Good Move

Test takers have noticed: training materials don't quite track with exam content. Now, Microsoft has taken steps to correct that discrepancy.

Have you ever been partway through a Microsoft exam, moving along carefully and confidently, when suddenly—BAM!—you’re hit by a question on a subject that you hadn’t encountered anywhere, in any of your study efforts? And did this happen despite the fact that you carefully brushed up using Microsoft Press books and a course taught with Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) materials?

This scenario apparently isn’t that rare, judging by the audience reaction to a question at our September TechMentor conference in San Francisco. When an attendee asked the panel of Microsoft certification and training folks why the training materials don’t always track with the exams, the audience backed him up with voluminous applause. That reaction put an exclamation point on a good question for the panel: If all of this content—exams, books, MOC—is coming out of the same company for the same purpose, why doesn’t it all match up? If Microsoft says that one way to prepare for exam 70-240, for example, is to take course 1560, then shouldn’t that course at least touch on each of the major exam topics? If an MS Press book has “Microsoft Official Study Guide” on the cover, shouldn’t you assume it’ll cover the objectives on the associated exam?

To the credit of the three people on the Microsoft panel (Eckhart Boehme and Alice Ciccu from the certification side and Ken Rosen from the MOC side), they fielded the question well. The good news is Microsoft seems well aware of the discrepancy and is working to fix it. One thing that will help is a recent restructuring that moved the disparate content-provider groups at Microsoft—including certification, MOC, and MS Press, as well as TechNet and the Microsoft Web site—into one big group.

According to Ken Rosen, a lead product manager for MOC, putting certification, MS Press, and courseware development under one leader, Microsoft VP Robert Stewart, has several advantages—including creating a group that now numbers almost 700 people. This gives both certification and courseware, Rosen said, “more visibility and recognition in the company. We [now] tend to get more participation and buy-in at a higher level. It’s not that we didn’t have that before, but there’s more awareness of a 700-person division.”

More to the point of that TechMentor attendee’s question, the move should also help the people who build the exam content work more closely with the people who pull together the training and book content. That’s got to be a good thing for all the content providers—and for you as you prepare for all those Windows 2000 exams in 2001.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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