Microsoft retires exams to help maintain the value of your certification.

Exam Retirement: When, Why, and How

Microsoft retires exams to help maintain the value of your certification.

The ever-increasing rate of technological change means that the “half life” of IT knowledge gets continually shorter. For that reason, the Microsoft Certified Professional program occasionally retires, replaces, or updates its certification exams to reflect these changing realities of the marketplace and to retain the value of the MCP credential. At the same time, our goal is to balance the need to stay current with the need to keep our upgrade requirements and dates reasonable.

Current credentials are important because they enable MCPs to use the MCP logo and to represent themselves as Microsoft-certified. Current certification provides access to the secured MCP Web site with seminars online, technical product documents, occasional discounts, links to MSDN and TechNet resources, and more.

The retirement of Microsoft exams is part of what gives the MCP credential its value with your employers, clients, colleagues, and others. And there’s nothing mysterious about the changes. The primary criterion we use to make exam-retirement decisions is the relevance of the skills measured by our exams. To evaluate that relevance on an exam-by-exam basis, we look at three factors: Is the technology deployed in the marketplace? Does the volume of exams taken indicate that the exam is meeting a market need? Do sales of the corresponding Microsoft products indicate continued market interest in certified professionals for those products? Only when exams fail to meet these relevance criteria do we retire them.

As a part of this concern with relevance, we retire exams for a specific product version when we introduce a new exam for a new version of that product. But we generally keep the second-most current exam valid as well. For example, the Windows NT 3.51 and Windows NT 4.0 exams have both remained valid for the MCSE while Windows NT 4.0 has been the most current Windows version. When Windows 2000 and the corresponding exams are introduced, we’ll retire the Windows NT 3.51 exams—but the Windows NT 4.0 exam will remain current for some time.

Sometimes when we retire exams there’s no replacement, so you don’t need to do anything to keep your credential current. Sometimes, however, you’ll need to take a replacement exam, generally within six months to a year.

To facilitate your exam and certification planning, we make decisions about which exams get retired once each quarter. All changes are announced in the monthly MCP NewsFlash sent to MCPs and MCP candidates by email (To subscribe, go to: The changes—including what actions you need to take and when—are always available to you on the MCP Web site at [MCP Magazine also posts information on retiring exams at—Ed.] Check it out periodically and always feel free to send us your comments on the exam retirement process at

Keeping your MCP credential valuable: That’s what exam retirement and replacement is all about.

About the Author

Eckhart Böhme is Marketing Manager of the Certification and Skills Assessment Group at Microsoft.


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