A Glimpse into Simulations

Microsoft posts demo of performance-based questions on Web site.

When Microsoft rolled out updated versions of the 70-290, Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment, and 70-291, Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure exams, the company also posted a sample demonstration of the performance-based questions last week that candidates will face in the updated exams.

The following sequence of screenshots from the demo step through the basics of answering a simulation question, asking the tester to restore printer access on a print server whose IP address has changed:

Question embedded...
Figure 1. Question embedded in a simulated desktop, asks you to restore printer access...(Click image to view larger version.)

Click on Start!Setting...
Figure 2. Click on Start!Setting!Printers and Faxes...(Click image to view larger version.)

Printers and Faxes Dialog
Figure 3. In Printers and Faxes Dialog, right-click Main and then Properties in flyout menu to bring up Main Properties dialog...(Click image to view larger version.)

Click on Ports...
Figure 4. Click on Ports tab and unclick "Enable printer pooling" checkbox to clear port selections...(Click image to view larger version.)

Scroll through port list...
Figure 5. Scroll through port list... (Click image to view larger version.)

Question embedded...
Figure 6. .. click on correct IP printer port, then click Apply button, then OK button. You've correctly answered the question when you click the Done button in the question box to the right.(Click image to view larger version.)

The demo last about five minutes and offers a hint to the scoring process. Although there can a few ways to accomplish this printer reset, only one path will lead to a complete score. Choosing other paths or taking shortcuts can produce a lower score, so it's always best to figure out what is the correct "Microsoft" approach to accomplishing tasks. In this example, the shortcut path is disabled so you can only take one path (the correct one) to complete the task.

These types of simulation questions now appear in the 70-290 and 70-291 exams, with more exams to follow. (As of this report, Vue has rolled out the exams worldwide, except in Japan; Prometric has rolled out slower, with only a handful of sites accommodating test takers who want to take the simulation-based exams; see "New Microsoft Sim Exams Still Not Available at Many Prometric Testing Centers" by Becky Nagel on the site or click here for details.) Microsoft said it would publish a schedule for other exams that will contain these types of simulations questions, but the schedule hasn't appeared yet. So far, we do know that simulation-seeded versions of exams 70-293, Planning and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure, and 70-294, Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure, will appear in June.

Microsoft offers more detailed information and an FAQ regarding the simulation questions at

About the Author

Michael Domingo is Editor in Chief of Virtualization Review. He's been an IT writer and editor for so long that he remember typing out news items in WordStar.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, May 4, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

I took 70-290 last week. Although I actually liked the idea of simulations, I fear that my score was affected by some of the things others are saying. If it's true that my score got lowered because I took a different path to get somewhere, I'm going to be pretty ticked off. I think I know the material pretty well as I deal with it every day. My score was lower than I expected given my cofidence in my answers. My only comparison is 70-270 where I got a much higher score than I expected considering my confidence in my answers.

I also found some flaws in the simulations. The most glaring of which (and the only one I can remember at this point) was one where you had a list of items and their properties (obviously I can't be more specific than that) and when you add or change one of those items and save it, the properties in the list still reflected the default or previous value. I must have tried changing one of them 5 different ways thinking I was doing it wrong. I sure hope that the simulation just didn't update the list correctly but scored me correctly.

I'm planning to cram in 70-293 and maybe 70-294 this month (May) before they screw those up in June too. I'll wait on 70-291 until these simulation issues get settled.

Tue, Apr 19, 2005 Dave Minnesota

Wow, after reading these reviews, I'm glad I already have the 290 exam done, one less to have to deal with. I'm wondering how these were tested, because, as has been pointed out, there are many ways to do routine or daily tasks. You shouldn't be penalized for providing an answer or taking steps outside of their vision.

Mon, Apr 18, 2005 Scott Ohio

I found the simulations to be very flawed. There were several things that you could not do in the simulation that I do everyday in real life. The simple fact that they score you differently based on the way you accomplish a task, even though they all have the same result, is absolutely ridiculous. Then the simulation starts throwing VBscript errors at me in the middle of a question. The fact that i can't type shortcuts from the run menu is ridiculous and then they tell me afterward that if I tried to do that I got a lower score. how much worse can you get? I have only ever had a couple very small complaints about any exams I have taken by microsoft or any other vendors but these were just horrible. I would recommend that everyone hold off on taking their exam until they repair the simulations. When I spoke to microsoft about it they pretty much just blew me off and said that it was the testing centers fault and that they would not regrade my test because that would compromise the integrity of the test. I hate to say it but right now I have no confidence in this test and the fact that it is flawed is bringing the value of a microsoft test down to the floor. The whole concept of a simulation exam is a great idea but these sims are nothing like real life. They obviously did very little testing before they released this product and that disappoints me. If microsoft is looking for a better way to program these simulations I know a couple of 12 yr old kids who could do a better than this and the sad thing is that I'm not joking around!

Mon, Apr 18, 2005 Ross Illinois

"Choosing other paths or taking shortcuts can produce a lower score"

Where do you get this assertion from?
I can find no other reference to it.

Sun, Apr 17, 2005 Kurt Hudson Tempe, AZ

I want to be clear, even though I complain in my earlier posting, I still think Microsoft has THE BEST testing team and strategy available. I really like the hands-on testing idea. I am just saying that the implementation is flawed and needs to be fixed. The questions aren't the problem, it is the way the interface works.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 James Anonymous

I run a testing center and a number of exam takers are having problems with the 290 and 291 exams. We are constantly getting VBSCRIPT errors and the exams crash. Also, on some of the simulations (randomnly), a series of small red boxes show up in the middle of the screen and are filled with zeros. If you answer the various portions of the scenario accurately, the zeros turn to 1s, indicating that you sucessfully answered that portion. Talk about buggy! Come on Microsoft, quite using test candidates as guinea pigs for debugging your question pool. The exam is nervewracking enough without having to deal with flawed simulations.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 Sully Ohio

I had some serious issues with my simulations also. I tried to remove default settings in one of mine per the instructions and it did not function properly. The worst part is I have no confidence in the exam actually working correctly for a retake, so what is the point of scheduling one.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 Kurt Hudson, MCT, MCSE (2 Tempe, AZ

The 290 exam is flawed. I am already an MCSE 2003:Security (and MCSE on three previous versions 3.51, 4, 2000). I am also an MCT. I decided to take the 290 exam just to see how the simulations worked and they were quite disappointing. Also, to find out that your score is lower if you go a different way is completely rediculous! How could you possibly say there is a right way to get a task done? If I type dsa.msc at the Run line, is that not as good as going through the Start Menu to open Active Directory Users and Computers? No, actually my way is faster. If I use diskmgmt.msc to manage disks instead of compmgmt.msc is that wrong? No, my way gets me there faster. The simulations are a huge failure in my opinion. When I heard the exams would get simulations, I was thinking maybe Virtual PC or possibly VPN to Microsoft, but not this half-backed sorry approach to hands-on. These simulations are truly pitiful and truly a disaster! I am thoroughly disappointed. I hope everyone continues to complain unit something is done about this rediculous excuse for improving our certification. The best they are going to get from these exams is TEST MONKEYS. What I mean by that is people who memorize paths to get something done instead of learning how the operating system really works. Obviously the people that put these questions together DON'T KNOW HOW THE OPERATING SYSTEM REALLY WORKS!

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

At least MS offers the 2nd Shot, so you get another crack at it if you miss the first time.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 Jim Anonymous

I took the 290 test with the sims and I find them flawed. They do not reflect real world problems, the procedures to accomplish the tasks are limited and do not work all the time. I had to exit the sim and start over to get them to work some what accurately.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 MCSE-Ray Texas

I found that the Sim. Tests were not to good. I had upgraded from 2k to 2k3 with 292 and 296 and took this to check it out. I had passed, however they are doing things to purposely throw you off. There are many things that you can do many ways but to be scored lower by doing it one way from another is ridiculous. I have been in the field for 9 years and have to toot my own horn when it comes to Microsoft products, I don't like it (the exam sims). Oh well, they are new and I am sure that they will improve in the future. Hopefully sooner than later.

Thu, Apr 14, 2005 Loyal Anonymous

The 70-290 is a very flawed test to say the least in my opinion. I took the test and thought I did very well on it, but it seems a 612 was all that I could muster when I finished and hit score test. I did the pre-reading and studied the labs. The simulations must be scored kind of goofy, as I did not even find them all that bad. I was upset with the questions that ended "Pick two answers, each represents a complete solution by themselves." Come on Microsoft...Fix it and move on. Windows operating systems have several ways to do the same thing and knowing one way to do it fixes the problem and gets you on to the rest of your help tickets. In the real world you fix it and move on, not sit there and play and ask how many other ways can you fix the same problem. I will finish out and get my MCSE 2003, but I hope the tests get better. I have passed a couple already and will retake this one. Another goofy thing Microsoft does is Bold random words for no reason at all. What is up with that? Did you pay some shrink to find ways to make your tests more a pain then normal. Not bad enough that you have the pressure of paying for a test that is next to impossible to pass, but lets give them short time limits and bold words at random just to screw with people who give us money. Good luck to all who take it. Get lots of hands on and hope that even thoe there are many ways you can complete a task...that for this test you can learn the one way Microsoft wants it so you can pass.

Thu, Dec 18, 2003 dharma india

nice for all purpose

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