Microsoft Announces Free Certification Exams

Microsoft has announced on TechNet blog about offering free certification “beta” exams for the developers. “Beta” exams, as Microsoft have named this exam, are actual exams. During the exam development process, the actual exams will be made available, at a Prometric testing center, for no charge. This helps them increase exam quality by having industry experts evaluate each question, by taking the exam, and providing feedback to Microsoft. The feedback is then used to fix, replace, or scrap questions from the exams.

Below is a small FAQ posted at the official announcement post.

1) How much does it cost to take a beta exam? — Absolutely nothing but your time.   There is no charge.  Nothing from Microsoft or Prometric.

2) Is this a real exam? — Yes it is.  Even though the questions are not scored at the time you take the exam, they are real questions and the exam is real.  If you pass the exam, you earn the certification just the same as if you took it in a non-beta environment.  This means you don’t get a pass/fail or score immediately following the exam, but you do get notified 8 to 10 weeks later because we move slow in getting the final scoring in place.

4) What is the main difference between a beta and non-beta exam, besides cost?— The beta exam will show you questions that have not been through a final QA check.  You are that final QA check.  Non-beta exams expose you to 40 or 45 questions and you have a total of two hours to complete it.  The beta exam could expose you to as many as 125 to 150 questions and take up to four hours.  (bathroom breaks permitted).

5) Who is eligible? — The prep guides will go into more detail about the target audience for the exams, and the links to those will be forthcoming, but, If you use .NET 2.0, 3.5, or 4, and Visual Studio to create software applications using the technologies included in the .NET framework, you are eligible.

6) Why is this beta different from others? — In the past, we have focused our beta invitations on a small set of subject matter experts.  We want to expand the beta offerings even more to industry experts who haven’t taken an exam yet, are considering it but don’t want to invest the money until hey know what the exam is all about, and to get a larger set of experts providing the feedback to help drive quality.

7) In the past, I have tried to register but the exam slots were all full.  How will this be any different? — We set a maximum limit on the number of beta exams that can be delivered.  This is necessary for various reasons, some obvious and some not, but I won’t be going into those here.  To alleviate the issue of the exams filling up, we are increasing this maximum limit to address two problems, not enough open seats and no-shows.  That’s right, people actually register for an exam and then don’t show up to take it.  Even it is free.  No-shows result in exam seats being unavailable to someone who wanted to take it but could not.

8) When will these be available? — All but one exam will be available between the dates of March 31, 2010 to April 20, 2010.  Mark your calendars now!  We will also be opening registration earlier for these as well.

9) What exams are we talking about?

70-511 TS: Windows Applications Development with Microsoft® .NET Framework 4 
70-513 TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft® .NET Framework 4 
70-515 TS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft® .NET Framework 4 
70-516 TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft® .NET Framework 4 
70-519 Pro: Designing and Developing Web Applications using Microsoft® .NET Framework 4

70-518 Pro: Designing and Developing Windows® Applications using Microsoft .NET Framework 4 will not be available in this time frame but should be available in the April time frame.

10) How do you sign up? — In a little while, I will be making a post to this blog again with the link to the prep guide, Prometric’s web site for registration and the all important beta exam codes that change that cost in your shopping cart to $0.

As said in the FAQ, exams will be made available between the dates of March 31, 2010 to April 20, 2010. Registration will open soon. If you are interested then you can watch the Beta Exam blog for further notices.

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