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  • Microsoft moves to more practical testing of MCP skills

    Microsoft has changed its certification process, moving away from multiple-choice exams towards more practical assessment of IT problem solving.

    Most large IT departments rely on the Microsoft certified professional (MCP) qualification as a guarantee of aptitude using Microsoft technologies, but until now it has tested candidates on multiple-choice questionnaires. Because candidates can pass these simply by memorising facts, departments are left with little idea of their practical abilities.

    Philip Virgo, strategic advisor at IT lobby group the Institute for the Management of Information Systems, said, "Multiple-choice testing is widespread and it is an issue not just confined to Microsoft. Most large-scale, low-cost qualifications rely on multiple-choice questionnaires and there has been a lot of grumbling about that.

    "In reality most people do not do much practical assessment - at the end of a course they do a multiple choice exam. All that proves is that they attended the course and were awake."

    He said Microsoft's decision to move towards better assessment of practical skills was "extremely good news".

    "It is something that everybody has called for and I expect to see other big software firms follow this move."

    Microsoft is introducing the Simulations Positioning Framework - software that runs on a PC to emulate real problems that IT professionals would face.

    Ram Dhaliwal, Microsoft training and certification manager, said, "It does not test what they can remember, it tests the performance of a particular task. It is more about problem solving and planning."

    Dhaliwal said the change in approach was in response to demand from candidates and IT departments wanting more rigorous testing of how candidates would cope with real-world situations.

    Although such simulation tests have been available for top-level architects, they required an external examiner to be present. Because thousands of people take the MCP exams every year, this was not practical, so Microsoft developed a PC-based system.

    The system, developed with Microsoft examination partners Pearson VUE and Prometric, will initially be available for Microsoft certified system engineer and system administrator qualifications. It will eventually be introduced across the full range of MCP exams, Microsoft said.
    http://www.computerweekly.com/Article137307.htm
    Cheers,

    Daniel Petri
    Microsoft Most Valuable Professional - Active Directory Directory Services
    MCSA/E, MCTS, MCITP, MCT

  • #2
    Performance-Based Testing

    Overview
    During 2005, Microsoft will introduce simulation technology in selected IT certification exams. This technology will substantially increase the value of certifications for hiring organizations by more accurately reflecting an individual's capability to perform critical IT tasks.

    These exams will test relevant job skills by having individuals strive to achieve real-world goals in simulated technical environments; in turn individuals will gain confidence from proven ability to execute critical tasks.

    Advantages of the new approach to certification exams include:


    Candidates perform the task rather than just answer questions about it.

    Candidates turn practice for the exam into hands-on experience: Practicing equals performing.

    Simulated environments better reflect problem-solving in the real world.

    The candidate’s score is predicated on how closely the solution meets the task requirements: The value is in the outcome, not the path you took to achieve it.

    Candidates build confidence for the job in practicing for the exam.

    Frequently Asked Questions
    Q: Which exams will include simulations?
    A: Microsoft will introduce simulations gradually, beginning with Exam 70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment and Exam 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure (core MCSA and MCSE on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 exams) in late March of 2005.

    A release schedule will be posted in this site in early March, 2005.

    Q: Is the entire exam going to be simulated?
    A: No. There are certain skills that are better tested through more traditional items. The number of simulations in the exams will be dependent on the exam goals.

    Q: Are the skills tested in each exam going to change?
    A: No. The exams will test for the same skills, but some questions will be replaced with simulation items.

    Q: If I have already taken Exam 70-290 or 70-291, am I required to retake it?
    A: No, you are not required to retest.

    Q: Where can I see a demo of the simulations?
    A: A demo of simulations will be posted in this location in early March, 2005.
    http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mc...ns/default.asp
    Cheers,

    Daniel Petri
    Microsoft Most Valuable Professional - Active Directory Directory Services
    MCSA/E, MCTS, MCITP, MCT

    Comment


    • #3
      It's about time !

      The next step should be sqeezing all the MCSE certification exams into one day hands on installation/configuration/troubleshooting lab the way RedHat do it with RHCE certification...

      If this is the direction, I might even take those exams and get myself certified
      Guy Teverovsky
      "Smith & Wesson - the original point and click interface"

      Comment


      • #4
        You are right Guy.. It is about time. I've taken nearly 10 Microsoft exams this last 18months, all the Windows 2000 ones for MCSA/E and the two upgrades for Windows 2003. I worked bloody hard to pass them and all through self study&out of my own pocket.... yet i still find it quite hard to believe you can be qualified for a Microsoft product, just by answering 50 multi-choice questions.

        Fair play however to the Windows 2003 track, as i noticed a significant improvement to the format of the exams, much more of a challenging, drag & drop, simulated environment. I still feel though that Microsoft base questions on situations that just dont occur in a live,fully loaded network. This mentality, in itself has to change.

        However, giving the candidate a DNS server simulation to set up, or a fully loaded AD interface to configure for 5 sites, would strip out all the idiots in the industry who just download the latest Testking to pass exams, then claim to be qualified.

        Thumbs up i say!
        UK Newbie!

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree, this is a step in the right direction. I've always been of the opinion that there are too many paper MCSEs polluting the industry. This might actually lend some value to the certification.
          Andrew

          ** Remember to give credit where credit is due and leave reputation points sigpic where appropriate **

          Comment


          • #6
            more info on exam simulations

            Overview
            Imagine having your skills validated as you do your job. With Microsoft's new performance-based testing, we employ technology that does just that. With simulations to be included in all Microsoft Windows 2003 exams, individuals can demonstrate their capability of solving real-world problems by performing tasks in simulated environments.

            Simulations imitate the functionality of product components or environments, complete with error messages and dialog boxes. Rather than simply answering questions about the real world, individuals will actually perform the task.

            These new exams will reflect the capability to meet the real-world requirements, and individuals will be measured on outcome, not on the path taken to get there. Instead of memorization, real job skills are measured, and individuals will gain confidence from demonstrating their ability to execute critical tasks using Microsoft technologies.

            Exams Available
            The rollout of simulations in Windows 2003 exams will begin on March 31, 2005, with the following:

            Exam 70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment
            Exam 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
            Please check with your local exam delivery provider, Pearson VUE or Thomson Prometric, for availability.

            Microsoft also plans to release new simulation-based versions of the following exams in June to complete the core Windows Server 2003 track:

            Exam 70-293: Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
            Exam 70-294: Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure
            We are evaluating customer demand for Windows 2000 exams, and currently plan to include simulation-based items in at least one exam in the MCSE credential track.

            Languages Available
            Performance-based exams will be available in eight languages: Brazilian Portuguese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.

            See a Demonstration
            Microsoft exams are developed by external experts, ensuring that the simulations in the exams are patterned after the real world, as our customers demand.

            View a demo of how the simulations work (1.59 MB). The demo requires Windows Media Player and a broadband connection.

            https://partnering.one.microsoft.com.../SimsDemo2.wmv

            Exam Testing Centers
            Initially, the new exams will be offered only through Pearson VUE testing centers that meet the minimum hardware requirements outlined below. Contact Pearson VUE with questions. As we continue to launch simulation exams, they will also be offered through our other Exam Delivery Partners, and we will announce their availability accordingly.
            Cheers,

            Daniel Petri
            Microsoft Most Valuable Professional - Active Directory Directory Services
            MCSA/E, MCTS, MCITP, MCT

            Comment


            • #7
              Definately a step in the right direction.
              Server 2000 MCP
              Development: ASP, ASP.Net, PHP, VB, VB.Net, MySQL, MSSQL - Check out my blog http://tonyyeb.blogspot.com

              ** Remember to give credit where credit is due and leave reputation points sigpic where appropriate **

              Comment


              • #8
                It is good that MS is going to this direction. Is it new -- NO!
                Many people either don't know or forget that Novell pioneered the Vendor certification way back who knows when. One of the exams I did back when I was doing my CNE in NW5 had several simulations using NWadmin. This is certainly the best means of testing whether the candidate understood the task. This is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

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