Dude, where’s my 83-640 test?

July 20, 2010 at 11:18 am | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing | Leave a comment
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Last month, when I was working in our Transcender booth at Microsoft TechEd, a customer approached and asked me, “Dude, where’s my 83-640 test?”  That’s pretty much a direct quote, and yes, I pretty much liked him instantly, so we got to talking. It seems this gentleman scheduled the 83-640 test (MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Active Directory Configuration) at a Prometric center in the U.S., but when he arrived to take his exam, he had to take the multiple-choice form of the test with test number 70-640. The performance-based lab exam wasn’t available.

Yo Microsoft, what gives?  While at TechNet, I put on my detective shades and went looking for answers by quizzing fellow conference-goers. Attendees didn’t hesitate to share their theories as to why the 83-640 exam was suspended. One guy said the government did not want Microsoft using this new testing technology; it was making the boys at the CIA a little too nervous.  Another person said a test taker drank a 20-oz Dr. Pepper with some Pop Rocks before taking her test and had a nervous breakdown from the sugar overload, and is now suing Microsoft for a gazillion dollars.

Government conspiracies? High-dollar law suits? I figured it was time to separate fact from fiction. So I decided to visit the Microsoft Learning booth at TechEd and ask the sources closest to this matter. Here’s what I learned:

The 83-640 has been temporarily suspended.  As you know, the 83-640 test has two parts: a multiple-choice part and a performance-based lab section. The performance-based part asked you to complete several tasks on a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008.  Several test takers reported problems accessing the virtual machine during the test. Others experienced performance issues during the exam. In response, Microsoft is tweaking the test to address all reported issues and improve the delivery of the 83-640 exam and any future performance-based tests.

Go directly to the Microsoft FAQs for details.

There are no exact figures available regarding the number of failed 83-640 attempts, however, if you drove a long distance to a test center, took the day off from work to take the exam, and your test failed to launch, it wouldn’t matter how many other people had this problem. You would be madder than a wet hornet! Microsoft understands this, and is committed to providing a stable test platform. I personally did not have a problem with the 83-640 test, but I’ve heard from a couple of people who did and they were less than thrilled.

During our chat at TechEd, Microsoft employees assured me that they are committed to fixing the 83-640 test. They also let me know they’re committed to the performance-based testing concept. If I were a betting man (and I am), I’d lay odds that we’ll see new (and improved) PBT exams in the near future.

The mystery of the missing 83-640 test has been solved. There is no government conspiracy or lawsuit against Microsoft. In fact, drinking a Dr. Pepper and chasing it with some Pop Rocks before a  test will not give you a nervous breakdown; I know, I’ve done it many a time.

By the way, the Microsoft Born To Learn blog post, dated May 7, 2010, discusses 83-640, and gives you a number of Official Helpful Tips and Contact Information if you’re trying to register for 83-640 or 70-640. While we’re always happy to answer your questions, when it comes to the 83-640, we’re likely to direct you to Microsoft’s official blogs & forums for the latest information.

Until the next conspiracy theory rolls around!

–George Monsalvatge

How was your test center experience? Let Microsoft know directly!

April 28, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing | Leave a comment
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This piece of news went out in the MCP Flash newsletter, but we’re boosting the signal here in the blog since many of our readers may be new to certification altogether, or still in the process of obtaining their MCP designation.

Have you taken a Microsoft exam recently, such as the 83-640 Windows Server 2008 exam (the performance-based lab), or the 77-601 MCAS for Microsoft Word, or any of the 70-series tests? If so, Microsoft is giving you the chance to report directly on your testing center experience. Whether you tested at Prometric, Pearson Vue, Certiport, or another center, you can let Microsoft know directly how it went. It’s a short survey, but it does include that all-important open answer field to write in about any topics not already included.

See the original post in Born to Learn here: http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/btl/b/weblog/archive/2010/04/27/what-s-your-experience-at-test-centers-tell-us.aspx

Take the Survey (until May 7, 2010)

83-640 versus 70-640: How do they calculate my score if it’s virtual? and other desperate questions

September 28, 2009 at 7:55 am | Posted in Microsoft | Leave a comment
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There’s been a steady trickle of comments and customer emails on our post 83-640 versus 70-640: Which MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Active Directory Configuration is which? since we published it in February. The actual 83-640 exam went live in May. Since then, people have been writing to say they can’t find the new objectives online, that they can’t find the exam offered at a local testing center, or that they don’t understand how the virtual lab is scored and don’t want to lose points by clicking around to find the right command.

First, I want to point out that we’re not affiliated with Microsoft, and so we can’t help you directly. But we’re more than happy to help you find the right place to go. Most of the information you need has been published in the last year on Microsoft’s Born To Learn blog, and the blog team is very responsive to comments and questions.

As a first step – and this sounds dumb, but believe me, sometimes our eyes trick us – if you don’t see 83-640 listed on Prometric’s web site, be sure you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the list of tests. As James Seymour points out, 83 falls below 70, so you’ll have to scroll past all the other tests first.

If it’s not listed in your area, try contacting your test provider by phone and asking if they’re currently administering the 83-640 test. Microsoft is working region by region to ensure that test providers have the ability to run it in their labs. If your region isn’t supporting it, you may have to take 70-640 instead. Again, this post in Born To Learn is the place to find that answer.

The way that Microsoft scores tests is proprietary. However, Liberty Munson (Microsoft’s psychometrician) has specifically stated that the number of clicks or commands you enter in a scenario on your way to the goal do NOT affect the score. Only the configuration that you submit affects the score.

There is no per-simulation-item time limit. There is an overall time limit for the exam, and for some exams the simulations are grouped in a separately timed section. However, you will not be penalized for spending a long time on one simulation. Either you complete the task successfully and you earn the point or points associated with that simulation, or you don’t. The only disadvantage to spending a long time on one simulation is that you are eating up time you could be spending on another item.

Finally, you don’t need to find the “new” exam objectives, because there aren’t any. The material being tested, and the objectives, are unchanged from 70-640. Only the way in which the test is administered has changed. You can see our team member’s comments on the pilot version of this exam for a preview of the experience.

We hope this helps. Keep the comments coming!

83-640 versus 70-640: Which MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Active Directory Configuration is which?

February 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Microsoft | 36 Comments
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Editor’s note: from April 21 to May 7, 2010, you can take the Microsoft Learning Testing Center Survey here: http://deploy.ztelligence.com/start/survey/survey_taking.jsp

As a follow-up to our previous post, here are some points to clarify any confusion between the two tests (70-640 and 83-640) for MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Active Directory Configuration.

  • 83-640 will gradually replace 70-640: MCTS: Windows Server 2008, Active Directory Configuration, in 2009. The study objectives are the same for both exams; the content has not changed, just the format.
  • The lab-based exam was beta tested as the 70-113 pilot.
  • Microsoft is using the 83-### numbering scheme to distinguish lab-based exams from the traditional multiple-choice and interactive item-type exams (70-###) and the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist simulation-type exams (77-###).
  • To date, 83-640 has only been rolled out in three countries: Ireland, Singapore, and Canada. There is no word yet on when it will be released in the rest of the world.
  • In areas where 83-640 hasn’t been released, test-takers will take 70-640. Both versions count equally toward certification.
  • The lab-based exam also includes traditional multiple-choice item types. Microsoft does not plan to discontinue that type of question at this time, since some points are better tested in a question/answer format than by demonstrating a technique.

Transcender’s own Performance-Based Testing lab goes live for 83-640

February 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing, Transcender news | 3 Comments
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As you may have heard, Microsoft has rolled out a new certification test that uses emulations, rather than simulations, to create a live lab environment inside the test. (Read the full story here.) Although it’s not yet released in the U.S., the new emulation test (83-640) is scheduled to replace 70-640 completely in 2009 as testing centers support the format.

We, the Transcender staff, are thrilled to roll out our very own performance-based lab product. 83-640: MSCert: TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring is now available. The product is divided into two sections: Part One, the virtual lab, and Part Two, the more traditional question-and-answer format.

Because of the unique nature of this product, the format is a little different from our other practice tests:

  • Part Two, the standard test form, is a downloadable product that comes with a 3-year license.  It features 160 multiple-choice items and 230 flashcards.
  • Part One, the virtual lab, is an online-access product that comes with a 60-day license.  It features 8 timed scenarios. Each scenario consists of 6 to 10 tasks that can be completed in any way; you can use the command-line interface, the GUI, Power Shell, or any other method.

For the virtual lab scenarios, you create a connection to a Windows Server 2008 virtual server dedicated to your use, and interact with the virtual server online. However, you are not limited to the lab scenario tasks on the virtual machine. You can perform any task in Windows Server 2008,** which makes it ideal for self-study and hands-on practice.  Each virtual machine session lasts for 1 hour, after which you will re-connect and build a new virtual machine.

The Transcender practice tests emulates the actual Microsoft test experience. On the right side of the screen is a list of the scenario tasks; you can scroll through the tasks as you complete them. Your task may require you to configure settings on multiple computers. On the top of the screen, you can navigate between multiple virtual computers by clicking Machines.

83-640 screenshot 1

Once you finish with each scenario, you will be scored for accuracy (partial answers are noted). You can then study the scenario in one of two ways:

  • Read a step-by-step description of the correct actions.
  • View Flash media files that visually demonstrate the correct actions.

83-640 screenshot of answers

Passing exam 83-640 earns you the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) credential; it also counts toward the MCITP Enterprise Administrator for Windows 2008 and the MCITP Server Administrator for Windows 2008.

Transcender will continue to sell both 83-640 and 70-640 for as long as Microsoft supports both test formats.  If you already purchased 70-640 from us and would like to upgrade to 83-640, contact our customer service department and you will receive a discounted price on the 83-640 product.

As Microsoft continues to roll out this exam globally, they are also planning emulation exams for the other Technical Specialist (TS) exams for Windows 2008 – 70-642 and 70-643. We will be developing our test prep products for these exams as well.

— George Monsalvatge and blogmistress Ann

**Including blowing up the server, erasing the OS, accidentally raising the domain functional level, etc. Any mistake that can be made in real life can be made here, except that mistakes will be wiped out when your session resets and a new virtual machine is built, hallelujah and pass the cookies. – blogmistress Ann

Finally, one of the Cool Kids

September 24, 2008 at 11:31 am | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing | Leave a comment
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After two false starts, I finally took Microsoft’s pilot emulation exam, 70-113 (TS: Windows® Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring). Everyone else in my department had taken it, so now I’m in like Flynn. [ETA: this test functioned as the pilot for the 83-640, released May 2009.]

I had a blast with the test (possibly because my IT career didn’t ride on its results). The objectives mapped to 70-640. There were two “lab scenarios,” each of which featured between seven to twelve tasks, and then 37 multiple-choice questions. A comment field was provided after each section so you could provide feedback on what was or wasn’t working.

Observations:

  • Realistic scenarios. Some of the tasks were related (one action built on the other), and some were not, but all seemed like the kind of tasks you’d find on a network admin’s to-do list. Even the more obscure or one-time tasks (such as tasks that related to configuring new elements of a domain / account / site / etc.) were all things I’ve seen in Transcender practice tests.
  • Clearly stated tasks. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, and it was up to me to figure out how to do it.
  • Most the logical resources were available, e.g. if you couldn’t remember a CMD parameter, you could open a run box and type cmd /? and get them that way. (However, you couldn’t go online and look them up.)
  • Complex pre-configuration – already done. Bang, you’ve got your GPOs, your Active Directory groups, your child domains, et al. set up and ready for manipulation.
  • The cool part was that it felt real, or at least as real as the virtual server I play with here. The interface was a little slow and finicky, just like any other virtual server, but perfectly functional.
  • The monitor was on the smallish side, but I got used to opening and then collapsing the task list to keep track of what I was doing; I also scribbled the tasks on the little wipe-board to stay on track, which was a help.

We’ve talked a bit (okay, a lot) about emulations and simulations in this blog. I was actually doing a test run through some simulations we’re developing when I left to take the emulation test. Comparing the two, I come to this conclusion: I can’t and shouldn’t compare the two. Apples, meet oranges. In the continuing effort to evolve fair, comprehensive, and secure IT certification tests, I see a valid use for both technologies, depending on the exam.

I’ll blather on about that in my next post.

-BM Ann

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