IT Career JumpStart

Dec 19 2011   3:51PM GMT

Interesting Changes Coming to MS Cert Exams

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I just watched Episode 1of Technet Radio’s “Microsoft Certified-Cert Talk” show (despite being called a form of radio, it’s a full-fledged video with pictures as well as sound). The guest is Liberty Munson, Microsoft’s lead psychometrician, the person who oversees the design and delivery of MS certification exams who also vets their content as being sound, rigorous, and statistically defensible. This material is worth checking out for all kinds of reasons, so I recommend it highly for viewing.

In the video, Ms. Munson not only walks viewers through a nice diagram that documents the MS exam development process, she also digs into some upcoming changes heading toward a testing center near you (if they’re not there already). For one thing, it looks like MS is switching over to a much-modernized user interface for its testing center products (what I saw on the screen looked very much it was developed using Microsoft’s Silverlight interactive Web development interface, or some visually equivalent non-Web API). For another thing, the company is working hard to present test-takers with more question types and interactive styles, to help spice up the plain-vanilla multiple choice questions that still make up the bulk and backbone of its exams (Ms. Munson also explains that while multiple choice exams do the job of measuring candidate skills and knowledge quite well from her psychometrician’s POV, they are also “a little bit boring,” and cheerfully concedes that other question types are being included to spice things up a bit and add more interest and sizzle to her organization’s public offerings).

The overall flow of MS exam development involves out-of-house subject matter experts at many steps along the way

The overall flow of MS exam development involves out-of-house subject matter experts at many steps along the way

New question types expand on the current inventory–which includes standard multiple choice, build lists, drag and drop items, plus active screens, case study items, and simulations of actual code and systems–with some new items that include the following:

  • matching questions: like a multiple choice, but with a much longer list of options from which test-takers must choose one or more correct answers to meet the current question’s stipulations and requirements
  • code case studies for developers: presents snippets of code that purport to solve a specific problem, or provide a specific implementation solution, and asks test-takes to choose the correct one (or ones)
  • best answer: for professional-level exams (MCM and MCA, primarily) provides a list of answers, all of which are technically correct, but asks users to pick the one that best matches or meets the criteria expressed in the question (or that represents the best solution out of those options for some reason or another)

Sounds like your next trip to Prometric or Vue for a Microsoft exam just might be a little more interesting and visually appealing. Hopefully, that gives everybody something to look forward to, rather than to dread!

[Note: you can visit the various "Learning Snacks" linked to from this Born to Lear blog entitled "Check out our new Snack demonstrating our wide variety of questions types!" dated 12/16/2011 to see some examples for yourself.]

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