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.NET Server MCSE and MCSA Plans Changed

Expect the unexpected: Key certification track to be retooled for 2003, which may affect current MCSA/MCSE candidates.

Microsoft has decided to restructure its certification offerings for Windows .NET Server 2003. The changes encompass upgrade exams and a retooling of the way that the MCSE and MCSA credentials tie together.

A .NET Server-related FAQ posted on the Microsoft Web site Dec. 2 states that full details about the certification tracks will be available in early 2003. But it does reveal some clues about what is to come.

Dan Truax
Dan Truax, Director of Microsoft Certification Business & Product Strategy

Microsoft has decided to back away from the mix-and-match strategy it first announced in January (see "Windows .NET Exams in Pipeline," Jan. 23, 2002, http://mcpmag.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=452). At that time, the company said candidates could take both Windows 2000 and .NET exams toward the MCSE or MCSA titles. Now, the certification group has decided to eliminate that and simply offer upgrade exams for those holding Win2K credentials.

According to Dan Truax, Director of Microsoft Certification Business & Product Strategy, "Now, if you're an MCSA on Windows 2000, when we release the .NET track, you'll likely take one exam, assuming your elective carries over. For MCSE, again assuming your electives carry over and still count, you will probably take one or two exams at most."

Truax said that unlike 70-240, the four-hour accelerated exam for moving to the Win2K MCSE, these tests will be about the same length as the regular exams. "Our plan right now is to make them as close to a normal exam time as possible, which is why you need to be at that credential level on Win2K — because they build on that knowledge." At the same time, he said, "The reason we're able to do the upgrade exams is because there's still a lot of similarities [between Win2K and .NET]."

The new MCSA title will be available in the summer timeframe, Truax predicted. He expected beta exams to begin in springtime. The MCSE title will be available in the fall. This follows the schedule first announced in June (see "Windows .NET Server Exams: Spring or Summer 2003?" June 6, 2002, http://mcpmag.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=493). The .NET product line itself is expected to be widely available in April.

The changes to the certifications came, Truax said, after talking with current titleholders. "We could have pulled that [combined Win2K/.NET] path off. The more and more we talked to customers — and we talked to a bunch — we heard that they don't want to take exams for .NET Server, to become a Win2K person. What they wanted was, if they took .NET Server exams, they wanted to become a .NET Server MCSE, which is why we've moved to the upgrade strategy."

According to Truax, the changes are a result of an extensive job task analysis. That process involves bringing in customers who perform a particular type of job — such as administering a network. Microsoft "captures" the tasks the study subjects perform in those jobs. That results in a list of several hundred tasks. Then Microsoft does quantitative research by doing broader surveys to prioritize the list. From there, it develops a job role, with a list of tasks performed in that role. From that, the group scopes out the different credentials and the job skills needed for those titles. The latest analysis was started in January, Truax said, and took six months to complete.

Microsoft had originally announced a track of exams that matched up with the Win2K tests in July 2001. (see "Redmond Unveils Windows .NET Server Exams," July 27, 2001, http://mcpmag.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=368). At that time, whereas the server exam for Win2K was named 70-215, Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows 2000 Server, the .NET exam was named 70-275, Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows .NET Server.

Now, Truax said, those pending names are no longer applicable. "I think those titles will change. When we went through the [job task analysis] and looked at what [systems administrators (SAs)] do and what [systems engineers (SEs)] do, we pulled some things out of the SE set. We started looking at a green field — how would we do this? Let the weighting prioritize the tasks to drive the naming."

"If you're on the SA track, you're more focused on troubleshooting and administering. When you're in the SE range, you're going to be in the design, planning and implementing areas."

That analysis also led to the decision to tie the two titles more closely. As Truax explained, "Whereas if you look at the current Windows 2000 track, if you set down the path to become an SA, you had to take a special exam to become an SA. For the .NET Server track, you will become an SA along the way. It's a true superset-subset. That was part of our rebuilding or creating a new track."

The new exams may offer new item types, though Truax declined to provide details. "You'll see us investing over time in technology with our exams. You'll see that more and more. Whether it's product interaction or simulation, you'll see us going that way aggressively over the next few years."

You can read the Microsoft FAQ about the changes here: http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcp/mcse/faq.asp#c. You can read about the new exam types at: http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcpexams/faq/innovations.asp.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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