Exam Words to Memorize: Hot Area, Active Screen...

New exams slated for release this year to feature many new testing innovations and improved security.

Hot area. Active screen. Build list and reorder. The terms refer to new question types that are among several that Microsoft will be introducing in newer exams, including the Windows Server 2003-based exams slated for release this month. Microsoft has also updated its testlet exam format, a scenario-based question.

According to an updated FAQ on the Microsoft MCP Web site, "The new, innovative question types and testlet exam format have undergone rigorous usability testing by certification customers and usability engineers. These new question types offer intuitive interfaces, user-friendly features, and improved navigation. Help is available at all times to provide information about how all question types work."

The FAQ explains how each of the new question types are being used, and Microsoft recommends that testers download demos before attempting any of the newer exams. Take hot area questions (see figure). The question appears at the top of the screen and the tester is expected to perform an operation on a screen shot with active areas that are indicated by moving the mouse over it, simulating a task that might be performed in a working environment.

Hot Area Question Type
Hot area, one of many new innovations that Microsoft will introduce in upcoming exams, provides tester with an example screen containing areas that are activated as the mouse is moved over them. (Click image to view larger version.)

Andy Barkl, MCT and owner of in Phoenix, Arizona, observes that "The hot area is not exactly like the real-world screens but at least it requires a candidate to be familiar with the screens and options. The frustrating aspect of these new question types is that you are required to scroll each and every frame or you can't move to the next question, and there's a lot of white space beyond the text and screen shots."

While questions such as hot area might need navigation refinements, Barkl believes the new question types do a much better job of thwarting cheaters than multiple choice and thus, exam integrity. "This new question type, although similar to [questions in] the IIS 4 exam and its simulators, offers a richer exam experience and maybe, just maybe, will cut down on those who use alternate methods to pass rather than the traditional study methods and hands-on experience required...."

Microsoft also says that it has updated the testlet format, similar to scenario-based or case study questions. Testlets might be deployed at any point in an exam and are typically packaged as a set of questions that relate to a specific scenario. According to the FAQ, once a testlet is completed, it can't be reviewed during an exam. Also, testlets were in limited use in existing exams, but they've gone through further refinement and will only be deployed in newer exams.

For information on all the question types that Microsoft uses in its exams, go to

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:

Sat, Aug 9, 2003 Who cares Austin

Odd that people are still concerned about paper certs when most pros are considering getting out. The IT industry has taken a serious hit and this site acts like everyone is gunho about proving their worth on a test. A test is a test whether it is a question or an assimilation of a hands on task. Employers have gotten smarter and teh old guys are fading fast. The new blood can spot a newbie. It is a capitalistic society and you make what you negotiate not what you may actually be worth technically. IT is saturated and will be as long as movies portrays geeks as hackers with fancy cars partying all night and getting rich.

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 Ben Nevada


Hey, Angelo. You're the man. =) How long did it take you to get all those MS certs? My MCDBA took me a whole year.

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

The article fails to mention that the new "updated" format used in some of the current Windows 2000 tests I've taken recently also require you to scroll all over the screen real estate before you can proceed to the next question. Oh, and that's assuming the exam doesn't crash on you. Yes, I had that happen to me and still got a passing score out of the experience. I can't remember which tests where I saw this format, 70-216 in January of 2003 may have been one of them, be prepared to deal with it on any Windows 2000 tests you plan to take.

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Whatever MS will do to make changes in the format of their exams, it will not make paper certifications disapear... Maybe less, but still... It is a fact...

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 Goofy in Redmond Anonymous

I failed the demo question on the Hot Area example.

Fri, Aug 8, 2003 johhny no dump Anonymous

damn dumpers will still wreck it

Thu, Aug 7, 2003 Angelo Fleming MCT,MCSD,M Louisville,KY

Change is good!!! I think it is about time MS change the test format. These new test questions are a good first step towards weeding out paper certifications. Hopefully, someone at MS will have the courage to add a lab component to the tests ... similiar to what a cisco certified person completes before getting an advanced certification.

Thu, Aug 7, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Yeah. I REALLY hope that Transcender comes out with this new question type in their practice tests. I want to pay another $100.00 per practice exam on top of the $125.00 I pay for the real exam. hmmmm......

Thu, Aug 7, 2003 mrobinson52 Florida

I am hoping that the major exam simulators, like Transcender and MeasureUp will be able to include these question types in their products. I always take the tutorial at the start of an exam to get into "test mode", even though they have not chaged much in the past. It will be interesting to see these new question types in action! I hope they work as advertised. And this will also require many test centers to finally upgrade their test computers!

Thu, Aug 7, 2003 John NY

Whatever one may think of these new test method, it never ceases to amaze me just how far MS will go to take credit as they steal other people's work. Innovation? Hah! this testing method has been around for years already!

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