Test takers have noticed: training materials don't quite track with exam content. Now, Microsoft has taken steps to correct that discrepancy.
- By Linda Briggs
Have you ever been partway through a Microsoft exam,
moving along carefully and confidently, when suddenly—BAM!—you’re
hit by a question on a subject that you hadn’t encountered
anywhere, in any of your study efforts? And did this happen
despite the fact that you carefully brushed up using Microsoft
Press books and a course taught with Microsoft Official
Curriculum (MOC) materials?
This scenario apparently isn’t that rare, judging by
the audience reaction to a question at our September TechMentor
conference in San Francisco. When an attendee asked the
panel of Microsoft certification and training folks why
the training materials don’t always track with the exams,
the audience backed him up with voluminous applause. That
reaction put an exclamation point on a good question for
the panel: If all of this content—exams, books, MOC—is
coming out of the same company for the same purpose, why
doesn’t it all match up? If Microsoft says that one way
to prepare for exam 70-240, for example, is to take course
1560, then shouldn’t that course at least touch on each
of the major exam topics? If an MS Press book has “Microsoft
Official Study Guide” on the cover, shouldn’t you assume
it’ll cover the objectives on the associated exam?
To the credit of the three people on the Microsoft panel
(Eckhart Boehme and Alice Ciccu from the certification
side and Ken Rosen from the MOC side), they fielded the
question well. The good news is Microsoft seems well aware
of the discrepancy and is working to fix it. One thing
that will help is a recent restructuring that moved the
disparate content-provider groups at Microsoft—including
certification, MOC, and MS Press, as well as TechNet and
the Microsoft Web site—into one big group.
According to Ken Rosen, a lead product manager for MOC,
putting certification, MS Press, and courseware development
under one leader, Microsoft VP Robert Stewart, has several
advantages—including creating a group that now numbers
almost 700 people. This gives both certification and courseware,
Rosen said, “more visibility and recognition in the company.
We [now] tend to get more participation and buy-in at
a higher level. It’s not that we didn’t have that before,
but there’s more awareness of a 700-person division.”
More to the point of that TechMentor attendee’s question,
the move should also help the people who build the exam
content work more closely with the people who pull together
the training and book content. That’s got to be a good
thing for all the content providers—and for you as you
prepare for all those Windows 2000 exams in 2001.
Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.