Microsoft Unveils Innovative Testing Technology To Simulate Work Environment

To Simulate Work Environment

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 25, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the incorporation of innovative exam technology into the testing for the Microsoft® Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) credential. The technology is designed to accurately simulate real-world situations and test candidates’ ability to analyze and synthesize information to provide technical solutions. These simulations, based on real-world situations, follow other Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program testing innovations that add greater value to Microsoft certifications, including product simulations, exam updates, adaptive testing, increased security at testing centers and a revised retake policy.

Microsoft initially incorporated the new test item types in the new MCSD core exam, “Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solution Architectures,” which is currently in beta testing and is exploring the possibility of including the new technology in future exams. In the exam, real-world scenarios are used to test candidates’ ability to perform solution developers’ complex day-to-day job functions such as developing the latest multitier, distributed and Web-based solutions.

“We continually look for ways to improve the quality of our exams and add value to the Microsoft Certified Professional program as a whole for both individuals and employers,” said Donna Senko, director of certification and skills assessment at Microsoft. “The new exam items are another effort to add increased value by testing individuals’ analysis abilities as they perform on the job.”

The goal of the new simulation technology is to test candidates’ ability to analyze business requirements in a scenario and then to define the architecture of a technical solution that will enhance business results. The timed exam contains a case study organized into subject areas followed by one or more questions that simulate problems IT professionals face, including constructing a data flow, setting up databases and planning a software deployment. At least two years of related analysis and design experience is a suggested prerequisite for candidates taking the new core exam. Certification candidates can find more information, as well as download a case study-based test demonstration, on the Microsoft Web site at & PageCall=practicetests & SubSite=examinfo .

“I am tremendously impressed with the creativity reflected in Microsoft’s new exam design, the closeness of the exam formats to actual jobs for which people are being certified, and the technical sophistication shown in the steps to build these new exams,” said Professor Ronald Hambleton, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “These new exams are state-of-the-art in the certification examination field.”

Investments in MCP Program

Major efforts to enhance the value of certification and security are based on feedback from individuals and employers and are a result of Microsoft’s commitment to meeting their needs.

“As an educator and technical consultant, I value the fact that Microsoft is using cognitive assessments through varied technologies, including software simulations, case-study questions and adaptive testing,” said Pat Bush, MCSE, MCT, MCP+I, who consults with Authorized Academic Training Program (AATP) facilities and corporate clients nationally. “These testing methods are truly designed to test knowledge and experience.”

Following are brief descriptions of each enhancement:

  • Nondisclosure Agreements

As of spring 1998, prior to each exam, testing centers require examinees to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure confidentiality. The NDA legally requires that certification candidates keep information related to MCP exam items confidential. For full text of the agreement, visit & SubSite=examinfo/policies & PageCall=nda .

  • Revised Exam Retake Policy

The MCP exam retake policy was revised in summer 1998 to discourage candidates from taking exams repeatedly until passing, a tactic which had allowed them to memorize exam items. The new retake policy allows candidates to retake the exam any time if they do not pass the first time. A 14-day waiting period is required if they do not pass the second or subsequent times.

  • Product Simulations

As of spring 1998, Microsoft began incorporating product simulations into certification exams to add variety and challenge. These items imitate product components or environments, complete with error messages and dialog boxes. The examinee is given a scenario and one or more tasks to complete by using that simulation. Product simulations were adopted to help ensure knowledge of the product and hands-on experience.

  • Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)

The MCP program also incorporates adaptive testing into some of its exams. A CAT is automatically tailored to the individual exam taker. Examinees all start with an easy to moderately difficult question; those answering the question correctly get a more difficult follow-up question. If that question is answered correctly, the difficulty of subsequent questions likewise increases. Conversely, if the second question is answered incorrectly, the following questions will be easier. This process continues only until the CAT determines the candidate’s ability.

An advantage of this testing technology is increased security, as adaptive testing minimizes any one candidate’s exposure to all possible exam questions. Another benefit of CAT over traditional computerized test design is efficiency. The CAT can accurately determine a person’s score with fewer questions. Examinees benefit from adaptive testing because the value of their certification is being protected: Test takers are given different questions and are therefore less able to memorize the questions on the test for themselves or to share with others.

For more information about CAT testing, see the white paper on the Microsoft Web site at .

  • Item Seeding

One way to update exams with changing technology and job functions is to periodically replace or “seed” exams. Item-seeding minimizes exposure of any particular exam question and allows for frequent technical updates to exams.

To prepare for certification exams, candidates can choose from a variety of training methods, including online, self-study and instructor-led options available through Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers (Microsoft CTECs). Certification exams are offered at Authorized Sylvan Prometric Testing Centers and Virtual University Enterprises (VUE) Authorized Testing Centers. To register for exams, candidates can visit & PageCall=examreg & SubSite=examinfo .

The Microsoft Certified Professional program was founded in 1992. More than 400,000 people are currently certified, holding one or more MCP certifications. Microsoft certification exams undergo a rigorous development process, which includes a job-task analysis evaluation conducted by people currently performing the particular job function. This analysis identifies the knowledge, skills and abilities that relate specifically to the performance area to be certified. For more information, visit the Web site at .

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

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