Practice makes perfect now that MCP exams are pass-fail only

Practice is more important to determine your weaknesses now that Microsoft has scaled back score reporting.

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Practice makes perfect now that MCP exams are pass-fail only
By Ed Tittel
LANWrights, Inc.

On January 15, Microsoft announced it was changing how it would report MCP exam scores. From now on, test-takers are merely informed if they've passed or failed. No additional scoring information is provided.

To understand how this might cause some hoopla in the Microsoft Certified Professional community, here's a bit of history on score reporting. Until early 2000, Microsoft reported total scores on a scale of 1,000 points and publicized -- in advance -- a cut-off score that separated those who pass from those who fail. It also reported scores on a similar scale across various question categories. These could be mapped to categories for exam objectives and were designed to help individuals identify topic areas where further study or hands-on experience might be helpful. For about the last year, Microsoft has reported only the total exam score with a thermometer-style bar that read the score off on a 1,000 point scale and indicated the cut score as well.

Today the only thing candidates will receive with their test results is notification of whether they passed or failed the exam. Nothing else. This will probably come as something of a shock to those who fail and might seek to benefit from feedback to prepare for their next attempt. Those just starting out should be aware that feedback on test performance is something that Microsoft exams no longer offer.

That said, Microsoft's official take on the situation is that overall score information is not that important, and that test takers are most interested in whether they've passed or failed the exam they just took. Personally, I think this is a move that permits Microsoft to tune its cut-scores and exam layouts without having to update a bunch of otherwise data-sensitive information available elsewhere on its Web site. I also think it's part of a growing trend at Microsoft to deliberately obscure specific exam information as a way of protecting "exam integrity" (which really means protecting the exams from becoming too susceptible to score inflation and reporting of confidential details).

Take a tip from me, and add one or more good practice exams to your exam preparation drill -- be it from Transcender, MeasureUp, Self Test Software, ExamGear, ExamCram, Beach Front Quizzer, or some other vendor or publisher. Most practice exams provide detailed feedback on where you erred and what you should study before tackling the real thing. Since Microsoft doesn't want to provide such feedback any longer, you can use other tools to obtain this feedback when it will do you the most good -- before you take the real exam. Then, you can study and practice on topics where you're weak, thereby upping your odds of passing Microsoft's exam at Prometric or VUE. Good luck!


Ed Tittel is a principal at a small content development company based in Austin, Texas, and the creator of the Exam Cram series, and has worked on over 30 certification-related books on Microsoft, Novell, and Sun related topics.


This was first published in January 2002

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