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Adding to the "designing" pool

Microsoft passed the word that it was adding a fourth exam to its initial collection of three exams for the MCSE.

Just before the holidays, Microsoft passed the word that it was adding a fourth exam to its initial collection of three exams for the MCSE. Because each of those three exams started with the word "Designing," many of those who follow Microsoft's programs--myself included-- got into the habit of calling this collection the "Designing" exams:

  • Exam 70-219: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
  • Exam 70-220: Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network
  • Exam 70-221: Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure

But with the addition of the latest member of this group -- namely, Exam 70-226: Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Technologies -- I find myself wondering if this nomenclature is the best way to describe the requirement. After all, if Microsoft can add another exam to this category now, why can't they do so again in the future? Who's to say for sure that another entry to this category will once again start with the d-word?

The terminology on the Microsoft MCSE requirements page for these exams reads "1 of the Following Core Exams Required." For that reason, I think it makes more sense to call these exams "Elective Core" Exams, with the explanation that all candidates must pass at least one of these exams to obtain an MCSE. (If they pass more than one, extras count as elective exams.) So hopefully, we can all agree on the following terminology to help would-be MCSEs understand the proposed requirements.

  • Core Requirement: either 70-240 or 70-210, 70-215, 70-216, and 70- 217.
  • Elective Core Requirement: any one of 70-219, 70-220, 70-222, or 70- 226.
  • Electives: any two valid MCSE electives, as documented here.

For those who take and pass 70-240, this means a maximum of four exams (less if already-passed electives remain valid). For those starting the MCSE program from scratch, it means seven exams: the Core Four, a single Elective Core, and two valid Electives. This permits everybody to understand what's going on with a minimum of confusion.

That said, here's the skinny on exam 70-226: Designing Highly Available Web Solutions...:

  • It's currently scheduled for an April, 2001 beta release; this probably means it won't be generally available to the public until June, 2001.
  • The objectives clearly indicate that this is an enterprise-level, "big-iron" exam. They mention load balancing strategies, cluster designs, and other high-end solutions as important topics.
  • General categories include things like cluster and server architectures, highly available network infrastructures, capacity planning, plus security, application, and service strategies.

Clearly, this exam aims to test the knowledge and design skills of those who want to work on the BIG end of the Web services scale, where hundreds of thousands to millions of hits occur daily, and where many thousands of users are likely to be active in a Web-based application or services environment at any given moment. Prepping for this exam will probably require exposure to the Microsoft Official Curriculum for this topic, or to follow-on technical references or other study guides, just to obtain those nitty-gritty details that make working on this subject matter so interesting but also so persnickety. I plan to share more intelligence on this exam as I learn more about its content myself.

But whatever you choose to call this category of exams, good luck on any that you tackle! If you've got a better idea, or other comments, questions, or feedback, please share it with me at

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.

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