Microsoft beta exams now open to all: lead the bell curve for a price

July 2, 2012 at 9:28 am | Posted in Microsoft | Leave a comment

For the last several years, Microsoft beta exams have been available prior to an exam’s “official” release. Typically beta test vouchers were handed out to SMEs, posted on industry blogs, or distributed at conferences. Microsoft recently announced that they were changing their beta exam strategy and opening the playing field to everyone who wished to take a beta exam. (See the new official FAQ on beta tests here.)

As per the announcement, beta exams will be priced the same as regular exams and can be scheduled through Prometric’s website as soon as they are released. Beta exam numbers typically start with a 71-xxx instead of a 70-xxx. Currently, exams 70-41070-68770-480 are in beta; you can schedule them through Prometric using exam numbers 71-410, 71-687, and 71-480 (as of this writing).

For those of you scratching your heads and wondering what the point of a non-free beta exam would be, we’ve put together a few pros and cons of setting yourself ahead of the bell curve. (Please note that this information may be subject to change in the future as Microsoft rolls out new promotions or ends old ones.)

Here are some potential reasons why you might NOT want to take an exam in the beta stage:

  • Delayed scoring. You don’t get your score after finishing a beta exam. You have to wait until the official non-beta exam release, generally a period of 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Longer tests. If your time frame or attention span is limited, this might not be the best format. Some items may not be scored; some items may be a trial run of a new question format meant to gather real-life usage data.
  • No retakes allowed. Microsoft isn’t currently running a Second Shot promotion, so there’s no word on whether Second Shot will apply to paid beta exams.
  • You have to hit the ground running. Beta exams are bleeding edge. Have you had enough time to thoroughly learn the latest iteration of your software?

And, of course, some reasons why you WOULD want to take a beta exam:

  • The opportunity to leave feedback. Beta tests have detailed comment fields at the end. Didn’t like the way a question was phrased? Thought the new live coding segment was great? Encountered a glitch? This is an unparalleled opportunity to provide direct feedback. Heck, even Microsoft’s own employees love the chance to leave exam feedback.
  • Getting certified ahead of the pack. Getting that cloud-based certification now, as opposed to six months from now, might be the credentials edge that gets you a promotion, a teaching position, or a new career.
  • Bragging rights. And blogging rights, and white paper authoring rights. Run with it (within NDA bounds, of course.)

Microsoft will still be releasing free exam beta codes to SMEs and other qualified individuals, though in smaller numbers than before, and you can still sit a “free” beta exam (as part of your overall conference fee) at trade shows, such as  Microsoft TechEd Europe 2012. If you want the chance to receive a coveted invite-only beta exam code in the mail, Microsoft requires that you set up and maintain your SME profile here:

To keep abreast of beta exam announcements, follow Born To Learn or another industry-relevant blog:

Meanwhile, this change in strategy on Microsoft’s part will mean that seats for beta exams are essentially unlimited, so you no longer have to chase a seat down like it was a Rolling Stones concert ticket.

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