Did you know that you can earn college credit by passing a Microsoft Certification Exam or by earning one of our certifications?!? A few years ago, we partnered with the American Council on Education (ACE) to have some of our exams and certifications recognized by their partner universities and higher education institutions for college credit. A few people have emailed me or asked about this recently, so I thought it would be a great time to remind everyone that you, too, can be earning college credit by passing one of our certification exams and/or earning one of our certifications.
Who is ACE, and what do they do?
What exams are included?
To learn more about the number of credits possible for each of these exams (most are worth 2-3 credits) as well as the certifications that are eligible for credit, visit:
How does it work?
It's easy... especially if you've already passed one of the exams above. If you're in school or thinking about going, take a look at the list above, you may already have a good start on earning your degree!
Are you an expert in designing and managing Exchange Server? Are you responsible for the Exchange Server 2016 messaging environment in an enterprise environment? If so, here's your chance to start down the path to the MCSE certification for free AND help us improve the quality of this exam!
We are opening up 350 beta seats for this beta exam (exam number: 70-345)... This means you can take the exam for free!! BUT... the seats are limited to first come, first served basis--so, register today (these codes will only work through February 12, 2016, meaning you have to register AND take the exam on or before that date)--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-70-345.aspx. To prepare for this beta exam, check out my recent blog for ideas: https://borntolearn.mslearn.net/b/weblog/archive/2015/12/31/just-how-does-one-prepare-for-beta-exams-without-preparation-materials.
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code EXCH2016010B to take it for free, but these codes are only valid for exam dates on or before Feb. 12, 2016. 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.
Well...what are you waiting for? Register before all the seats are gone!
Another common question that I am seeing quite frequently in your comments to my beta exam posts is "how do I prepare for a beta exam?" For a number of reasons, exam development occurs much more quickly and is usually well ahead of the development of associated learning materials. Why? Because exams are independent evaluations of skills, we don't need to wait for the learning materials to be created in order to develop the exams. In fact, our goal is to have an exam in market as soon as the technology is released to the public. In order to do this, we create our exam questions as soon as the technology or service is stable enough for us to do so (by "stable," I mean that technology/service is unlikely to change significantly after we have spent time, money, and resources to write the questions... at least for a small window of time it takes to get the exam in market).
So, how do you prepare? Well, start by determining if the exam is right for you. Review the "Who should take this exam?" section of the Exam Details page. The Exam Details page can be found at the URL that I always include in my blog posts related to beta exam availability. Do you have the necessary skills and abilities to potentially be successful in this content area? Here is the MOST important thing you should remember about beta exams--they are intended for people who truly have the skills and experiences defined by that target audience description. Because of the limited preparation resources, you only have the possibility of being successful if you meet this minimum bar.
Do you have the minimum skills? If so, the next step is to review the "Skills Measured" section. Carefully, evaluate your skills in relation to those being assessed on the exam. Can you perform the tasks listed? If someone asked you how to perform the task, could you explain to them what you do and why? Actually perform the tasks listed in the “Skills Being Measured” section of the Exam Details page. Note any challenges that you encountered and keep practicing. Hands-on experience performing these tasks is essential to passing our exams. Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Ask others how they perform those tasks. Do they perform the task differently? Understand why they do.
Finally, there may be learning resources available (although I should mention that this is rare for most beta exams). If any are available, they will be listed on the Exam Details page for the exam under "Preparation Options." We are working closely with our practice test provider to have practice tests in market as soon as the exam is live; at times, they will be available at the same time the exam is in beta. As a result, this may be an option as you prepare for a beta exams, but you shouldn't rely on it. In addition, you should review the learning options available at www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com. At Microsoft Virtual Academy, you may find learning activities that are related to the skills measured on the exam; MVA may not have a perfect fit training solution, but it might have options that are good enough. Any resource that causes you to think through the task and skill being assessed will help your learning process.
Beta exam preparation in a nutshell:
1) Do you have the skills and experiences described in "Who should take this exam?"
2) If so, which of the skills measured do you have? Which tasks can you preform? Which don't you have or can't you perform? Be honest!
3) Practice, practice, practice
4) Still can't do it? Ask experts how they perform the task. Understand how and why they do it that way. Are there any situations when they would perform the task differently? Why?
5) Do a Bing search for white papers and MSDN and TechNet articles, or similar for other insights into those skill and the tasks covered by the exam. Explore MVA for training and learning options that are related to skills being measured by the exam.
6) Take the exam!
7) GOOD LUCK!!!
I get a lot of questions about the difference between credentialing, certification, certificate, and licensure programs within Microsoft. There is a lot of confusion, not only within my organization but also among candidates and to some extent, within the industry. I recently attended the ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) conference where I led a breakout session with two esteemed colleagues in the industry, Brian Bontempo and Phil Koneman, on this very topic. Are you curious about what the difference is between these concepts? As you explore your credentialing options, do you really know what you are being awarded...regardless of what the program calls it?
Let's start at the beginning with credentialing. Credentialing is the overarching term used to refer to concepts, such as professional certification, certificate programs, accreditation, and licensure.
Digging into this, licensure tends to be the pinnacle of the credentialing pyramid (if such a thing actually exists) in that it is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job and is a mandatory process required by the government for an individual to practice his or her profession. Licenses are always time bound, meaning that after some period of time, individuals must demonstrate that they continue to have the necessary skills and abilities for competent practice.
A certification program is similar in that by meeting the associated requirements to earn the certification, certified candidates have demonstrated that they possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for competent performance in the job or content domain being assessed. Although certifications are not mandated by the government, some professions require certification for employment or practice.
In contrast to certification and licensure, an assessment-based certificate program is an educational or training program that is used to train and then assess whether key learning objectives were achieved by the learner. In this case, the assessment is clearly tied to the training because the goal of the process is to demonstrate that learners have attained the learning objectives. This is the key difference between the way we think of exams (independent evaluations of skills regardless of how those skills are attained) and assessments (tied to the demonstration of learning objectives taught during training).
Accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards and is awarded recognition if it is in compliance with those standards. This is important because all three of these areas in the credentialing space can be accredited, even assessment-based certificate programs. Many people believe that these are less rigorous than certification and licensure, but you can design very rigorous assessment based certificate programs that meet the same reliability and validity requirements as accredited certification and licensure programs. Accreditation is a seal of approval from a third party that you are meeting predefined quality standards.
Microsoft has a certification program, but many of the comments I hear from candidates is that our training and books don't align to the exams. While I am working on ways to create closer alignment between them, keep in mind that Microsoft has a certification program (an independent evaluation of skills not tied to training), not an assessment based certificate program, which is tied to training. I hope that this distinction makes more sense now. As always, I am happy to answer your questions. Ask away!
With so many beta exams in market right now, I thought it might be a good idea to address the most common question/complaint that I hear in relation to beta exams... Twenty minutes isn't long enough for me to comment on all the questions that I want to comment on! Why can't you give us more time or let us comment on the question during the exam?
In order to protect the content, I must limit the amount of comment time provided during the beta exams, just as I do during live exams. Because beta feedback is so important to the quality of the exam development process, I allow twice as much comment time for betas than I do for live exams. Although it may not seem like it’s enough time for comments, if you have an issue with an item, I guarantee that someone else does as well and that someone will have taken the time to comment on it. Given the number of beta candidates and their different perspectives on what is important enough to comment on, I feel confident that I am getting the critical feedback needed from your comments while balancing the need to do everything I can to protect our content.
I cannot allow comments during the exam itself because 1) I need to know how much time it really takes people to answer questions, 2) exams must be timed and many test takers will spend more time commenting on items rather than answering them—inevitably they will run out of time before finishing the exam, leading to dissatisfaction (and while I don’t want to play ‘mom,’ sometimes I have to make decisions that help candidates manage their time appropriately during the exam), and 3) commenting during the exam changes the exam experience, which has psychometric implications for the fairness, consistency, validity, and reliability of the process.
Now that you know why I limit comment time, here's what you can do to maximize the time that you do have. Prioritize your issues and concerns. Spend more time commenting on issues related to the technical accuracy of the questions, clarity issues, and questions where there doesn't seem to be a correct answer or where there may be more than one correct answer combination. Spend less time commenting that you liked/loved a question (although I do love to read those comments, if you have substantive issues/concerns, I would rather you spend your time telling me about those issues) or saying that you don't have a comment...you'd be surprised by the number of these types of comments that I read. Interestingly, the questions with the most comments tend to be those with typos. So, if you have other issues to comment on, save the items with typos for the end unless the typo is so egregious that it's not possible to answer the question correctly. Someone else will comment on typos...trust me.
That being said, if you have feedback on any questions that you were unable to provide during the exam, please feel free to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Describe what you remember about the question and the issue or concern that you have. We’ll see if can find the suspect question and be sure to review both its comments and psychometric performance.
Are you an expert in designing big data analytics solutions on Microsoft Azure? Here's your chance to start down the path to certification for free AND help us improve the quality of this exam!
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 (these codes will only work through 1/15/16, meaning you have to register AND take the exam on or before that date)--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-70-475.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code BETA475SME (CODE UPDATED and is correct) 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.
Are you an expert in designing and implementing Microsoft data platform solutions? Do you have work experience in on-premises and cloud-based platform solutions? Are you able to identify tradeoffs and make decisions for designing public and hybrid cloud solutions? Can you define the appropriate infrastructure and platform solutions to meet the required functional, operational, and deployment requirements through the solution lifecycle? Here's your chance to start down the path to certification for free AND help us improve the quality of this exam!
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 (these codes will only work through 1/15/16)--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-70-473.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code BETA473SME 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.
The MCSE: Communication certification is being updated to support Skype for Business skills.
Starting 28-December, 2015, the following two new Skype for Business exams (currently in beta) will fulfill the MCSE: Communication requirements, provided that the candidate has already earned a qualifying MCSA credential:
The following Microsoft Lync Server 2013 exams retire on 31-March, 2016, but will remain an accepted path towards earning MCSE: Communication until 31-July, 2016:
Please see the MCSE: Communication web page for more details after 28-December.
UPDATE #2 - 10:00AM Pacific, Dec 15 - Great to see the response for these two exams! We've just added 150 additional free beta seats for each exam. Go and grab your spot now!
UPDATE 11:55am Pacific - All free seats for these beta exams have been claimed. Thanks for your interest! I'll be announcing more beta exams on our blog this week, so keep watching!
Are you an expert in designing, planning, deploying, and maintaining solutions for unified communications (UC)? Do you deploy Skype for Business Server and Skype for Business Online solutions for end users, endpoint devices, telephony, audio/video and web conferences, security, and high availability? Well, have I got something FUN for you! Take the beta exam, get on the road to earning your MCSE (for free), AND help us improve the quality of this exam!
We are opening up 300 beta seats for these beta exams... This means you can take the exams for free!! BUT... the seats are limited to first come, first served basis--so, register today (these codes will only work through 1/15/16, meaning you have to register AND take the exams on or before that date)--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 these exams, review our prep guides and practice the skills listed: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-333.aspx and https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-70-334.aspx .
***Register for the 333 beta exam from its prep guide page and use code SKYPE4B333 to take it for free.
***Register for the 334 beta exam from its prep guide page and use code SKYPE4B334 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.
Register today before all the seats are gone!
Are you an expert in planning and designing cloud and hybrid identities and supporting identity infrastructure for managing devices? Do you have experience in desktop/devices administration, Windows networking technologies, Active Directory, and Intune? Do you work in a Device Support Technician or a Device System Administrator role? Most important, do you want to earn a certification saying that you really know how to plan and manage devises in enterprises? Of course, you do... here's your chance to start down the path to certification for free AND help us improve the quality of this exam!
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-70-398.aspx
***Register for the exam at the same site and use code BETA398MCP 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.
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!