New Twist to Exams: Just Do It

Microsoft's Learning Group to introduce simulations to MCP exams; new question type already available in Windows Server 2003 core exams.

Today, the Microsoft Learning Group announced what it calls a "dramatic change in the testing protocol," with the incorporation of newly developed performance-based question types to its exams. The new question types will begin to appear in exams in late March.

The Learning Group previewed performance-based questions, also called "simulations," to Microsoft Certified Trainers and Certified Partners for Learning Solutions members at a special non-disclosure session at Microsoft's World Wide Sales partner conference in Toronto last summer.

Performance-based questions will slowly be substituted for some of the questions on exams already available, first with exams 70-290, Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment, and 70-291, Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure. The last day that candidates can take these two exams sans performance-based questions is March 31, 2005.

According to a Microsoft Q&A posted on its press release site, candidates will see those questions begin to appear on other exams throughout the year; the company plans to release in late March a schedule showing when exams will go live with simulation questions.

Microsoft exams that feature simulations will continue to be provided by Prometric and VUE testing centers worldwide.

Candidates who have already achieved certification or passed exams that have or will incorporate simulations do not need to retake exams. Microsoft does allow candidates to retest on exams that have been updated with simulations to "help an MCP refresh his skills and perhaps make him a bit more marketable," states Al Valvano, Lead Product Manager with Microsoft Learning. is working on obtaining more details on this story. In the mean time, check out the following links:

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, Apr 20, 2005 Jeremy dc

Bottom line this is a good idea, paper cert carriers suck and bring down the cert value for the rest of us. However I also know a bunch of stupid "paper" BS and MS IT degree holder's so where is the line. At the end of the day, DO YOUR JOB! Don't worry about the little stuff and hey it's all little stuff. My motto, I say fire all the brown nose, buttkissen, YES men!!! Get the job done, real work gets you ahead in the long run. Just my two cents... Rock on man.

Sun, Apr 10, 2005 Jeff Australia

In real life situations administrators do not memorise the path to options that are used infrequently. In a real life situation you would know what you wish to do and possibly select an incorrect menu option, realise you are in the incorrect place and then go to the correct location. The previous simulations would lock you into this error. It was a test of your ability to memorise a path and not a test as to your ability to do the job. I hope that these simulations are better, Although I passed my first exam with simulations I got a simulation question incorrect because I inadvertantly clicked on a incorrect area of the screen and had an answer locked in that I did not actually select, (I knew it was incorrect but was not allowed to modify it). I would cautiously approve if the quality of the questions has improved significantly.

Fri, Apr 8, 2005 osler Canada

It's very excited! It should have been set to this way long time ago that MS is now just doing a right job.

It took me 4 years to prepre the exams for and mcdba2000. I wish I have time to do the P-exam to update my skills and refresh my knowlege.

Anyway, good to know and good to hear...good luck to the new comers!

Thu, Apr 7, 2005 Anonymous Toronto

It's a first step in the right direction but Garrydene is right to a certain extent. Simulations are great but they will end up eating up exam time since they usually allow for only one method which is usually not best practice to boot. Why? => You are logged in interactively as Admin and doing admin activity via GUI (not script, nor via runas in command line etc.). Thus if the sim is "best practice" it should make you do a runas in GUI or cmd line.
Ex. Day to day I do not log in interactively as Admin so when something needs to be done with privs I do a runas to cmd.exe. Thus when I need to disable a device I can run "mmc compmgmt.msc" (or devmgmt.msc) inside cmd or "rundll32 shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL sysdm.cpl,,3" and then disable in GUI etc.. Thus depending upon how they assume things are done administratively you may have to resort to not so good (GUI) methods that you wouldn't do in real life. Fair enough and the benefits of taking this step will out weigh the minuses but it will be annoying to the test candidate.
The only way around this I see is to base the simulation on VPC or Vserver and let the end state of the answer be checked. To some extent in an exam who cares how you get there.

Fri, Apr 1, 2005 Jag London

I sat the new style exam yesterday. There were approx 15 simulation questions (out of 44) which were realistic however shortcut options were not included, nevertheless it's a step in the right direction. I passed btw.

Sun, Feb 13, 2005 Tormentius Vancouver, BC

Ya know, having a basic grasp of literacy goes a long ways towards making a concise point...

Fri, Feb 11, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

WOW its gr8 cause this will then improve quality of MCSE's and will definately keep all those PAPER MCSE's away from the race.
Goodbye PAPER MCSE's, your days of reading PDF's and passing exams are going to absolate now.

Wed, Feb 9, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Geezzz can anyone else say VM? Well, or what ever microsoft calls their excuse for a Virtual Server environment. I use the very same concept with new hire canidates. "nice typing there resume' boy, now prove it". It's about time these test went practical!

Been saying that MS has needed this for years, well at least since the NT 4.0 Paper MCSE mess.

Tue, Feb 8, 2005 Garrydene UK

Simulation needs to be exactly like the real thing. Even using short cut keys must work. It's frustrating when the simulation is limited. Doing what you normally do is not working because the simulation only included one route and not all the methods.

Fri, Feb 4, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Guys common the MAC picture is put by this mcpmag guys .... You think what MS is going have all the test in MAC ....

Guys dont dream toooo much .........

Fri, Feb 4, 2005 Steve Anonymous

If they are running the new exams on a Mac I hope there are no right click style questions!

Fri, Feb 4, 2005 Lewis Anonymous

You guys are actually want all those loosers out there that just read a pdf file and take an exam to know how to manage a network? How do you expect them to get certs to put on their resume to say they know the job that they have no idea about?

Fri, Feb 4, 2005 Kurt Austin Oak Harbor, WA

Its an improvement for Microsoft, definitely. I hope they eventually go to a complete performance-based certification process like RED HAT. One written exam then a half-day practical.

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Tormentius Vancouver, BC

Theres a whiner in every crowd...

I think this is an excellent step and MS is starting to make their certs a little more worthwhile.

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

nothing like copying Cisco....

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 enayat meer new york

It is a new step to increase difficulty level:

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Maybe it has an emulator for Windows?
So does the M in MCSE now mean Mac?

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Yep it is. Maybe that is the performance question we should worry about

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Is that an IMac I see in the picture?

Thu, Feb 3, 2005 Neil China

This is exciting:)

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