Certification: Why Exam Development Is Separate from Training Development

Greetings! Here’s a word from Liberty Munson (AKA our crazy Psychometrician).

Liberty here. Why can’t authors who write books or courseware have access to exam content or act as subject matter experts (SMEs) during exam development? Why can’t SMEs who create exam content also author courseware/books or act as technical reviewers on courses/books that are considered preparation for that exam? I’m asked some version of this question a lot—even by some inside Microsoft Learning and Microsoft Press. So, I’m here to clarify what the requirement is and why we have implemented it. Well, I’m going to try to clarify it.

What Is the Requirement?

SMEs involved in the development of a Microsoft Certified Professional exam cannot be involved in any aspect of the development of training that is considered part of the learning path for that exam. This applies to all types of training—including instructor-led training, e-Learning, and some books and some aspects of the Community Authoring Initiative—and all training development vendors, including Microsoft Learning, other groups within Microsoft, and third parties. This does not apply to training or books designed to teach skills related to the use of technology but not intended to prepare someone for the related exam(s). However, if a perceived or actual link between the training and exam exists, SMEs involved in the development of one cannot be involved in the development of the other (and vice versa). You will be required to sign a Conflict of Interest statement prior to beginning work on any exam development project stating that you will not participate in any development activities related to anything that might be considered exam preparation. The key here is “exam preparation.” Again, you can author books and training materials if they cannot be considered training preparation for an exam on which you’d like to act as (or have already acted as) a subject matter expert; if that’s the case, you can do both.

Why We Have These Restrictions

These restrictions ensure that the exam is an independent, third-party evaluation of skills and abilities. They also ensure that our exams measure real-world experience rather than training effectiveness. Our exams are not intended to be post-training exams; they are intended to measure real-world experience with the technology. We don’t care how you get the skills as long as you have them! Although this independence between training and exam content has been a guiding principle for Microsoft Learning and Microsoft Press for many years, we recently formalized it because many of the third-party accreditations, such as ISO 17024, that we are seeking require this firewall between exam and training development.

Why Do We Care About Accreditation (and Why Should You)?

Accreditation is an independent evaluation of the quality of our certifications and development process that is nationally or internationally recognized (depending on the accreditation). As a result, accreditation can increase the value of our certifications in the eyes of candidates and other key stakeholders, such as IT managers.

Conflict of Interest Statement

If you are asked to participate in an exam development project, our content development vendor will send you a Conflict of Interest (COI) statement that must be signed prior to start of any work. After you review the COI, you can choose not to participate in exam development if the stated requirements limit your ability to participate in training development or book-authoring opportunities of interest.

I hope that I’ve clarified this a bit, but let me know if you have questions. I love to hear from our community and enjoy answering your questions—especially the difficult ones!

Comments (2)

  1. CFRandall says:

    As a trainer, I'd like to ask for clarification. Liberty wrote: "…cannot be involved in any aspect of the development of training that is considered part of the learning path for that exam." I've been told in the past that if I were to act as SME for an exam, I couldn't *teach* a course that was on the learning path for that exam. However I don't see that restriction here. Was i misinformed, or is teaching still prohibited, but just not mentioned in Liberty's article?

  2. devonm says:

    Hi, CFRandall. Liberty said this in response to your question: "I didn’t mention this because it’s a bit complicated. The teaching restriction is limited to only those SMEs who participate in alpha and applies for one year."