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Microsoft Moves to Pass/Fail Scoring System

Test policy applied to all exams as of December 2001.

Microsoft no longer gives test-takers an overall score on exams, opting instead for a simple pass/fail system. Anne Marie McSweeney, Microsoft’s director of certification skills and assessment, said in an interview with MCP Magazine editors, that the new grading method started in December 2001 and will include all future exams.

Even though the pass/fail system was introduced last year, most members of the certification community weren’t aware of the change. Microsoft didn’t make a general announcement about the revamped scoring, originally releasing the information in a FAQ section on its Web site.

“People will notice it most with 70-218,” McSweeney said. 70-218 (Managing a Windows 2000 Network Environment), is a core test for the new MCSA credential, which Microsoft expects to be very popular.

Microsoft decided to drop scoring, according to McSweeney, because, “scores are misleading. People put too much credence into what the scores mean.”

McSweeney added that giving an overall score, “introduces a mysterious element and gives odd perceptions ... At the end of the day,” McSweeney continued, beta testers said that, “pass/fail was what they cared about.”

Aware that Microsoft could appear to be imposing its will on the MCP community, McSweeney said, “We don’t want to look arrogant. The onus is on us to present our case” to the public and explain Redmond’s rationale for the change.

This is the second recent change Microsoft has made to how it notifies test-takers of their scores. For years, the company gave not only a total score, but section-by-section scores so testers could identify areas of weakness. More recently, Microsoft dropped section scoring in favor of an overall score and pass/fail bar.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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