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Resolving the Riddle of NT 4.0 Certification

Life in the Microsoft certification zone continues to stay interesting and somewhat unpredictable. In this tip, I share a question that popped up recently in MCSE FAQ on the Microsoft Training and Services Web site.

"Q. If I have passed all core exams in the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE track by December 31, 2000, but have not yet passed my elective exams by that date, can I still continue to earn my certification?

A. Yes, if you have passed all core exams in the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE track exams by Dec. 31, 2000, you may continue to earn your MCSE certification in the Windows NT 4.0 track, as long as the electives you select have not retired."

This is pretty good news. Before Microsoft made this official pronouncement, most people assumed that the end of 2000 would also be the end for anybody trying to get a Windows NT MCSE. In fact, in response to an earlier MS proclamation, I even recommended that anybody close to meeting the 70-240 requirements (which means passing 70-067 Server; 70-068 Server in the Enterprise; 70-073 Workstation) should hurry up and finish those exams along with 70-058 Networking Essentials All four of these core exams retire at the end of December, 2000.

After that, you can take two electives early next year. But be careful to pick electives that (a) apply to Windows 2000 MCSE at the time you take them and (b) are unlikely to retire soon. I think this means that it's best to avoid exams like 70-081 Exchange 5.5 which is bound to be supplanted by 70-225 Exchange 2000, to pick 70-080 IEAK 5.0 instead of 70-079 IEAK 4.0, or likewise, to take 70-227 ISA Server 2000 rather than 70-088 Proxy Server 2.0.

I'm not trying to say that these older exams are likely to retire soon; I simply believe that taking the most current version of any exam is the best way to guarantee that it's not going to retire soon. If you manage to complete all the retiring exams on or before the end of 2000, you'll have exactly two exams to take (best case) to upgrade your MCSE from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000:

1. Accelerated Windows 2000, 70-240

2. One of the three "Designing" exams:
(a) Designing Directory Services, 70-219
(b) Designing Secure Windows 2000 Networks, 70-220
(c) Designing Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure, 70-221

As long as you can complete the retiring exams by the end of the year, this approach makes sense because NT 4.0 looks like it will remain the dominant server operating system for at least another year. And if you're already at least one or two steps down the path to NT 4.0 MCSE certification, it will be more efficient to follow it to its conclusion than otherwise.

But here's another way to look at this situation: count the number of exams you have left to take to finish the NT 4.0 MCSE, then add two to that number (one for 70-240 and one for whichever designing exam you decide to take). If the resulting number is greater than or equal to seven, you can switch straight to Windows 2000 and take that route, because you have to take seven exams to get a Windows 2000 MCSE from scratch. If the number you calculate by following this formula is less than seven, you'll be better off taking the route I've suggested above--assuming, of course, that you pass 70-240 on your one and only try. If you take 70-240 and fail, you must then take all four of the core Windows 2000 exams (70-210, 70-215, 70-216, and 70-217) to upgrade or obtain a Windows 2000 MCSE.

Recent e-mails from the MCP programs folks at Microsoft also indicate that the same deal applies to MCSE+I and MCBA. If you finish all retiring exams for the credential by Dec. 31, 2000, then you can finish any outstanding electives with non-retiring exams in 2001, yet still obtain the certification.

A rare spot of sanity and good news in a program that's sometimes as hard to navigate as it is to interpret. For me, that's where the unpredictable part comes into the picture. Good luck with your certifications!

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

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