Pass/Fail Study

If you’re part of a training center that offers on-site testing, MCP Magazine invites you to take part in a research project to evaluate pass/fail rates for exams.

If you’re part of a training center that offers on-site testing, MCP Magazine invites you to take part in a research project to evaluate pass/fail rates for Microsoft exams.

The individual information you provide will be kept confidential and will be used strictly for the purpose of statistical compilation. All participants will receive a copy of full results. Results will be published online and in the magazine.

To learn more, send e-mail to; put "Pass/Fail Study" in the subject line of your message.

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Mar 6, 2002 Chris Scotland

I agree with what seems to be the majority, that you only really need to know your score if you FAIL. Identifying the areas where you were poor will help if preparing to retake the exam. Why do you need to know how well you did in each area when you PASS. Passing the exam should be good enough.

Sun, Feb 24, 2002 sakib dhaka

my mcp id # 2457347 i want know i gave network infrastruceture am i pass or fail.

Fri, Feb 15, 2002 martin manchester

Does not bother me.Seperates the men from the boys and hopefully help PUSH wages up He He!

Sun, Feb 10, 2002 person Northeast US

I totally agree with KrisHuss from Riverside....I believe that the exam should be able to give you just the section totals, indicating weak areas...after all, the exams are very comprehensive, and many of us work full time. If you have to re-take an exam, they should at least give you a real score, by section, so that you can study more in the areas you are weak in...after all, if we are to install and administrate Win 2000, and you pass by the skin of your teeth, how is that a good indication that you know the product. Sometimes it just means that you are better at taking exams than some people.

Fri, Feb 8, 2002 Tahir Abbas SOFTNET Faisalabad Pakistan

The PASS/FAIL idea is good but the score must be displayed according to topics and printed result may only be pass/fail. If only PASS/FAIL then he did'nt know about his improvement and study skills. The topic wise score report must be displayed after each exam.

Thu, Feb 7, 2002 Gatesdollar Anonymous

Let's see how much we can screw with these guys. Let's totally go in the opposite direction to make our program look stupid. Let's chase after the problem and never focus on the solution. Yeah, I think this is what I have decided. --
-Not frustrated because I am one of those people who have failed tests. I just think it is some wrong decision making on Microsoft's part. GET TO THE SOLUTION, not the problem!

Thu, Feb 7, 2002 Hector Miami, FL

I guess if I pass I pass. But, if you fail an exam you would really like to know how bad you failed to use different study habits or sources for future exams. Getting that high passing score was a good boost on feeling personally good about yourself on your knowledge of the Exam. But, I settle for Pass and Score if I Fail. They really should send emails to all Existing MCP's before making changes like this. Everyone please Comment.

Thu, Feb 7, 2002 Maverick Cairo

I passed 70-218 last month. I am what MS calls a charter MCSA :(. Passing the exam was a piece of cake. the good thing about it is that a lot of people are not taking it yet because there are no dumps for it. I am with the PASS/FAIL thing because we will get rid of paper certified people, or at least downsize them.
We are getting to many calls, where i work, from certified people who don't know anything and are requesting technical support for minor things, most of which are MCPs or even MCSEs.
It is giving the people who do know how to get the job done a bad name.

Wed, Feb 6, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

It's simple. In order to sell W2k & .NET servers to the enterprise, MS must pump up the MCSA & MCSE numbers without SEEMING to lower the bar. When they need more MCSA/Es (which they desperately do need) they will lower the bar to pass exams. Like a 510. No one will really understand just how unformed newly minted MCSA/Es are except MS, and they don't care. They've done it before (lowered pass rates to pump up the numbers), and with Pass/Fail do it with impunity. They must actually like the commercial braindump sites, which present exact exam questions. "Paper MCSA/E." Get used to it. Gotta have it. Study on.

Tue, Feb 5, 2002 Bionic Joe Lexington, KY

You should know where you are weak after taking an exam. Not giving a score is lame, but telling people where the are weak specifically weakens the test. Unfortunately, this move is to combat the braindumps, at the expense of the testers. M$ can afford these types of moves. 'It's just life in the big city.'

Mon, Feb 4, 2002 Bob Anonymous

Pass/Fail is fine but what I would really like to see is a transcript of the questions missed. All the exams build on one another so it would be helpful to know which areas are weak.

Mon, Feb 4, 2002 sml anonymous

These exams are a test in memorization. Lets face it, it is important when you FAIL to get some feedback. I have no problem with the PASS status because no single person in this industry remembers how to do everything without reviewing the details first. No feedback on a FAILED exam sucks. A simple score would be encouraging. By the way, they should title 70-216 VERBOSE and VAGUE. This exam is a nightmare...


Here's my compromise suggestion. Microsoft may give ONLY the pass/fail grade without showing any scores (so that should take care of prospective employers who want to know how well a candidate did in an exam). Besides, scores DO NOT determine how well a person will perform at work.

HOWEVER, to be fair to failed candidates, Microsoft should present in the score report, in point form, the exam objectives where the candidate had made incorrect responses. Microsoft DOES NOT need to tell those candidates how badly they failed, but they would at least know their weak areas. This would only serve as an encouragement for candidates to try to make good on the second and subsequent attempts.

At present, by showing only the pass/fail grade, Microsoft is doing the opposite.

Sun, Feb 3, 2002 SALMAN Anonymous


Sun, Feb 3, 2002 Chuck Chicago

What do you call a Doctor who passes with the lowest grade possible in the his/her class:

A Doctor.

Sat, Feb 2, 2002 Phil San Diego

Why do anti MSFT whiners even bother getting certified? I love Microsoft and I am proud to be an MCSE. The only thing I care about when I take an exam is the green bar at the end. I got a red bar once, I didn't like it! Green Bar good, Red Bar bad! I do think a fail score is helpful, but a pass is a pass.

Sat, Feb 2, 2002 Kursk Russia

Stop. MS certification is of no value, it doesn't matter whether you are pass or fail. Try another career

Sat, Feb 2, 2002 Michael Brisbane Australia

In Australia we pay $275 to sit an MS exam. I believe we should get a section analysis breakdown especially in the event of a fail. Even in a pass, MS could give a percentage breakdown for each section without having to give a final score figure. I must admit from a personal point of view I always enjoy seeing how far the green (pass) line exceeds the blue (required) line, I get a great sense of satisfaction from knowing I have performed well on the exam. Cheers.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I think the traditional score system is better because it gives you an idea of how well you have done on the exam. The pass/fail system doesn't give you a whole lot story.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Steve Anonymous

First off, Pass/ Fail tests are not fair. The validity of the test score can be questionable, and now you have no recourse.. You lost your fight, there is no debating if you think the test was scored either pass or fail... Most M/S tests are fair, and if it wasnt for the trickery or the test engineers question/answer interpretation the test would be easy.. These exam are designed to make money.. billions of dollars if you include the cost of studying material and your time and/or employers time. But we will still take them and pass them..Its a piece of paper that says you passed or failed and that cost more now then before with less to go by... Im glad I have 1 more left for 2k mcse certification.. Then off to cisco.."now where did that book go"

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Lyn oregon

If I fail, I want to know where I failed. First the price goes up and now they have this pass/fail -- no informaton for the person. The scores were helpful, at least you knew how close to pass you were when you failed.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 to limbitzki and $$ her and there

i have good skills and $$ but i agree with limbitzki. but i agree that the roi is far greater. we are really very very poor compared to the value we have given gates.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Joe Davis Fresno

I'm disappointed; I think a Pass/Fail system undermines the importance of the test (kind of like opting for a pass/fail on a college course). In fact, CompTIA & CISCO could serve as role models for how much detail should be given in the results. When you study hard & really think you know the material, a breakdown of each area & how you scored helps to alert you to possible weak areas. If you truly care about your level of knownledge (i.e., so that you can really provide the services & skills for which you want to get paid), then such detailed breakdowns are a godsend. I've known people that really didn't care; they were happy just to squeeze by. If anything, I think Microsoft should raise the passing score of every exam to force even the least honorable person to know enough not to be a complete ripoff to whomever hires him/her. For those who are ready to passionately rebute my opinion, consider the perceptive difference between having a CCNE & an MCSE: which one stands out as more of a true testament of one's knowledge & skills?

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Christopher Columbus, Ohio

Sure, took the 70-222 Exam. Although it still had the score on it, I don't think that it makes a whole big of a difference. I think the result will be that more and more people will actually pass the certs at a higher margin, because of the fear factor in failing. More time and better use of study aids.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Matt US

As someone who is MSCE 2000, the grade scores made no difference to me. Pass/Fail is all I cared about. Even when I failed 216 by just one question the first time I took it. I'm happy with Pass/Fail. These are not instructional tools for studying. These are exams for determining competence. If you fail, you know automatically that you were getting at least 30% or more of the questions wrong. That, in an of itself, is plenty of information to go back and study.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Don Anonymous

If you only get a pass/fail, you have no way to learn from the score and any reasonalble person would want to know their strenghts and weaknesses. Unless, of course, much of the test material has no real world value (as often is the case with MS exams) and then it doesn't matter.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Marty North Carolina

------Correction for above-----

I meant to say I think we are entitled to an actual score.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Marty North Carolina

I don't think that we are entitled to getting an actual score. If a company that is hiring is comparing scores on exams and it's just pass or fail they will not be able to pick the most knowledgeable candidate. Colleges don't let you graduate pass or fail, without a grade. Companies always want to know your GPA from college so why wouldn't they want to know how you scored on your certification exams. As more and more people get certified I think actual scores will be the only way to weed out the ones who just slipped through the cracks.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 KJH Anonymous

As an MCSE/MCSA/MCT allready, my opinion may not mean much to those of you trying to pass, but I am also an Instructor. It means alot to my students to see their scores. I think it is a big benefit for someone to know they passed by a large margin. It is certainly a benefit to the students in the class who are struggling to prepare for an exam to see the top students in the classes get very high scores. I find it tends to get those borderline students in to the testing centers more often, and with higher confidence levels. I hope Microsoft looks at our opinions and changes things back to the way they were.

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 Jeff New York

I just completed my Windows 2000 MSCE and a couple of the exams were pass/fail. I was VERY upset when I just saw a pass/fail VS. a score. After working so hard to study for the exams I feel that I should know how ell I did. I also would like to know which subject areas I may be weak in, so a breakdown of scores (like NT4( would also be useful).

Someone said that I should know which areas I am weak in if I have to struggle through some questions....well I disagree... many questions/answers are carefully worded to confuse with verbiage. Sometimes I feel I am taking an english exam, dealing with subtle semantics vs. taking a technology exam.
Signed ....frustrated

Fri, Feb 1, 2002 CyberSamurai D.C.

I'm MCSE 2k, took 70-218 and failed... Mostly wanted an assessment of the difficulty for some other engineers (and me!). While an ego blow, I expected some difficulty due to the lack of reference/study material. As a former college instructor and professor in CIS, at the very least I would like some guidance on weaknesses. I do understand though that this is a TEST - not an instructional tool. That's the difference in feedback vs. NO feedback. Keep Pass/Fail.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 adrian anaheim

I agree 100% with Want Online Poll. Pass with no score and fail with a score. It makes a difference in your confidence level when retaking an exam, knowing you are close. Failing with no score, after spending all that time studying, may cause some to give up pursuing Microsoft certifications.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Shelly FL

The only people that get hurt with the pass/fail method are those who put a lot of effort and money into their studies and then get lumped with those who just squeezed by, and those who couldn't care less.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Irfan Ahmed Karachi-Pakistan

One should know his/her score. Doesn't matter if pass or fail. Maybe MS doesn't have any concern, but students who worked hard and spend heavy amount of money has a concern.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Wolfi Canada

Another stupid idea from Microsoft. This is just an easy way for Microsoft to be able to change the goal posts without anybody realizing what is happening. We have seen far too many of these changes. If Microsoft changed the way the questions are asked and not try to trap a person with an English major, there would be no reason to pass the questions on. Let’s see more simulations in the tests, maybe then we will see a true reflection of a person’s ability.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 scott philly

There is no question you need to see your score if you fail. However, it does not YET mean a thing to see how much you passed by. Those of you who think you will STAND OUT because you got higher scores are just losers who put too much time into scoring on exams instead of real world application. I don't have time to focus on getting a high score. IN FACT, I often end an exam well before getting to the end knowing that I alreay answered enough questions to pass. Scores mean nothing. Only passing matters.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Kwhytock Salt Lake City

The Pass / Fail scenario is terrible. I passed the 70-240 test and although it was great to knock out 4 tests with 1... I hated not knowing where my strong and week points were. I think for 30-40 hrs of study and $125 you should know your score! I am also an MCT and all of my students since the announcment are against the Pass / Fail scoring.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Doug Freimarck (MCSE NT4, Portland, OR

Novell had a better Idea years ago by requiring a higher score to pass if you were going to teach it. Microsoft can still learn a lot from Novell and should publish the scores, otherwise, it has a tendency to mask poorly written exams and many other problems. Can you imagine Universities and Colleges only giving out pass/fail info? Microsoft needs to study some educational psychology. There are few pros and many cons to their pass/fail philosophy, and it is only useful in a handful of learning enviroments . I usually get scores in the 800's and and am constantly motivated to get into the 900's if for no other reason than professional ego. Good job MCPMag, keep up the excellent reporting.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 KrisHuss Riverside, CA

I can see MS's intent to tighten the reigns and keep the MCSE a hard-earned, coveted credential. If it's easy to get, it means nothing. But as an MCT that teaches MCSE courses, it's really tough trying to help a student that failed a cert test if his score sheet doesn't show me where he's weak. PASS/FAIL (scoreless) format is fine, but add a detailed breakdown on why it was a fail so a student can revisit the weak areas. If a trainer can't help a student get certified, while MS keep s the value of the MCSE high, they could diminish the value of the MCT.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Rick SC

I hope that by only stating Pass/Fail, some of these dumpers start failing because they got a dump from a guy who passed by the seat of his pants

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I took the professional test on 1-11-2002 and not only passed but also received the final score. There was no break-down on subject matter but I was expecting a pass/ fail. I do not like the
"supposed" new format because an exam should have some verifiable results. Qh well, the server exam will hopefully indicate PASS. Chris


Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Tom Atlanta

I generally have an idea how well I did on the MS tests but I prefer having a score to know how badly I failed. Maybe MS could be persuaded to adopt the failing score only option. Right ---the article was about the RATES but the exchange of ideas is good.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Keith Redmond

You pay for the exam, you deserve to know whatthe score was. Pass or Fail, you should get a full print out.
Braindumps, bill, all other cr@p aside we are the customre here and we deserve a quality product, and that product should contain scores.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Wayne windows land

I think that putting the score onto the results page for the test taker only is good to see so as others said you know how hard to study even though MSoft may say if you dont know how hard to study then you will assume the worst and study harder no matter what. So what can we say but keep the darn score the sheets for the test taker to see!!!! good luck all

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Huub Rog The Netherlands

It sucks. I did the 216 exam today and it only say's faild. Considering the amount of time I spend studying, and boy how I studied, I would like to see a score. Maby I needed only a few points. now I know nothing.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Phil Texas

I believe you should have a score, just to see if you can cut the mustard. I think it's a underhanded method to recieve a profit from somebody who doesn't stand a chance; and to have to find out that fact after shelling out $500 or more before giving up. I know 5 people who took 3-4 times for a pass grade on the 216.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 action21wv West Virginia

I just failed the grand daddy 70-216 and I have know idea how close I was. I think some idea towards where I was weak would have been very helpful. Looks like another way Gates is putting more of my $$ in his pocket. Think I may switch to Linux....

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 tim Anonymous

Did all of you misunderstand the article? The magazine is interested in compiling stats on pass/fail RATES. Whether the scores are reported or not is a completely separate subject.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 mark rochester

Exellent idea. Keeps those people that write the questions down and pass them to their friends not knowing exactly by how much they passed or failed. Now if only microsoft would put those "braindumps" out of business.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Brian BC

The PASS if you pass and FAILING SCORE if you fail (See "Want Online Poll" - 1/30/02) sounds like an excellent compromise. I don't see any downside to anyone with this solution. Can anyone name any disadvantages (for MS or the student)?

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 BOGUS Micro$haft Topeka

Look, there should be scores. Some people study harder than others or true, may be better test takers. But these people deserve to stand out compared to their peers who only squeek by. If I shell out $125, I darn well deserve a score.

Thu, Jan 31, 2002 Stuart Seattle

Knowing your score is vital. If you fail an exam, it is very important to know how badly you failed so you know how much more you need to study.
Now that you're paying more for the exams, you should have more to learn from the results.

Wed, Jan 30, 2002 Jim LA

I don't mind the Pass/Fail plan. By going this route though I think it would help those who take the tests to offer the breakdown of the areas tested to give the test taker an idea of where to improve. The flat Pass/Fail is too vauge.

Wed, Jan 30, 2002 $$ USA

Limbitzki...if Bill Gates makes you poor, you obviously have no marketable skills, and passing certification exams will do you no good. Your ROI should be far greater than the $$ spent on getting certified.

Wed, Jan 30, 2002 Limbitzki Anonymous

Hail Bill Gates- I made him rich, he makes me poor. How much more $$ would i have to give you gates?

Frustrated Tech.

Wed, Jan 30, 2002 Miller New York

I believe the Pass/Fail score is good. I took the scoreless 216, 219, and 227. Knowing all but the 216 was a scoreless exam, made me review and study just a bit harded to ensure that I just didn't squeek by.

Wed, Jan 30, 2002 Want Online Poll USA

What about an online poll? Pass and your score report shows PASS (only). Fail and your score report shows FAIL and YOUR FAILING SCORE. Most people only really care about their score when they fail (what to know by how much). Microsoft doesn't what you to represent high passing scores (a pass is just a pass no matter how high your score is). This is a reasonable compromise that we should all push for (call and write Microsoft directly) and Microsoft should accept. Also I hope this magazine will do this online poll with this choice.

Tue, Jan 29, 2002 Gert Stockholm SWEDEN

I don't mind Pass/Fail, as long as I Pass. I took the scoreless 216 22/1-02 and passed. I belive that third party testware type Transcender will be of more importance as they provide our desired score as well as they are excelent studyware. The area of dumps will be taken to the next level of comparison as a result of the Pass/Fail "strategy".

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