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Microsoft to detail differences between Windows 2000, 2003 certs

Look for Microsoft to detail the differences between Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 certifications. This week the company is expected to clarify a new exam track, new exam requirements and new course materials.

Microsoft this week is expected to release new information regarding certification for Windows 2003. Updated information...

about a new exam track, new exam requirements and course materials will be part of the announcement, according to Microsoft officials.

This week's announcement comes on the heels of an earlier decision from Microsoft that said individuals must complete their Windows 2000 certification exams before beginning a certification track for Windows 2003. Last year, Microsoft had decided that people who take some of the seven exams required for Windows 2000 certification and some of the Windows 2003 exams would receive both certifications.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company had changed its mind after receiving feedback from focus groups indicating that customers didn't want to mix and match. Now, a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) with a Windows 2000 certification would need to take two separate upgrade exams on Windows 2003 to receive a Windows 2003 certification.

Microsoft piqued the curiosity of Windows professionals last week when it removed all reference to previously published information regarding its certification exams for Windows 2003.

Microsoft had previously listed several exams for Windows 2003 that closely mapped what the company had done following its release of Windows 2000 several years ago. Microsoft was expected to release these exams following the April launch of Windows Server 2003. But a handful of exam numbers disappeared from the site.

"It looked like Microsoft had decided not to follow the path it had planned," said Ed Tittel, a principal at LANWrights Inc., a writing, training and consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.

A Microsoft spokesman said that the exams were removed because they were registered under the ".NET Server" track and were pulled because the name of the product had changed to Windows Server 2003. He provided no explanation on the timing of their removal from the site and did not say how the exams would have differed.

Plenty of MCSEs, Microsoft Certified System Administrators (MCSAs) and others say that they would like to see Microsoft make the exams tougher to pass. Some Windows experts said they think the certification program is watered down by the many boot camps, which, critics claim, simply teach the test, as opposed to making sure that candidates possess all the underlying knowledge.

"Years ago, you couldn't bluff your way through it," said Timothy Mullin, CIO and chief software architect at AnchorIS, an accounting software firm.

There had been rumors that Microsoft would be making its exams interactive, so that test takers would be given live situations in which to perform some tasks, making it hard to cheat. But the Microsoft spokesman said that the size and scope of the MCSE and MCSA programs make it too difficult to administer tests in a lab-like atmosphere.

Indeed, exam piracy is a big concern for Microsoft, which recently had its first successful prosecution of a case. Robert Keppel, the owner of several Web sites that offered information about becoming an MCSE and obtaining other Microsoft certifications, was charged last year with selling exams and answers to the tests. He was sentenced in federal court to 12 months and one day in prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to Microsoft.


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