On beta exams and their vociferous patrons


There is a disproportionate amount of clamoring and piping up about beta exams given how few of you, in the big scheme of things, take them. This leads me to believe that:

A) we need to make more information available about betas and/or

B) the type of people taking beta exams are the type of people who are going to clamor and pipe in any case.

I’ll be frank; I suspect B. Unfortunately, we haven’t updated our page about beta exams since 2001 (I believe this is around the same time someone invented fire), so I really can’t rule out A just yet. Here is what we’re planning to post on Microsoft.com, please tell me if we’ve missed something you people would like to know.

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In much the same way as software is released for beta testing, Microsoft releases “beta exams” during the exam development process, inviting select candidates to help us conduct an objective and critical review of each exam before release. Your participation in this step of the development process helps us produce exams that are challenging, relevant, and accurate; a step we feel is critical to maintaining an industry-leading level of recognition and respect for Microsoft Certifications.

During the beta exam, participants respond to a subset of the pool of questions defined for an exam using the same test equipment and in the same environment as the live exam. The results of the beta—candidate performance and verbatim comments—determine both the final question sets and the scoring model for the live exam. Participation in a beta exam is your opportunity to:

  1. Influence the future of the Microsoft Certification program. Your expertise and feedback will directly translate into world-class exam items, which ultimately determine the value of our certifications. The beta process is also an excellent way for you to begin, or further, your relationship with Microsoft.
  2. Be the first to pass an exam—or earn a certification. If you pass the beta exam, the exam credit will be added to your transcript when the live exam is released. And if the exam qualifies you for a certification, you will earn that certification. If you pass, you will not need to take the again exam in its released form.
  3. Take an exam for free. In recognition of your time and contribution to our development process, we offer the beta exams for free to our target candidates.

The basics of beta exams

  • Beta exams are typically offered by invitation only; however, in some cases, they are publicly announced.
  • All beta exams are offered at Prometric testing centers, with some regional restrictions. They are offered for a limited period of time and for a limited number of seats.
  • The format is similar to that of a live exam, though it will likely contain more questions.
  • The exam naming convention 71-XXX is used for beta versions of MCP exams; when the exam is released in its final form the naming convention 70-XXX is used.
  • Candidates take the exams free of charge.
  • At the end of the test, you have 30 minutes to feedback on the exam and on individual questions.
  • Participation in the beta process is completely voluntary and Microsoft makes no promises or guarantees regarding the beta exam process.

How to participate

Microsoft will determine whether beta exam invitations will be sent to select candidates only or publicly announced. In an invitation-only scenario, we generally identify qualified candidates based on experience working with the technology and related exam history. This ensures that the released exams measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the target audience. Invitations and registration codes are sent via e-mail to selected candidates. Receiving the invitation does not guarantee you a seat in the beta; we recommend that you register immediately. In order to receive invitations, you must be subscribed to the MCP Flash; this is to help ensure we respect your contact preferences.

· Subscribe to the MCP Flash

· Update your e-mail address in the Microsoft Profile Center (logon required)

When beta exams are announced publicly, we promote the opportunity in our newsgroups and on certification-related blogs. We recommend you participate in the community to find out about upcoming beta opportunities. Find related newsgroups and blogs on the Community page

Beta exam scoring

Unlike your experiences with live exams, you will not receive a score immediately upon finishing your beta exam. This is because the scoring model for the exam isn’t available yet when you are taking the beta. The scoring model is determined by the cumulative results of the beta, as illustrated in this overview of the scoring process.

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Your score will originate with Prometric and then be reflected on your Microsoft transcript. In general, results for beta exams are published on or near when the final exam goes live. Participation in the beta process is completely voluntary and Microsoft makes no promises or guarantees regarding the beta exam process.

Each and every comment that you provide during the beta exam is read and evaluated. Once the beta exam period ends, the results are statistically analyzed in a way that allows Microsoft to evaluate the performance of each question and each section of the exam. Learn more about what happens to your feedback on this MSDN blog. A group of subject matter experts (SMEs), from outside of Microsoft, are then brought to the Microsoft campus for a focus group.  Some of these SMEs are identified from the pool of beta candidates who scored very well on the exam, and some have not taken the exam yet. The focus group reviews questions that have been identified as having potential errors based on the statistical analysis and comments. Based on their input, our team decides if each question is valid and relevant, needs modification, or should be removed from the exam.

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Frequently asked questions

How do I provide feedback during the exam? To flag an item for review while taking the test, select the checkbox in the upper left hand corner. After completing all the items, you will see a final screen with the item numbers listed and the ones that are marked will be highlighted. In the comment period at the end of the exam, these items remain highlighted. By clicking on any item, highlighted or not, you will be taken to that item and given the opportunity to provide comments in a pop up box while viewing that item. You will not be able to change your answer while viewing that item.

Why can’t I take a beta exam in my country? Often our beta exams are restricted in certain countries (including India, China, and Pakistan) in efforts to reduce piracy and maintain the integrity of your certifications. Live versions of the exams will be available in all countries, even if the beta was restricted. As part of our comprehensive anti-piracy program, our statistical analysis has shown very high piracy problems in certain centers and countries. Unfortunately, limiting participation at these centers and countries is the best course of action in the short term. We sincerely regret this inconvenience to our many, highly valued customers in these regions who would like to participate. We are actively working to find a solution and look forward to including you in future beta opportunities. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to maintain and improve a highly recognized, highly respected program of Microsoft Certifications.

Why can’t I find the beta listed at Prometric? Remember that the beta will be listed as “71-XXX” rather than “70-XXX” in Prometric’s systems. If you still cannot find the exam, the beta period may have ended, or you may be in a country with regional restrictions.

How do I take the beta exam for free? A registration code will be included with the beta invitation, whether it is posted publicly, on blogs or newsgroups, or sent via e-mail invitation. You must register with this code in order to take the beta exam for free at your local Prometric center.

Are there any study materials available for this beta? In most cases, the product planner will publish a preparation guide listing skills measured on the exam. Although Microsoft tries to make exam preparation guides and learning material available as early as possible, there may not be material ready in time to support a beta exam. Generally people who are interested in beta exams are self-motivated individuals who have historical experience with the technology or are working with the beta product; we recommend consulting your peers, product group community resources, and early-adopter articles for support.

Do I have to take the exam again when it is "live"? No. If you pass the beta exam, you have earned credit for that exam, and any resulting certification. You do not need to retake the exam in its live form.

May I retake the beta? You cannot retake a specific beta exam. There are a limited number of seats available and they are intended for a variety of candidates. A beta exam should be taken seriously and not used as a practice test.

If I fail the beta, can I retake the exam? Yes. You may take the exam in its live version, at the normal cost.

I think I should have gotten my results by now, what should I do? A good rule of thumb is to expect a score by the time the live version of the exam becomes publicly available; this may be 16 to 20 weeks after taking the exam, due to the comprehensive process involved in evaluating beta exam results. If you feel your score should be available and is not, first see if Prometric has posted a score for you. If not, contact Prometric. If Prometric has posted a score, but it is not reflected on your Microsoft transcript: contact Microsoft.

Comments (27)

  1. Speaking of Beta…… any word if 71-625 and 71-626 Score reports will make that new Ned of July time-line?

  2. Wow, I’ve been so busy lately and looking over at my whiteboard is the following: "Write a blog post on what type of people take beta exams, and how to become one of those type of people"

    It was intended to be a deep look into the beta exam tester, a lot of the decisions, thoughts and feelings which go into it, and some of the core ‘groups’ of people who actually take beta exams.

    I’ll probably write it at some point, yet I’ll definitely read your take on it here as well 🙂

  3. markvt says:

    I once got an invitation for a beta exam, but it was not even for a tool i use. So surely some better profiling of candidates could also help. I would loves some of the asp.net beta’s but i was never invited. I got an invitation for a beta exam concerting installing and maintaining Team Foundation Server, a tool i’m not even using.

  4. Bibble says:

    Thats an interesting read. I always wondered what happened to my comments etc… it did seem a bit like a "black hole" scenario. If I was new to the whole beta exam thing that would help me understand it much better.

  5. Wayne Anderson says:

    Indeed, trika, i would expect B as well.

  6. what is there to clamor about beta exams 😉

    and i would like to second markvt’s comments. a better profiling/matching of possible candidates could help. I’m not sure how you guys do it but it could probably use some improvements. Got invites for TFS, mobile et al which I’m not really into but didn’t get some of those which I would think is directly related to my existing certifications. They might take a few hours plus reviews and dont get instant gratification but I love beta exams 🙂

  7. Rob.au says:

    I’m one of those people who found this blog when I found myself wondering "Say, what happened to my 71-621 results?" and hit Google in search of answers.  I think the answer to your thinking is that both A and B are correct.

    Clearly, the fallout from the 71-621 fun indicated that there were a lot of people around the place who seemed to think that the only special thing about taking a beta exam was that you got an exam for free and they could have the same expectations as if they had paid for it.  Obviously these are the "B" people of which you speak. 🙂

    As I seem to recall you realising at the time though, if people’s expectations aren’t where they should be, it’s up to MSL to set them correctly, which is where you run into "A".

    This is a nice effort, which I think addresses most of the bumps in the beta road – although if it was me, I would extend the disclaimer (and I like that it appears twice) to specifically mention the possibility of re-running the beta as an example of the lack of certainty about the process which needs to be accepted by anyone who chooses to accept an invitation to participate in it.

    I really cannot complain – the only two MSL exams I’ve ever paid for were the two required to get the MSDST.  I now have MCTS:Vista and MCITP:EST from 71-621 and MCITP:CST from one of the shower of vouchers that seemed to come out of this process – there were three more vouchers I didn’t even end up using (if only there was something focussed on using VBA in Excel, which seems to be where my life is now).

    Your blog’s a pretty entertaining read though, so somehow I never got around to removing it from my subscriptions.  It’s now hard to remember life before I realised that poast rhymed with toast. 🙂

  8. Deniz says:

    My clue:

    Dont believe anyone who says "there will be no beta exam" or "typically no beta for the public" – keep searching and reading blogs for promo codes.

    Why I say that? Well, look at:

    "A) we need to make more information available about betas "

    If you really want to put A into practice then make sure you give the CORRECT information to the public.

    In the SQL Server 2008 Certification Webcast in February I asked:

    "I have no certification yet and wanna do MCTS. Can you apply as a beta-tester when MCTS exams are in the beta phase in germany?"

    Your answer:

    Typically the betas are not open to the general public, although beta exams are available in Germany when they are released. You can either take one exam now to get one certification and then you can subscribe to the MCP Flash where beta exams are announced.

    Oh, I guess the catch was the word "Typically" because last week a team-member found some Promo-Codes in Blogs – but the exam is July 31 – not much time to prepare.

  9. Harold says:

    My co-workers ask me why I take beta exams for vendors (MS, Symantec, CompTIA).  I tell them that it is an beta eexams are an actually test of what you know not what you read.  No study material, no study groups and so on.

  10. trikah@microsoft.com says:

    REV, don’t know. Maybe we’ll have to wait until the Ned of July to find out.

    Deniz, sorry you didn’t get a notice for that beta. We don’t keep a list of interested parties, so there’s no way to "sign up" unless a particular planner wants to keep a list of his or her own. We have been doing more public betas than I think the team used to, so you’re right – we’ll change the "typically" because that’s probably not the reality any more.

    Ryan, MarkVT, will pass that along to the people pulling the lists.

    Rob.au, glad you never got around to it.

    Your hoastess,

    Trika

  11. Pierre says:

    hi Trika,

    good to have you back! hope you enjoyed you offline time as much as you could!!!

    regarding beta exams, i have one little complain (not even a complain actually): i passed 2 beta exams a while back… i was then contacted to eventually have the opportunity to get to Redmond for final exam wich just knocked me down, as i could finnally get the chance to pay you a long earned coffee! But, the fact finally came out: i live in France and the round trip made it quite too hign an expense to make it possible 🙁

    would it be possible to have some of us foreigners participate in the final exam reviews or is it illusory to think about it???

    i would really have enjoyed knowing redmond a lot and the expectative had me on a cloud for a few days… it’ll be on another occasion, anyway.

    best regards,

    Pierre.

  12. Liberty Munson, Psychometrician for Microsoft Certification Exams says:

    Hi Pierre,

    We do include international SMEs in all exam development phases. How many and who depends on a number of factors–the most important of which is budget. With the cost of travel increasing with price of fuel, it is becoming increasingly difficult to include a large number of international SMEs. That being said, on exams with the highest run rates, we always have international SMEs participate in the dev process.

  13. REV: Standards setting is complete and the results have been handed off to Prometric for scoring. 70-625/626 reports will be sent out sometime in August. Sorry for the delay!

    Pierre: I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to come to Redmond. Depending on the technology, we try to include international SMEs in all exam development phases. As Liberty mentioned above, for some exams such as Windows or some partner focused exams, it is an absolute requirement for development. As a Product Planner, if I have a tight budget I prefer to have international SMEs in the beginning of the cycle, when developing the exam objectives, to ensure the exam as a whole is relevant to everyone.

  14. beta guys says:

    be appreciated if you ever been invited for the beta exam, i am been certified ever since 2004 but till today i never got any invited beta exam!

  15. Ellen de Ridder says:

    I did receive two invitations for SQL Server 2008 exams, but i have not taken them (yet, I still have one week left to decide). The reason for not taking them is simply lack of experience with SQL Server 2008.

    I took three beta exams for SQL Server 2005. I feel I had much more experience with SQL Server 2005 when the beta exams were released. Is that correct? Was the length of time between the (beta-)release of SQL Server 2005 and the beta-exams regarding SQL Server 2005 greater than the length of time between the release and beta exams of SQL Server 2008?

    Maybe I just had a lot more time to "play around" with SQL Server 2005 than I have now. But I feel I have only just installed the latest beta for SQL Server 2008 and have had hardly any time to look at it. I just don’t feel qualified yet to take an exam for SQL 2008!

    I am happy to participate in beta exams, but only if I feel I have a reasonable chance to _pass_ the exam. After all it does take 4 hours (and at least a weekend studying and being nervous about it 😉 )!

    I think I will wait for the beta for the upgrade exams (there will be beta’s for the upgrade exams, right???). Maybe I will have found the time to study SQL 2008 by then.

    Does anyone else feel that the release for the beta exams for SQL Server 2008 (71-448 and 71-432) is just a bit to early?

    Regards,

    Ellen

  16. Pedro Sayanda says:

    I really apreciate being able to participate in beta exams , besides being a (free) oportunity to get certified early , it a great chance for all the professionals that are early adopters os new technology to get ahead.

    Here in Portugal , i think it´s great to be able to say to a costumer that this new Microsoft product is out now and we have someone certified on it alredy !

    Keep up the great blogging Trika

    Regards

  17. Pierre says:

    hi again,

    don’t keep me wrong i really was pleased to receive bothe the beta invites AND the Redmond one most of all. Even if i felt frustrated not beeing able to get there, i truely felt happy to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ , lol… and by the way it got me to stop wondering about the results…or almost! (it was for both Entertainement center and connected home betas mentionned in one of the first posts, for wich results are still to come out).

    Anyway, it was just to clarify things: I am really pleased, and just a little bit frustrated..but mostly pleased 🙂

    i’ll get to finally pay Trika a mug of coffee  the day i get there 😉 -or the day she gets to Techdays/some other events here in France!

    Best regards from Paris,

    Pierre.

  18. Ned of July… LOL Where is that lysdexic spell checker when you need it. 🙂

    Thanks for the heads-up about the August score reports, looking forward to seeing them.

  19. Sean says:

    I find beta exams are good when you know about them and can get the chance to partiticpate. I have completed only one beta program (Exchange 2007) and found it to be a great learning experience.

    You have no access to study materials just the software, help files and your own understanding of the technology. Its a good way to demonstrate to yourself that you understand the underlying concepts to a deep level.

    Just wish they were better communicated to the technical community but I can also understand why they don’t want just anyone giving them a shot.

  20. Warwick James says:

    I’m been MCP since 1996, and and active MCSE since 1998, and have upgraded from 3.51 through to 2008 certs, but have never ONCE received a Microsoft BETA exam invitation. I’ve been on the MCP-Flash subscription using the same email address since inception, and have always allowed Microsoft to contact me directly via email.

    I’ve always been at a loss as to why I never receive invitations for BETA exams, and like some people above constantly check blogs and forums for invitation codes.

    I think the profiling that Microsoft performs is extremely suspect, given I’ve heard that some people with less than 5 years experience are getting invited. Weird to say the least. Flawed at best.

  21. beta guys says:

    well. as we can see that all those beta code are send to those certified ppl (almost the same person). as for us i am sure we will never recieved any Beta Invitation exam for the future.

    Warwick certified 10 years ago

    i m Certified 4 years ago.

    both of us never got any invitation..

  22. Pierre says:

    hi

    @Warwick and @beta guys

    i guess i hunt them quite often to publish them on my blog… but given the number of certified MS holders i assure you only a very tiny minority of them gets the invite personnally…the promo code just seems to appear automagically on blogs and product manager pages and since i follow both actively i have been able to give some beta invites to friends in the field of the beta exam material…

    i guess you can rely more on blogs from PMs than on MS MCP posting you a personal invite (i mqy be wrong here…but i’m almost sure not to be, statistically 🙂 )

    …and just look at Trika ‘s last post..4 codes in a post :), i just double post those on my blog, by the way 🙂

    best regards,

    Pierre

  23. Kjetil says:

    I love the beta exams. I belive they actually makes me do more certifications than I would without.

    This might not be the correct place to post, but what I really miss is the ability to give feedback for the exam and not only the individual questions.

  24. At long last, we have a place for you all to find out about beta exams when they are open to the public,

  25. LarryWestMCSD says:

    One problem I have with betas is that Prometric only lets you reschedule them to another center within the same state. Try it yourself. Sign up for a beta, then try to reschedule it for another state. It will take you back to the state that the original exam was set in — you can’t change it.

    If you cancel the beta in order to sign up in the second state, it says you have already signed up for the exam and won’t let you take it.

    I live near a border, and can see the other state outside my work window, so I really miss the Pearson Vue feature of showing the 20 closest centers.

  26. trikah@microsoft.com says:

    Larry, I forwarded your comment and our team talked to Prometric about it and they’re looking at ways to fix… if I hear anything more I’ll let you know.

  27. trikah@microsoft.com says:

    @kjetil: If there isn’t a "general feedback" area, the exam team tells me you can add that in any one of the item’s comment section; those all get reviewed very carefully and they can pull out the general feedback…

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