Late last year and early this year, Microsoft offered its 70-621, 70-622 and 70-623 Vista exams as beta tests. Invitees were told, by passing 70-621, they would upgrade from the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) Certification to Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Support Technician. By passing 70-622, they would complete requirements for MCITP: Enterprise and by passing 70-623, they would complete requirements for Microsoft Desktop Support: Consumer, provided they also passed 70-620 TS: Microsoft Windows Vista, Configuring.
Beta tests 70-621 and 70-622 were completed, and 70-623 apparently was canceled. Meanwhile, testers were awaiting their scores for 70-621 and 70-622.
Recently, though, in discussing the situation on her Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blog, Trika Harms zum Spreckel, Microsoft Learning marketing communications team member, said Microsoft has stated the release dates of these exams “will be delayed in order to ensure that we have adequate application support coverage for these certifications.”
In the meantime, Microsoft will be adding additional content to the exams, and beta testers are being asked to retake the exams in mid- to late March — passing the original round of beta testing is now irrelevant to any upgrading of certification, and scores for those tests likely will not even be released.
“The previous beta exams for 70-621 and 70-622 are no longer valid, as we have added content,” said Rob Linsky, Microsoft Learning Group program manager. “However, customers will have gained solid knowledge of the content provided up to this point.”
Linsky also said customers who took 71-621 and 71-622 and customers who had a confirmed seat for 71-623 will receive a direct invitation to the retake the tests. Microsoft is providing these customers an exclusive 72-hour window to re-register.
“We intend to limit any inconvenience as much as possible for customers who registered for and/or took the first betas,” Linsky said. “As you may have seen in Trika’s blog, there has been a lot of internal debate about this, and we are working hard to accommodate customers who may feel inconvenienced.”
Many beta testers, including Jeff Hardee, are displeased. Hardee teaches at Thomson NETg, specializing in IT fundamentals, networking and security and covering content from a range of certifications, end-user applications and business development classes. Additionally, he’s worked as a systems administrator, network engineer and consultant for more than a decade.
Hardee was invited to take 70-621 in early December 2006, and took the beta exam three weeks later.
“I, like many of the 70-621 beta testers, had studied hard over the holidays, put a lot of effort into being successful in the exam and have been eagerly awaiting my results,” Hardee said. “When I got antsy to hear word after about five weeks, I find these blog posts. I have no message from Microsoft regarding this topic.”
Hardee is new to beta testing for certifications but nevertheless finds this situation upsetting and atypical.
“This is not only highly unusual for Microsoft but also for other vendors,” Hardee said. “I don’t recall hearing that CompTIA or Cisco asked beta testers to retake a beta exam before. If they have, I’d like to know about it and hear what kind of response they received.”
Hardee said his intentions in taking this test were to demonstrate his knowledge of Vista, achieve the Vista certification and help Microsoft create its exams.
“Once the exam was over, I believed I had succeeded in all three goals,” Hardee said. “My understanding of the beta process was based on the e-mail I received, inviting me to take the beta, and on what is printed on Microsoft’s Web site about betas, that in exchange for taking a longer test and providing comments to Microsoft on the questions, thereby allowing them to adjust the exam and release it to the public, I would be able to take the exam for free.”
Hardee said, in essence, he was being paid for his service to Microsoft by the waiver of the exam fee, so his participation was not a mere voluntary gesture.
He also said he was told specifically that he would receive his test results, and that passing the beta — even though it would be different from the actual exam — would be equivalent to passing the actual exam, and he would receive the appropriate certification for passing.
He also said he was told retaking the beta exam was not an option.
A growing number of disgruntled beta testers concur with Hardee and have been registering their displeasure online, but they are being met with little in the way of placation from Microsoft.
Linsky said customers involved in the company’s software beta programs are asked to go through numerous iterations with beta software without guarantees that the process will go smoothly or that their feedback will be used.
Hardee said the beta exam process is wholly dissimilar to beta software and should not be conducted in the same way.
“I don’t know if I would want to offer my services to Microsoft by being a beta tester in the future in light of this,” he said.