Microsoft Beta Exams Aren’t Free Any More – and I’m Glad

February 8, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Nothing is truly free in this world; it all costs something in the end. This is even true with Microsoft beta exams, that unspoken perk of the IT industry. It used to be that IT pros could register for and sit a beta exam for free. If you passed the 3+ hour exam, you got the credential and Microsoft got valuable psychometric information, plus written feedback on individual questions. Even if you failed the exam, you got a valuable free preview of the content that would help you study – again, without any cash outlay. The only drawback was waiting weeks for your score report to drop.

Given my career as a trainer, it was important for me to teach the latest classes, and I had to take the corresponding certification exams. I did not want to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to take a certification test when I could take it for free. Well, a lot of people had the same idea, and that meant it was extremely difficult to grab a seat for a beta exam. It was almost like camping out for U2 tickets in front of the box office.

However, I’ve also noticed a strange trend in the last couple of years. Beta periods have lasted longer and longer instead of selling out immediately. I’ve been able to get a seat in every beta exam I’ve wanted for several months. Does that mean fewer people are interested in taking Microsoft exams?


I’ll come back to that. But apparently Microsoft wasn’t getting the results they needed or wanted from beta seats, so as of late November 2017, they announced that beta exams are no longer free.

The human paradox: we value the things we pay for

While it might seem like a dumb idea to take a product that you’re having a hard time giving away and start charging money for it, this is actually a really sound business principle.  It’s human nature for people to not value something that is free. It turns out that a lot of people registered for beta exams and never showed up at the test center to take the exam.


This caused the limited number of test seats to go unused. The folks that ran the test centers were upset because people did not show up. Since the exams were free, the no-show candidates weren’t penalized. The Microsoft  folks did not get their feedback. And I’m sure Microsoft wasn’t happy shouldering the facility costs involved.

Years ago, I worked for a training company that offered free one-day seminars on various technical topics. We had maximum registrations on each class, but on average, only 33% of those registrants would show up for the seminars. But when we started charging $59 for the seminars, 90% of the registrants showed up — and we ended up with the same total number of attendees as we did when the seminars were free.

What hasn’t changed: beta geo-restrictions

To my knowledge, Microsoft still places geo-restrictions on beta exams. In the past, you could not take an exam if  you were located in India, Pakistan, or China. I was told this was due to fear of the exams being pirated. The last beta that I participated in had the geo-restrictions in place, and I believe these geo-restrictions have not changed with the new fee policy.


What has changed: beta exams aren’t free—but they’re still a great deal

Although Microsoft betas aren’t free any more, they are heavily discounted. The beta exams are 80% off the price of the exam. So if the exam fee is normally $165, you will pay $33 to take the exam, which is still a heck of a bargain. And, recognizing that a beta exam isn’t a perfect testing instrument, Microsoft has built a fail-safe into the cost. If you pass, you get credit for the exam. If you fail, the funds that you paid for the beta exam will be applied to the cost of a future exam after the beta exam is scored. Beta exams can be scored from 4 to 12 weeks after the exam was taken. …So, technically, if you don’t pass, then the beta exam is still kind of free. Right?

So, as it turned out, I was winning all those free exam tickets only because Microsoft had to keep them open for longer and longer periods to get enough valid candidates. This change in the beta test policy will help out those candidates who truly want to take a test by ensuring that there will be a spot available. It will help the test centers by ensuring that seats in the center will actually be used. Of course, it will help Microsoft by making sure that the more dedicated and qualified candidates sit for the exam, which will improve their psychometric data.

All in all, I’m fine waving this particular “free” lunch goodbye.

Happy testing,

George Monsalvatge

Everything you need to know about Microsoft beta exams: invites, pricing, and availability

November 27, 2012 at 10:34 am | Posted in Kaplan IT Training news, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment

Curious to know how the beta exam process works behind the scenes at Microsoft? Eager to get your hands on a free invite code to a pre-released exam? Liberty Munson has posted a two-part series over in Born To Learn that’s titled Everything You Wanted to Know about Beta Exams: Part 1 (Beta Invites) and Everything You Wanted to Know about Beta Exams: Part 2 (Beta Availability).

Although I recommend you read both posts, the take-away points are:

  • Free seats are still available, but very limited.
  • Your best shot at a free seat is to keep your SME (subject matter expert) profile current with Microsoft.
  • Paid (not free) beta exams are available to anyone.
  • Paid (not free) beta exams will now stay in the market until the final exam is live.

This last point is a substantial policy change on the beta front, as these exams were typically only available for a few weeks before vanishing in a puff of psychometric smoke. With the extended availability of beta tests, anyone who needs to prove competency in a brand-new technology will be able to do so without having to wait for the final exam to come to market.

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.

MOS 2010 PowerPoint beta exams want YOU – only one day left!

September 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Posted in Microsoft | Leave a comment
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Certiport is seeking qualified individuals and test centers to participate in the MOS 2010 PowerPoint beta exam! The beta period is limited, currently scheduled for September 16th through September 28th, but the closing date to enroll in the beta program as a test candidate is Wednesday, September 8th and the closing date to enroll as a test center is Thursday, September 9th, so you have to act fast!

You don’t need to be a once and future master of PowerPoint Karaoke to participate. The requirements for test candidates are simple:

  • Be a native English speaker, even if not living in an English-speaking country
  • Have good familiarity with the 2007 PowerPoint application version

Certiport would prefer you also be familiar with PowerPoint 2010, although it’s not a strict requirement. Candidates who are familiar with 2010 features are very desirable for the program. Fortunately, you can download a beta version for a free trial from this link and make yourself eligible:

To enroll in the PowerPoint beta, you must contact one of the approved Certiport Testing Centers enrolled in the beta program:

Name/Company LOCATION CITY STATE/ PROVINCE First Name Last Name
Certiport Singapore Pte Ltd SINGAPORE Teck Seng Nah
Lasalle Computer Learning Center USA, Tampa, FL Suzanne Ricci
The Turn Around Agenda/Technology and Education Center USA Dallas TX Vonetta Pelts
Idaho State University, College of Education USA Pocatello ID Brenda Jacobsen
F-Keys Ltd UK Gillingham Kent Alex Waterton
Penobscot Community Health Care USA Bangor ME Jennifer McBee
AAA PCITS USA Lawrenceville GA Pamelia Evans
Karen Todd Pickles CPI USA Madison FL Karen Pickles
Lambton College (CCI) CAN Sarnia ON Kim Hunt
CCI Learning Solutions Inc CAN Langley BC Daniel Sweeney
Northwestern State University USA Natchitoches LA Mary Beth Tarver
Welkin Systems Limited Hong Kong Kitty Luk
Sawyer Training USA Minneapolis MN George Sawyer
MicroAge College Station USA College Station TX Richard Carroll
The Training Foundry UK Sheffield South Yorkshire David Rotherham
Advantage Caribbean Institute Ltd WEST INDIES Bentley Beckles
ATG Testing Center USA Van Nuys CA Arman Gasparyan
Maple Tronics Computers USA Goshen IN Gloria Moser
Berry College-B.I.T.S. USA Mount Berry GA Daniel O Sandberg
Micro Market Business Centre, (CCI) CAN Kingston ON Paola Lockett
Latham & Watkins LLP USA Los Angeles CA Vivia Weller
Qendra per Trajnim dhe Zhvillim e PTK-se Republic of Kosovo Prishtinë Kosovo Besnik Skenderi
NR Computer Learning Center USA Orange CA Vazi Okhandiar
In Demand Testing Account E USA New York NY Betty Lou Herter
DreVon Software Training USA Jonesboro GA LeAndra Jordan
Lytton High School NZ Gisborne Maurice Alfred
SkillSoft Canada Fredericton NB Cathy Colpitts
Time Saving Solutions, LLC USA Redmond WA Lynn Landry
Zenos IT Academy UK Leeds West Yorkshire Zeshan Sattar
Cherokee High School USA Canton GA Anna Green
Salt Lake Community College-ACT USA Draper UT Joe Fox
S&G Training UK Swanley Kent Nicola Joyce
Dunbar High School USA Fort Myers FL Denise Spence
Toronto Training Center For Information Technology and Business Accounting CAN Mississauga ON Mousa Abdallah Hamdan
Lynn Testing Center USA Boca Raton FL Tammy Swett
Infotest GREECE Kallithea Georgios Tsoupos
Oakwood University USA Huntsville AL Odessa Jordan
Global Information Technology USA Lathrup Village MI Paula Artis
Prodigy Learning SP Andrew Flood

If your favorite Testing Center isn’t on the list or you believe your test center can participate, there is still time to enroll by contacting Certiport directly. There are are few tidbits of information required from test centers; including: a single-point-of-contact, availability of the test center for the duration of the beta period, Certiport ID#, etc., but nothing too complicated – so be sure contact Certiport directly for the list of requirements.

~ Happy Beta Testing!

The April 2010 .NET 4.0 Beta Blitz

May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | Leave a comment
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April was a tumultuous month, thanks to Microsoft’s release of  .NET 4.0 Beta Exams. That’s right, Microsoft rolled out all six .NET 4.0/Visual Studio 2010 exams in one month. What that meant to me, your intrepid content developer, was two exams per week and reams of notes, whitepapers, and documentation.

Without violating the NDA, here are my first impressions of the new exams:

So with the 4.0 track there are fewer exams, but more questions and content. Overall, I find myself missing the basic mechanics tested in the good old 70-536 (TS: Microsoft .NET Framework – Application Development Foundation), but Microsoft is definitely highlighting the new features of .NET 4.0 in these exams.

Phew … now onto practice test development!

(For earlier coverage of the .NET 4.0 exams see my post at The Times: They Are A’Changing for .NET Certification — keeping in mind that some of the info has changed in the interim.)

–Joshua Hester

Mo’ beta goes global: 70-113 pilot period extended (really!) to October 25, 2008

October 9, 2008 at 7:48 am | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing | Leave a comment
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If you missed out on the 70-113 pilot, or if you reside in a country where the pilot was not offered, you have another chance: it has been extended to October 25. The Microsoft Born To Learn crew just made this announcement:

Now virtual lab based pilot Exam 70-113 is available worldwide, with high concentration of test centers ready to receive registrations for this pilot exam in Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, UK, Egypt, UAE, South Africa, US, India, Eastern Europe, Russia (Moscow), China.

If you’re at all interested, I suggest you hop on over to the Born To Learn post NOW for the promo code and signup information, because they’re also giving away exam vouchers:

Upon completion of this pilot exam, the first 3000 candidates will receive 3 (!) free exam vouchers that can be used to register for any Microsoft Certification exam delivered at a Prometric testing center.

Preparing for SQL Server 2008 certification tests: insight from the Product Development team

August 15, 2008 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints | 4 Comments
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Microsoft recently released the beta versions of the first TS exams for SQL Server 2008: exams 71-432 and 71-448. It is expected that a beta for 71-433 will be released later this month. The live versions of these exams should be released 6 to 8 weeks after the beta period closes. (Note: Beta tests for Microsoft usually start with 71-, while live exams are 70-XXX.)

During this time, the Product Development team at Transcender is developing practice tests for these exams. As one of the SQL Server test developers, I thought I’d share a few tips for taking the SQL Server 2008 certification tests.

Before you start studying, you first need to identify the test content. This is best done by reviewing the Skills Measured section of the Microsoft Exam Guide. (This is exactly what we do ourselves before developing a new practice test.) The SQL Server 2008 Exam Guides are as follows:

· 70-432 – TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance –

· 70-433 – TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development –

· 70-448 – TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance –

While reviewing the Exam Guide, you should identify the areas you need to study – areas where you aren’t as familiar with the technology as you could be. Then research those areas on SQL Server 2008’s TechNet site or SQL Server 2008 Books Online. Another great site that I use is Rob’s SQL Server blog.

Once you have studied all the skills needed for the certification, you should focus on ensuring you can pass the test. It is always good to review the technologies that are new to SQL Server 2008, or focus on what has changed from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008. The SQL Server 2008 Books Online site includes an article on the new and improved features in SQL Server 2008 at What’s New (SQL Server 2008). As with any exam, many of the test questions will focus on these version changes to ensure that the candidate has prepared for the exam and is fully updated on the application. Keep in mind that any new features that were introduced in SQL Server 2005 may also be covered. So be familiar with the features themselves, and also know which features have changed.

The entire Microsoft SQL Server Certification information page is here:

Finally – to fully prepare for the exam experience, buy your practice test from Transcender. (Shameless plug! You didn’t think this would just be about the live exam, did you?) The Transcender practice tests should be released close to the live exam release date.


Mo’ beta: 70-113 pilot period extended?

August 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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I tried taking the 70-113 exam (TS: Windows® Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring) last Thursday. It’s technically a pilot of the new performance-based testing (PBT) technology, not a beta exam per se. However, the testing center couldn’t get the exam to run, so I just drove there and back. You could say it was a beta of the pilot, with the actual pilot to follow.

The nice lady at Prometric told me that Microsoft has extended the 71-113 pilot testing period “through the end of September,” so I rescheduled. The posted end date is September 12. Important Disclaimer: I’m not an official representative of either company; I don’t know if this translates to more slots opening up for the test or if they’re just shuffling around the people who were already signed up. If this is something you want to take and you missed the original beta announcement, you might want to keep an eye peeled on Trika’s blog to see if they announce an extension.

[Note for those unfamiliar with American slang: mo’ betta means “more better.” This is more worser grammar so don’t repeat it on, say, a job application.]

[Note on the note. If, in LOLspeak, “pwned” is mo’ betta than “owned,” then would better than mo’ betta be written as…. no’ betta?]

-blogmistress Ann

ETA 9-12-08: Success! I contacted Microsoft directly a couple of weeks ago to report the test failures. And yesterday I got a call out of the blue from Prometric, asking me if I wanted to reschedule. So now I’m re-re-taking the 70-113 exam on September 19. Third time’s the charm.

From what I have seen on comment threads, the issue is not with the pilot product itself, but with the requirement that you connect to the Internet (where the virtual servers are) from within the Prometric network. Historically, exams have *not* allowed test-takers to go onto the Internet during an exam, so it makes sense that they’re still ironing out the kinks in that interface. (Again, not an official representative, not an official explanation, just a best guess.)

I’ll report on my actual experience when I return (victorious!) from the pilot.

ETA(2) 10-09-08: Pilot WAS extended! Information here:

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