Virtual Certification

Several years ago I worked with an avant-garde team with the goal of bringing real-world performance based assessments to the world of Microsoft Certification. I know we weren’t alone in our desires – in fact I’ve seen Brian Egler blog about such dreams recently.

This crack crew of consultants, educators, and developers nearly got such products to market not just for Microsoft technology certifications, but other technologies as well. It was the best of times… almost. At the time, perhaps the world just wasn’t ready for performance based assessments.

In any event, let’s not dwell on the past, for the present and the future is looking very exciting right about now.

Microsoft Technology Specialist Exam 83-640 on Windows Server 2008 Active Directory: Configuring is live. Indeed, this is a lab practical – a performance-based assessment.

Well OK, so it’s not 100% news if you’ve taken a beta of it or taken a live version in some parts of the world where it’s been around since November 2008. Please read the brief on it at <>.

If this exam has reached your part of the world (currently only in English, FWIW), it may have replaced the traditional exam 70-640.

Why would you want to take a lab practical instead of a largely multiple-choice exam? Why would a vendor like Microsoft want to offer one? Will such moves improve the industry? Will this cross-pollinate over to other exams? If so, how quickly? Will the world be a better place a year from now because of this? So many questions… so many questions…

With respect to the first question: “Why would you want to take it?,” my opinion is that it really depends on your learning style, your testing abilities, and your actual skills at the console(s) of some virtual servers. One of the motivations of that avant-garde group I’d referred to earlier was to eradicate the issues with a glut of “paper-MCSEs” (that was prior to the MCTS+MCITP days). Yet I know many people who can configure Active Directory, teach other people how to do so, and regularly do consulting on it, and yet freeze up when there’s a multiple choice question staring them in the face which doesn’t have any 100% correct answers. Some of these people might know more than the people who wrote the exams. Others are probably just overthinking the question. Many of these types are prone to embrace a lab practical. Just do it. That’s the ticket. What a bargain.

But then there are many other people who love the multiple choice exams. Well, perhaps love isn’t the right word, but thrive and succeed is probably more what I meant. And some of these people who might already be MCITP or MCTS certified well beyond the 70-640 might just freeze up when faced with the hands-on 83-640. Well, if the lab systems don’t freeze up first. Some of the people who apparently took betas reported that the test vendor was scrambling to keep things running smoothly.

What do you think? Hypothetically, if you felt you were ready for 70-640 and you found out that your test vendor or region was going to be transitioned to 83-640 a month from today, would you rush out and take 70-640, or would you wait until it wasn’t available anymore and take 83-640 instead a month from now?

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