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MS Exam Guide facelift is a mixed bag

A look at the Microsoft training and certification Web site redesign.

People like myself who drop in all the time on the Microsoft training and certification Web site tend to notice things like the design change currently underway on its Exam Guide pages. Around the middle of this month, Microsoft instituted a facelift on a select few of these pages.

For most people, nothing works better than a quick look-see. So before I summarize what's new, different and potentially interesting about this redesign, let me point you to some examples of the new look. The following list includes two MCSE/MCSA core exams, as well as two exams that apply to the MCSD/MCAD developer exams:

  • 70-210 Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • 70-215 Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
  • 70-306 Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET
  • 70-316 Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

To begin with, you'll see ample mention and live links to relevant, related Microsoft courses and MS Press publications in the lead-in materials before you get to the objectives. When you scroll through the objectives, you'll see them in tabular form, and you'll also be able to tell exactly which items are covered in specific related Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses. For those interested in pursuing Microsoft training to prepare for these exams, this kind of coverage will undoubtedly help.

But the redesign also reminds me of a time in 2000 and 2001 when the word on the street was that Microsoft was seeking to recreate its courseware so that individuals could get prepared for any single certification exam by taking a single MOC course. Today, after looking over the revamped exam objectives, it appears that Microsoft is no closer to reaching that goal than it was two years ago. Either that or the company's training developer has given up entirely on creating a one-to-one mapping between courses and exams. That's good news for me because it creates opportunities for aftermarket training vendors and publishers, and helps me stay employed. Whether it's good news for certification candidates remains to be seen. But that's how things are at Microsoft right now!

Give the new exam objectives a once-over and see what you think. If you visit Microsoft's Exam Feedback Web page you might also consider e-mailing some feedback to to provide answers to the following questions they raise:

  1. Is the length of the exam prep guide appropriate? Or would you prefer more links to other pages that provide information in greater detail?
  2. Is the expanded list of Preparation Tools useful? Are the resources helpful?
  3. The Skills Being Measured chart lists each exam objective and the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses that may be available for that objective. Is this tool effective in helping you assess where you may need formal training to supplement your experience?

I've got my own answers in mind, but I'd encourage you to formulate yours first, share them with Microsoft, then e-mail me -- if you're so inclined. I'll wax eloquent on them in a future tip, especially on how MS exam guides compare to similar guides from other vendors and certification programs.

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 60 books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and various security certifications.

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