I just exchanged some Google+ interaction with an old friend and colleague who’s busily engaged in retooling himself from the role of SharePoint to Exchange guru. He’s let me know that the new question item types that Microsoft has added to its exams are becoming pretty prevalent (I blogged about this last December 19 in a post entitled “Interesting Changes Coming to MS Cert Exams“) and that the type described as “matching questions” can be both persnickety and confusing. A “matching question” is like a multiple choice, but instead of offering 4 or 5 answer options, it may offer as many as 15 or 16 choices.
Here’s how my buddy describes what he’s seen recently on the 70-662 Configuring Exchange 2010 exam: There are “screen shots of a configuration screen with 16 tabs where you are asked under which tab a particular setting is located.” He also reports that even though he “can work with the product just fine” he’s having difficulty figuring out how to find and master the information necessary to pass this particular exam. This puts a pretty heavy onus on exam candidates to really dig into and learn the user interface and the operational details necessary to install, configure, and maintain the products and platforms on which they’re being tested. It also raises the very interesting question of when questions step over the line from “testing useful knowledge” to “testing meaningless administrivia.”
That’s a case where the beauty (or value) of the question lies in the eye of the test developers. MS is keen to point out its profound attention to psychometrics and to finding questions that separate people who really know their stuff from those who just memorize a bunch of technical details long enough to pass an exam. But gosh, I find it troubling that somebody I know well, with a deep and broad technical background, considerable smarts, and day-to-day working experience with the platform on which he’s being tested, is struggling to figure out where to find the information to learn the answers to questions on that platform, so he can get past the exam!
I’ve recommended my usual fallback strategy to him in the case where you can’t use self-study to get over a particular exam hump: it may be time to take the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) version of the training recommended for this exam to see exactly what it covers. And of course, that will give him an opportunity to beat up his instructor to make sure he’s fully primed for the exam the next time he sits for it. In fact, this is the kind of case where it’s worth checking the schedule for the training center on the Microsoft campus in Redmond where he’ll not only get access to a premier instructor who works for the company, but can also communicate his difficulties and issues as directly to their possible cause as possible.