Microsoft Changes Scoring

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Microsoft Eliminates Numerical Exam Scores


More news from Redmond.  Microsoft has taken a controversial step to
protect the integrity of their certifications.  They recently announced
that Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) test-takers would no longer
get a numerical score on their exam results reports.  Any exams released
since December 2001 will simply indicate whether the candidate passed or
failed.  Exams released before December 2001 will undergo the makeover
sometime this year.



Unsurprisingly, many people are anything but thrilled by the decision,
citing the importance of being able to have a quantitative measure of
feedback.  While Microsoft acknowledged this as a valid concern, they
reasoned that increasing evidence of candidates misusing the information
in demonstrating their competency was a compelling reason to eliminate
the numerical scores.   Evidently, many people have been using the
numerical scores to misrepresent how well they can perform a job
function.  Microsoft claims that exams are only to be used to identify
if candidates can perform specific job functions, not to differentiate
candidates.  Just because one person scored higher on an exam does not
make that person more qualified.



Moreover, Microsoft frequently replaces test items for security reasons,
so comparing numerical scores from different versions of the same exam
is irrelevant.  Likewise, the exams were never designed to provide
feedback to individuals or companies.  Microsoft said that if an
individual desires diagnostic feedback, he or she should use approved
Microsoft practice tests.  More information on approved practice tests
is available at 



Product Review: MCSE Windows 2000 Core Requirements Virtual Lab



Ordinarily, I’m not a huge proponent of simulations, favoring practice
with the “real” software.  However, simulations have their place.  For
one, they’re inexpensive.  And secondly, they can be valuable in
“guiding” you through real-world tasks.  Recently, I had the opportunity
to test a new tool, the MCSE Windows 2000 Core Requirements Virtual Lab,
published by Sybex.  



The Virtual Lab, which was created by the same programming group that
creates testing simulations for Microsoft, conveniently mimics Windows
2000 in an application so students can perform complex administrative
tasks that would normally require an extensive (and expensive!) network
or lab environment.



After reading through the introduction in the included booklet and
performing the installation routine (which includes IE 6 and the
Shockwave player required to run the Lab), I loaded up the program. The
interface is clean and easy to navigate.  The Labs are separated into
four sections, corresponding with the four MCSE core requirements, with
each section further broken down into topics.  There are about 200 labs



The labs consist of two varieties: open simulations and guided
simulations.  The open simulations present step-by-step instructions for
completing a specific task, but you do not necessarily need to follow
the instructions.  I had fun in the open labs just playing around with
the various aspects of Windows 2000 that are simulated.



Overall, I would say I found this product to be very impressive because
it allowed me to do so many different lab exercises in a very slick
simulation.  I found that many windows, while not simulating every
aspect of Microsoft’s rather extensive OS, had far more depth than I had
expected for a product of this kind. If you’re studying for the MCSE, I
think this is an invaluable tool and a great value.



Catch-22:  How Do You Get Experience When You Don’t Have Any?



One of the most common questions I get from the newly certified is, “How
do I get real-world experience and get my first job?”  Unfortunately,
getting that coveted first job is generally one of the most challenging
career obstacles.  But the good news is that armed with a little
knowledge, you too can secure that first job.  Here’s how:



1.  Volunteer.  Nonprofits, churches, synagogues, mosques and even
schools are generally very welcoming to volunteers who’d like to help
out.  Not only are they grateful for your services, you’ll learn a ton,
and you’ll come away with some great references.  Strong references, of
course, can be a tremendous asset in obtaining your first job.  Once
you’ve put in some time, you can proudly list the experience on your
resume.  Most would-be employers will be impressed that you volunteered
your time, and you’ll come across as an altruistic self-starter. 



2.  Consider getting A+ certified.  A common complaint about MCSEs and
CNEs is that they lack sufficient hardware experience.  Get an A+ and
not only will you have demonstrated initiative and obtained some much-
needed hardware experience, you’ll have another certification to boot. 



3.  Build your own lab.  It’s never been cheaper to set up your own lab.
You can pick up a second-hand P233 (or better) box for a couple hundred
bucks.  Upgrading the RAM shouldn’t cost you more $50.  And you can
either invest in some software or pick up free evaluation versions that
Microsoft offers from time to time.  Check out this site:





Evaluate as many different kinds of relevant software as you can. You’ll
learn a lot simply from the installation process and troubleshooting.
But you should also practice setting up workgroups, creating users and
domains, assigning security rights and policies, etc.  Finally, do as
much as you can to familiarize yourself with Microsoft’s TechNet
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