Microsoft’s April Shower of Exams

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Last year, Microsoft Learning announced that it would restructure its entire certification program in order to better align to technologies and specific jobs in the IT industry. This month, as the end of the first wave of certification tests under this new system draws closer, Microsoft has seven exams slated for release.


“We’re feeling really good about the progress we’ve made,” said Al Valvano, director of certification at Microsoft Learning. “When we first started talking about the new generations of certs last year, we had set out a timetable of what we hoped to achieve and laid out a road map for that first wave of products. The good news is that we’re still proceeding on plan. We’ve had no major shifts in strategy or any changes in timelines. We’ve gotten out our upgrade exams for people who are currently certified as MCDBA on SQL Server 2000 or as an MCAD or MCSD on .NET. We’ve got a couple more to go beyond this, and that’ll pretty much close down that first wave of releases.”


This month’s exams, which are tied to Microsoft’s latest versions of SQL Server and Visual Studio, include 70-529 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 – Distributed Application Development (English), 70-431 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 – Implementation and Maintenance (German, Japanese, French), 70-442 PRO: Designing and Optimizing Data Access by Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (English), 70-443 PRO: Designing a Database Server Infrastructure by Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (German, French), 70-444 PRO: Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Administration Solution by Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (German, Japanese, French), 70-526 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 – Windows-based Client Development (English) and 70-528 TS: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 – Web-based Client Development (German, Japanese).


The abundance of foreign-language versions of these exams represents the global emphasis of Microsoft’s certification strategy, Valvano said. “We had also set out a fairly aggressive localization schedule. We wanted to make sure that we did a great job of not only getting them out and available in English, but also in some of the core languages for our international audience.”


Valvano said he is pleased with the changes in Microsoft’s certification program, and added that responses from customers indicate that they are happy about the transformation as well. “We had a really high focus on the validity and rigor of the program, and a tight focus on how well our certifications map to more industry-standard job roles,” he said. “As we went into release of our early betas, we wanted to know if we were doing a good job of fulfilling on that vision. I’m pleased to say that at least so far, the feedback we’ve had from both beta candidates and live customers for the most part has been that we really have done a good job of raising the bar in terms of the professional skills and the depth of technology usage we’re testing on.”


Microsoft Learning is already looking ahead to the certifications that will support upcoming releases of the company’s Vista operating system and Office software. “We’re really turning our attention to the next wave of products that Microsoft will be releasing in the next year or so,” Valvano said. “We’re looking really strongly at the portfolios that we’ll have to support the Vista product launch, the Office product launch and, probably a little further out, some of the additional software that will be coming out in the IT pro space, like another version of Exchange.” He added that delays in the deadline for the retail release of the Vista OS would not impact Microsoft Learning’s certification timetables. “We’re still tied integrally to the planned release dates for the software,” he explained. “We haven’t changed our timelines one iota.”


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