Windows Server 2003: New exams, new strategies

Once upon a time, Microsoft used a pretty simple formula to map certification exams for upcoming technology to older certification tracks. The formula was known in MCP training circles as "add 60." Add 60 was a simple arithmetic rule that explained how older exams like 70-210 for Windows 2000 Professional mapped to newer or upcoming versions -- in this case, to 70-270 Windows XP Professional.

Similarly, when the rule was applied to existing Windows 2000 server exams -- 70-215 (Windows 2000 Server), 70-216 (Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure), and 70-217 (Windows 2000 Directory Services) -- they were all supposed to map to 2003-generation exams 70-275, 70-276, 70-277, and so forth. For the purpose of discussion, let's call these would-be 2003-generation exams 70-27x plus 60 exams.

As of the week of February 10, all this changed. Some time that week, nearly all mention of all as-yet-unreleased 70-27x plus 60 exams vanished from Microsoft's Web site. I found this both mysterious and intriguing, and was therefore not terribly surprised when Microsoft announced a new replacement slate of exams for the MCSA and MCSE on Windows Server 2003 the following week.

Here's what's new as of February 17:

  • Exam 70-290: Managing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 environment
  • Exam 70-291: Implementing, managing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network infrastructure
  • Exam

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  • 70-292: Managing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 environment for an MCSA certified on Windows 2000
  • Exam 70-293: Planning and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network infrastructure
  • Exam 70-294: Planning, implementing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory infrastructure
  • Exam 70-296: Planning, implementing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 environment for an MCSE certified on Windows 2000
  • Exam 70-297: Designing a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and network infrastructure
  • Exam 70-298: Designing security for a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network

And what does it all mean for MCSA and MCSE candidates, both now and in the future? New certification and upgrade requirements are as follows:

  • To upgrade an MCSA on Windows 2000 to Windows Server 2003, take the 70-292 exam. For MCSEs in the same boat, add exam 70-296 to 70-292 for a two-exam upgrade.
  • New MCSAs who wish to pursue Windows Server 2003 certification must take 70-290, 70-291, and either 70-270 or 70-210. Valid MCP electives are now severely limited, including only 70-086 (SMS 2.0), 70-227 (ISA Server), and 70-228 (SQL Server). However, the A+/Network+ or A+/Server+ CompTIA combinations still meet the elective requirement. Click here for details.
  • New MCSEs seeking Windows 2003 certification must take 70-290, 70-291, 70-293, and 70-294 for the core networking exams, either 70-210 or 70-270 for the client O/S core exam; either 70-297 or 70-298 for the core design exam; and one of seven possible electives for a total of seven exams. Click here for details.

As for the big picture, I'm still pondering the implications of these changes. So far, I have come to three conclusions:

  • First: Upgrading from Windows 2000 to Windows 2003 for MCSAs and MCSEs has become more rational and reasonable than ever before.
  • Second: Microsoft did a nice job of reworking its new exams on Windows 2003 topics.
  • Third: Elective options for both MCSA and MCSE are now far more limited than ever before, although this may change with time.

Of course we know nothing about the question types, lengths, and difficulty ratings for these exams. After MCSA exams go beta in June and MCSE exams in July/August we'll know more -- and I'll report further. If you want more details, exam objectives (except 70-298) appear in an "Upcoming exams" list on Microsoft's new exams Web page.

Ed Tittel runs a content development company in Austin, Texas, and is the series editor of the Que Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series. He's worked on many books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and security certifications.

This was first published in March 2003

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