Exam Words to Memorize: Hot Area, Active Screen...

New exams slated for release this year to feature many new testing innovations and improved security.

Hot area. Active screen. Build list and reorder. The terms refer to new question types that are among several that Microsoft will be introducing in newer exams, including the Windows Server 2003-based exams slated for release this month. Microsoft has also updated its testlet exam format, a scenario-based question.

According to an updated FAQ on the Microsoft MCP Web site, "The new, innovative question types and testlet exam format have undergone rigorous usability testing by certification customers and usability engineers. These new question types offer intuitive interfaces, user-friendly features, and improved navigation. Help is available at all times to provide information about how all question types work."

The FAQ explains how each of the new question types are being used, and Microsoft recommends that testers download demos before attempting any of the newer exams. Take hot area questions (see figure). The question appears at the top of the screen and the tester is expected to perform an operation on a screen shot with active areas that are indicated by moving the mouse over it, simulating a task that might be performed in a working environment.

Hot Area Question Type
Hot area, one of many new innovations that Microsoft will introduce in upcoming exams, provides tester with an example screen containing areas that are activated as the mouse is moved over them. (Click image to view larger version.)

Andy Barkl, MCT and owner of in Phoenix, Arizona, observes that "The hot area is not exactly like the real-world screens but at least it requires a candidate to be familiar with the screens and options. The frustrating aspect of these new question types is that you are required to scroll each and every frame or you can't move to the next question, and there's a lot of white space beyond the text and screen shots."

While questions such as hot area might need navigation refinements, Barkl believes the new question types do a much better job of thwarting cheaters than multiple choice and thus, exam integrity. "This new question type, although similar to [questions in] the IIS 4 exam and its simulators, offers a richer exam experience and maybe, just maybe, will cut down on those who use alternate methods to pass rather than the traditional study methods and hands-on experience required...."

Microsoft also says that it has updated the testlet format, similar to scenario-based or case study questions. Testlets might be deployed at any point in an exam and are typically packaged as a set of questions that relate to a specific scenario. According to the FAQ, once a testlet is completed, it can't be reviewed during an exam. Also, testlets were in limited use in existing exams, but they've gone through further refinement and will only be deployed in newer exams.

For information on all the question types that Microsoft uses in its exams, go to

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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