As technology changes, we add new exams and revise or retire older exams. Our goal is to provide at least 6 months notice prior to retirement to give you an opportunity to finish earning your certification. Note that both the exams and their planned retirement date are subject to change, and we encourage you to check the exam retirement page regularly for the latest information.
Keep in mind that even if an exam that is part of a certification you earned is retired, your certification is still valid. When an exam you passed is retired, the exam record remains on your transcript. If you’re working toward a certification that includes one of the exams listed for retirement, please be sure to take the exam prior to the retirement date. Allow time for a retake if necessary.
Here are the highlights and important updates/changes from what was previously announced:
Want more details on retiring exams? Check the exam retirement page.
If you have any questions about exam retirement, please contact your regional service center.
In recent blogs, I explained the process we follow when you challenge a question. While we do find issues with questions through this process, more often than not, there is nothing significantly wrong with the question. If there’s nothing technically wrong with a question, why do candidates think there is? In most cases, our SMEs tell us that candidates are overthinking the question.
So, here are some tips to keep in mind as you think about answering our exam questions:
Remember that old adage that your first response is probably the correct one? This is an old adage for a reason. Don’t overthink the question. Unless you overlooked something significant in the question, your first (gut) reaction is often the right one.
Don’t read more into the stem than what’s there. Yes, we expect that you will be able to draw appropriate inferences based on the situation described without having to explain all the nuances in the stem, but those inferences should be based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are expected of the target audience, not those of the advanced or expert candidate. If you really know your stuff, don’t overthink the question. You may know of the corner case where something might work differently, but your average candidate probably doesn’t. Our exams are intended to test the skills and abilities of our target audience. You may be significantly more qualified than that person… keep that in mind when you answer questions.
Microsoft is not trying to trick you. Don’t assume that we are. You’re more likely to come up with the correct answer if you operate under this assumption than if you think that we are. I did a blog series on this topic about a year ago. If you want to know more, check it out:
If you don’t know the answer, it’s better to eliminate what you know can’t be correct and make an educated guess based on the remaining choices. You are not penalized for incorrect answers, so any answer is better than no answer at all. If all else fails, pick C… I’M TOTALLY KIDDING! THAT IS REALLY A TEST-TAKING MYTH IN THE COMPUTER-BASED TESTING WORLD!!
Keep these tips in mind the next time you take one of our certification exams, and let me know how it goes.
In a recent blog, I explained the process we follow when you challenge an exam question. However, we actually get the most feedback about exam scores. We refer to this type of feedback as a “candidate escalation.” It’s not the exam content that’s being called into question, but rather some other aspect of the exam experience. The escalations we receive about scores fall into one of these categories:
Well, about a year ago, I did a series of blogs related to scoring that really digs into the nuances of our scoring process, and rather than rehash that material here*, let’s talk about each of these common escalations.
My score can’t be right: When we get this type of escalation, we do confirm that the answers recorded for your responses were scored correctly by comparing them to the answer key. You should know that I cannot recall an instance in the many years that I’ve been working at Microsoft where the answer recorded was not correctly scored given the answer key. However, we have found instances where the keyed correct answer was actually not correct. In those cases, we review the candidate’s exam result and determine if a rescore is needed. (In many cases, removing a question actually doesn’t change the passing score because we always round up--the reason being that you must demonstrate at least minimal competence, and if we round down, you have not done that.) If the question can be fixed, we do so and republish the exam accordingly. When we do a rescore, every candidate who saw the “bad” question and was within a point of passing will be included in the process and will be notified only if their passing result changed.
I got the same score again: Actually, the consistency in the results shows that the exam is a reliable measure of skills. All things being equal, reliable exams should result in similar scores across multiple attempts. That being said, one assumes that you are studying between attempts, which should mean that your score improves, but this isn’t always the case. If you are stumbling in areas that are truly difficult, studying will only get you so far. You actually need to practice those skills to really understand how you should answer the associated questions on the exam. You should also explore other preparation strategies because it’s possible that what you’re doing isn’t working as effectively as you would like.
So, psychometrically speaking, taking an exam multiple times and getting the same score is actually a good thing. From a candidate’s perspective, though, I understand the frustration. Look for other preparation strategies, including hands-on practice, and the result will hopefully be different on your next attempt.
The score report bars show that I got over 70 percent correct:It’s a common misperception that you must answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly in order to pass the exam because the passing score is scaled to 700. Because it’s a scaled score, it does not reflect the percentage that you must answer correctly to pass. The actual percentage varies from exam to exam, and in many cases is actually higher than 70 percent. The percentage of correct answers needed to pass is based on input provided by subject matter experts who helped us set the cut score and the difficulty of the questions delivered when you take exam. If you see a more difficult set of questions, the passing percentage will be lower than if you see an easier set of questions.
On a related note, because the number of questions in each section varies, the length of the bars cannot be used to calculate the number of questions answered correctly, and bars cannot be combined to determine the percentage of questions answered correctly on the overall exam. What does this really mean??? Even if the bars show that answered a high percentage of questions correctly in one or more sections, you can still fail the exam. Why? First, there may not be enough questions in that section to compensate for poor performance in other sections. Or, the passing score is higher than 70% and could be as high as 80+%, which means you need high scores across all of the sections
Remember: If something doesn’t seem right about your exam or a question that you saw, you need to let us know! We don’t know what we don’t know. As I have often said, Microsoft is not trying to trick you. Really. A good way to do let us know that you think something is off an on exam is through our challenge and escalation process. Don’t be afraid to use it!
*You really should read these blogs because they explain the difference between a scaled score, raw score (the number of points you earn before the scoring algorithm is applied), and percent correct needed to pass. They also explain why Microsoft uses scaled scores and why you should prefer this approach over a straight percentage correct. Check out the series here:
Development of our Windows 10 portfolio of exams is nearing completion.
On the IT professional side, the first Windows 10 exam - Exam 697 Configuring Windows Devices - is nearing the completion of its beta phase, which began in early September. At this time, an MCSA: Windows 10 certification will not be offered. Instead, passing Exam 697 will result in a Specialist certification, which will be the recommended pre-requisite for MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps.
Due to the overlap between the Windows 8.1 exams and this Windows 10 exam, the Windows 8.1 upgrade exams 689 and 692, as well as the MCSA: Windows 8 certification will retire on January 31st, 2016. Exams 687 and 688 will remain as Specialist exams until they retire on July 31st, 2016.
A second client exam, Exam 398: Planning for and Managing Windows Devices, is nearing completion. This exam will also result in a Specialist certification and covers the Enterprise Mobility Suite. More information on the release of this exam to beta will be available soon.
If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that I really want to hear your feedback about our exams. You might be wondering, “How do I do this? And, if I do provide feedback to Microsoft, will anybody even read it?” Well, one way for you to provide that feedback is through our question challenge process. And, YES! we do read and respond to each challenge that we receive. Here’s how the process works:
1) If you believe that a question on an exam has a technical issue (e.g., it's inaccurate, outdated, or doesn’t have a correct answer), you should submit your feedback through our question challenge process following the steps detailed here (under "Challenging a Microsoft Certification Exam Item"):
2) Challenges are routed through one of our vendors to our Candidate Complaints Manager, who reviews them. If the challenge is related to scoring, we confirm that the exam was scored correctly (but, we technically consider this an “escalation” which I will discuss in a future blog post). If the challenge is related to the technical accuracy (or similar) of the question, it is sent to subject matter experts for feedback. The SMEs review the challenge and the question and provide feedback. This review is rarely simple. Often, SMEs do additional research to ensure the technical accuracy and appropriateness of the question so they can provide a detailed rationale for their response and recommended action. Feedback can take one of several forms: there are no issues with the item, the item should be fixed, or the item should be removed.
3) Based on the subject matter expert’s feedback, the Candidate Complaints Manager writes a response and sends it to our vendor, who then sends it to the person who submitted the challenge. Note that we typically don't provide as much detail in our responses as the SMEs provide in their review. In order to protect the integrity of our certification process and maintain the question security, we provide a high level summary of this feedback. Our goal is to provide a response in 6 weeks although we work as fast as can and do everything to respond more quickly. However, finding SMEs, having them review the question, reviewing the feedback, consolidating, and responding takes time. Be patient. We are looking into your issue with due diligence.
4) Sometimes investigations of challenges do reveal issues with questions. When that happens, I work with the Candidate Complaints Manager to determine the appropriate course of action. Lots of variables come into play when making these decisions, and each situation is unique. To oversimplify this a bit, if the question is fundamentally flawed, we remove it from the exam as quickly as possible. If there is an issue that affected the candidate’s ability to answer a question correctly, we rescore impacted candidates. If a question can be fixed, we do so and republish the exam as quickly as possible.
This is the basic process that we follow for most challenges. If the challenge is something new or unusual, the Candidate Complaints Manager routes the escalation to me for review.
I should mention that, of course, candidates don’t always agree with the result of our investigations, but given the rigor with which we develop our exams and the process we use to investigate issues raised through this process, I trust that the evaluation of the challenge is an accurate reflection of the quality of the question that is under review.
Got other questions about the process? Let me know!
Are you an expert in developing apps that leverage other services and devices and that use best coding practices to enhance maintainability? Do you want earn your MCSD: Universal Windows Platform, which requires passing exams 483, 354, and 355? If so, pay attention!! I have some great news for you!
We are opening up 300 beta seats for this beta exam... This means you can take the exam for free!! BUT... the seats are limited to first come, first served basis--so, register today--and we need you take the exam as soon as possible so we can leverage your comments, feedback, and exam data in our evaluation of the quality of the questions. The sooner you take the exam, the more likely it is that we will be able to use your feedback to make improvements to the exam. This is your chance to have a voice in the questions we include on the exam when it goes live.
To prepare for the exam, review our prep guide and practice the skills listed: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-355.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code BETA355MCP to take it for free. Remember: There are a limited amount of spots, so when they're gone, they're gone. You should also be aware that there are some country limitations where the beta code will not work (e.g., Turkey, Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam); you will not be able to take the beta exam for free in those countries.
Also, keep in mind that this exam is in beta, which means that you will not be scored immediately. You will receive your final score and passing status once the exam is live.
Oh, by the way, don't forget that 354 is also in beta... You can get 2/3 of the way to earning your MCSD: Universal Windows Platform by participating in both beta exams. Learn more about the 354 beta here:
Well...what are you waiting for? Register before all the seats are gone!
***UPDATE*** As of October 20, 2015, all 300 free seats for this beta exam 354 have been claimed. Thanks for your enthusiastic participation and interest!
Are you an expert in developing apps and designing and implementing a compelling user experience? Do you develop enterprise LOB apps with an emphasis on the user experience? Do you want to take the first step in earning your MCSD: Universal Windows Platform, which requires passing exams 483, 354, and 355 (hang tight the 355 beta will be announced soon)?
To prepare for the exam, review our prep guide and practice the skills listed: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-354.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code BETA354MCP to take it for free. Remember: There are a limited amount of spots, so when they're gone, they're gone. You should also be aware that there are some country limitations where the beta code will not work (e.g., Turkey, Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam); you will not be able to take the beta exam for free in those countries.
Microsoft is pleased to announce the release of a new Windows 10 developer certification entitled MCSD: Universal Windows Platform.
This credential demonstrates expertise at designing and implementing Universal Windows Platform apps that offer a compelling user experience, leverage other services and devices, and use best coding practices to enhance maintainability.
The new certification is earned by passing all three of the following exams:
The MCSD: Universal Windows Platform certification will go live on Oct 13th.
For more details on this new credential, please visit the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer landing page.
Update: All of the vouchers have been claimed! Thanks for your interest and please keep checking back to Born To Learn.
Are you an expert in configuring Windows devices? Do you configure devices on a regular basis? Do you want to earn a specialization in this area without paying for it?!?
We are opening up 200 more seats for the 697: Configuring Windows Devices beta exam... This means you can take the exam for free!! BUT... the seats are limited to first come, first served basis--so, register today--and we need you take the exam as soon as possible so we can leverage your comments, feedback, and exam data in our evaluation of the quality of the questions. The sooner you take the exam, the more likely it is that we will be able to use your feedback to make improvements to the exam. This is your chance to have a voice in the questions we include on the exam when it goes live.
To prepare for the exam, review our prep guide and practice the skills listed: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-697.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code 1010 to take it for free. Remember: There are a limited amount of spots, so when they're gone, they're gone.
Well...what are you waiting for?
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?
On 1-Oct, elevate yourself by getting started on your Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer certification through a special streamlined path. With the two-part AppToCert DVLUP Challenge, developers can earn several rewards by showing Windows development work that you are already doing.
In Part 1 of the Challenge, developers will submit a published Windows or Windows Phone App for evaluation against a list of technical criteria. When you pass, you will earn:
In Part 2 of the Challenge, developers will take and pass a single developer certification exam. When you do, you will earn:
For more details and to get started, visit:
On August 4, I had the distinct pleasure of giving the keynote address at TechMentor. Greg Shields and I took a different approach to the keynote—it wasn’t a presentation but a fireside chat--complete with a roaring fire (video-based, of course) where he and the audience asked me questions about Microsoft’s certification and learning program. It was an awesome experience that I hope the attendees enjoyed as much as I did!
Missed it? Here’s a high level view of the our conversation which focused on Microsoft's efforts to modernize skills validation and make it more relevant and valuable to technical audiences and employers. As our industry is changing so are the ways technical professionals want to learn and prove their skills.
We started the conversation with an overview of the exam development process and how IT professionals and developers could become involved in that process (hint: add your profile to our SME database--http://aka.ms/MSLSME and don't forget to update it as Microsoft releases new products!). From there, we opened up the conversation to questions from the attendees. They were particularly interested in badging because it has the potential to highlight skills in a different way than certification, and badges could be easier to attain, paving a smoother road to certification.
We also discussed why people were interested in certification and why they were not. A common complaint is that candidates want to demonstrate competence with hands on/performance-based methodologies, not with multiple choice questions. This led to how we might certify "work products." Is there a way to grant a certification for something that you're already doing? In the developer space, this is relatively easy--see the CertToApp program for an example. With the right resources and support, we could expand this to other developer "products." The IT Pro space is a tougher nut to crack, so I asked the audience for ideas on how we might take the idea of what we're doing with CertToApp and apply it to the ITPro audience. They offered some great suggestions, such as having someone submit their design specs for building a system/process to pre-specified requirements or even submitting the design spec for a system they have created or implemented (e.g., building a server and adding the features and rolls specified by Microsoft or needed for your organization's implementation). By the way, if you have ideas, I would love to hear them.
My favorite part of the conversation, though, was reminding attendees that we value their feedback. Leave comments when you take exams, escalate issues or concerns that you have about exam questions--see https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/certification-exam-policies.aspx for more details, and complete the Exam Satisfaction survey when you receive the invite from ComScore, our survey vendor. We carefully review all of this information to make improvements that (I hope) result in the highest quality exam and experience. There's no such thing as a perfect exam; we don't always know when there is an issue, and we need your help to tell us if something doesn't seem right. If all else fails, email me...seriously.
We also spent some time talking about the crazy ideas that I have to shake up the world of certification. Some are on Microsoft Learning's radar, but others are dreams that I have on how we might revolutionize certification as we know it today... More on that in a future blog if you're interested. Let me know in your comments.
I really enjoyed this conversation and am always looking for more opportunities to answer your questions. Ask away!!
Photo credit: Douglas DeCamp
Have you been paying attention to what's been happening in the world of Microsoft Certification? June brought two big announcements that are highlighted in this ACE NewsByte:
1) Online proctoring expands to most European countries with plans to continue the worldwide expansion over the next few months, and
2) MCP Profiles were launched, allowing you to create a public profile that showcases your skills not only to others in our community, but to potential and current clients, customers, and hiring managers!
Learn more by watching this ACE NewsByte!
And, by checking out these links:
Because many of you were so kind to respond to our text entry survey (see this blog post: https://borntolearn.mslearn.net/b/weblog/archive/2015/05/11/help-us-evaluate-a-text-entry-scoring-tool), I wanted to follow up with some details on what we learned.
What did we learn about the scoring tool that we were testing?
What do people think of including text entry questions on our exams? Respondents indicated that:
Overall, survey responses provided support for including these types of questions on our exams. So, never fear...although this scoring tool didn't work as well as we'd hope, we are not giving up. We continue to explore other options to creating an innovative solution that allows you "code" or write commands/syntax in such a way that 1) gets us closer to the real world experience than multiple choice questions, 2) takes into account the multiple different ways a solution could be implemented, and 3) is scored correctly on the exam!
Thanks to everyone who took time to respond to our survey and provide this valuable feedback!
Calling all Windows developers! Microsoft Learning is in the process of defining the next set of developer exams on the new Universal Windows Platform, and we would like your input on the importance, frequency, and rigor for each functional group and objective for these exams.
If you wish to participate in the online survey, please click on the following link, and submit your responses by July 6th:
What are you doing on August 4 at 8:30am PT? If you're looking for something to do, I have an idea. Come to my keynote address at TechMentor 2015.
I cannot tell you how honored I am to be invited to do this! I am SO excited about this amazing opportunity. Of course, it won't be your typical keynote address filled with a PowerPoint presentation because I've never been one to do the normal. Instead, it will be more like a fireside chat with TechMentor co-chair Greg Shields. I am planning to discuss research showing the benefits IT Pros receive from becoming certified and explain how Microsoft designs and develops its MCSE certification program to ensure ongoing relevance and value.
I am going to reveal the "secret” sauce for how we develop valid and reliable certification exams and how we ensure that our exams AND your skills stay relevant and up to date. I will also be sharing some changes that are coming, not only to certification exams but to our certification program, and other great ideas we have in the pipeline. As you know, we continue to look for ways to improve our certification process, innovate, and increase our certification's value not only to you but to hiring managers and organizations... I hoping to be able to share some really cool stuff that I'm working on that should help with this!
Want to know more about my session (or see what I look like)?
Well, what are you waiting for? Register today! I would love to see you there!