint, and Windows Store app exams.


    To learn more about the program:

    • First, review the program details and register here.
    • Then, visit Microsoft Virtual Academy and get a glimpse into the app review process: Last Stop: Getting Your Windows App to Market
    • Finally, learn more about one of our recent AppToCert program graduates in our spotlight here.
  • We have a number of great updates to share with you in this ACE NewsByte!

    1. The Bing Rewards Campaign has been extended through April 30! Take a MCP certification exam until April 30, and regardless of if you pass or fail, you will receive 525 Bing Rewards Credits.

    2. MCPs receive a 40% discount on print books and 50% on eBooks.

    3. Rock it at Ignite at the MCP party and by taking an exam for half price! MCTs plan to be there a day early for Day Zero fun (and it really is fun!).

    4. Larry Kaye (he envisions, designs, and implements our developer certification paths, requirements, and strategy), won the FIRST ever ITCC Innovation Award for his AppToCert program. The Innovation Award celebrates professionals in the IT industry responsible for creating a product, service, or initiative that positively impacts customers, companies, and/or the candidate experience. This is an AMAZING honor for him!! I really cannot stress how innovative his idea is in the certification industry. To be recognized for this program is quite an honor.

    Learn about these great updates and more by watching this ACE NewsByte!

  • As you may recall, I participated in a webinar interview with Greg Shields from Pluralsight in December, where I answered many of your questions about Microsoft exams. I had a great time during it and because I wanted to continue answering your questions, we began a short series right here on Born to Learn where we do just that. In our first installment, we answered your questions related to exam preparation and alignment of learning content to exam content. In the second installment, we discussed question formats/item types.

    Today, we're back with a brand new installment of our mini-series where we discuss exam scoring. Specifically, we answer the following questions:

    • Are all questions objectively scored? In other words, are they all scored automatically or are some human graded?

    • If there is more than one way to answer a question--for example, when a task can be completed in a variety of different ways—what is considered “correct?”
    • How many points is each question worth?
    • How do you decide how many points a question is worth? Does difficulty of the question come into play in these decisions?
    • If you don’t answer a question because you either run out of time or skip it, is it wrong?

     You always have lots of questions about scoring... What else do you want to know? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • As you may recall, I participated in a webinar interview with Greg Shields from Pluralsight in December. You had a lot of questions that I didn't have time to answer, so I'm answering them in a series of ACE NewsBytes because, you know, why not? 

    In our first installment, we answered your questions related to exam preparation and alignment of learning content to exam content. In this installment, we will be discussing question types and answering these questions:

    • What are the different types of questions someone might see on an exam?
    • What question types are being pilot tested right now? Includes an update on the assertion reason question type and introduces a new question type called "solution oriented" (I'm thinking this might need a better name...)
    • How does the "solution oriented" question type "work"?
    • What question types appear on which exams?

    Have you seen either of these two new question types on an exam yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments section below. 

    What else do you want to know? Your questions will be answered!

    Hit "play" to watch this ACE NewsByte

    If you're looking for more expert insights and tips for preparing for a Microsoft exam, please be sure to check out our first question and answer session here

  • 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...

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • |

    [Update]: A new version of the certification roadmap has been uploaded on March 5, 2015!


    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • |

    Updated on Dec 23 with new promo codes!

    A few weeks ago, I blogged about the new Enterprise Devices and Apps MCSE. The new MCSE exams are currently in beta, and I’m inviting you to take them at no charge! Free seats are limited, available on a first come, first served basis, AND you must take the exam before December 29, 2014!  You can take one or both of the exams, but remember – during the beta stage you can take each exam only once. You can take the exams at a Pearson VUE test center or via online proctoring (participating countries only).

    Here’s what you need to do:

    Exam 695 Deploying Windows Devices and Enterprise Apps

    To register for exam 695 go to https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/exam-70-695.aspx

    Use promo code VITOMVP when prompted for payment at the payment screen

    Update: Use promo code VITO

    Exam 696 Managing Enterprise Devices and Apps

    To register for exam 696 go to  https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/exam-70-696.aspx.

    Use promo code VITIMVP when prompted for payment at the payment screen

    Update: Use promo code VITI

    To take advantage of this opportunity, please register immediately in order to take advantage of the promotional code. Registrations via promo code are available on a first-come first-served basis.

    Because these exams are in beta, you will not know immediately if you passed the exam. Once the beta period is over, the exams will be scored and your results will be available.

    A final note – the promo codes cannot be used in India, China, Pakistan, or Turkey.

    I hope you take advantage of this great opportunity! Good luck on your exams!