Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate and Expert

Discussion in 'Windows Server 2003 / 2008 / 2012 / 2016' started by Theprof, May 25, 2012.

  1. JK2447
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    JK2447 Petabyte Poster Administrator Premium Member

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    Exactly mate exactly, its in our interest for Microsoft to do what they can to push up the value of the MCSE. It costing more to begin with and need maintaining is definitely a good way of doing that. Hopefully they will continue to devise ways to catch out braindumpers so we can sort the men from the boys :) (so to speak sorry girls ha ha)
     
    Certifications: VCP4, VCP5, VCP6, VCP6.5, VMConAWS Skill, BSc (Hons), HND IT, HND Computing, ITIL-F, MBCS CITP, MCP (270,290,291,293,294,298,299,410,411,412) MCTS (401,620,624,652) MCSA:Security, MCSE: Security, Security+, CPTS, CCA (XenApp6.5), MCSA 2012, VSP, VTSP
    WIP: VCAP 6.5 DCV (Design)
  2. dmarsh

    dmarsh Petabyte Poster

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    Unfortunately all I think will happen is the proportion of braindumpers will go up, its easy quick and cost effective to brain-dump an exam.
    The MS bean counters don't care if you brain-dump or not, they still get the same £100. Its easier to grow the market with braindumpers, real education has real world constraints in terms of student numbers and study time.

    It maybe still be worth certifying if just out of college and learning a topic for first time.

    I expect cert trainers will probably have to maintain their certs to keep heir jobs.

    So its likely that certified people will be people who have braindumped to maintain or have only just learnt the subject, the proportion of certified experienced people legitimately passing will most likely go down.

    Since the MCPD upgrade paths have always been a bit of a joke, I can see the new maintenance may be a small improvement in this area, if its possible to use some credit system or something more realistic to maintain your certification.

    Studying for and retaking exams every 3 years with largely the same content does not seem a good use of my time or money. It will not keep me on top of my game, it will keep me fixated on one area to the detriment of others in some sort of ground hog day.

    Either way I've lost all faith in the MS cert program, they don't seem at all interested in meeting any of the needs of the cert takers. It remains a rather bizarre cash cow / marketing scheme.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2012
  3. Theprof

    Theprof Petabyte Poster

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    I see your point and and I can see it happening... I don't think braindumpers will disappear especially in a competitive field that we're in. Maybe Microsoft has to create different types of exams to perhaps just reduce the brainduming... From my experience, I find that when looking for jobs, I see interviewers always asking me about certifications, how often I do them, and when was the last time I did a certification. This especially applies to consulting jobs and I am sure you know why.

    Other companies are doing the re-certification requirement, it was only a matter of time before Microsoft caught up. But you're absolutely right, Microsoft makes it easy for these people to just braindump the exams.
     
    Certifications: A+ | CCA | CCAA | Network+ | MCDST | MCSA | MCP (270, 271, 272, 290, 291) | MCTS (70-662, 70-663) | MCITP:EMA | VCA-DCV/Cloud/WM | VTSP | VCP5-DT | VCP5-DCV
    WIP: VCAP5-DCA/DCD | EMCCA
  4. AdamV

    AdamV Bit Poster

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    Good catch, you are absolutely right. What is slightly misleading is that on the MCSA page there is an FAQ about recertification which does not have a specific answer, just a link to the same general exam lifecycle information as everything else.

    From what I hear, the recert will be a specific exam to show you know the new stuff (and a certain amount of baseline). You won't be doing the same exam(s) again. A bit like upgrade exams from 200 > 2003 > 2008 which are separate from the main path.

    Yes, it's all to do with ISO or some such thing and demonstrating the 'rigour' of the certification programme, which certain government contracts expect. Whatever the reason, I don't think it is a bad thing.


    Braindumping is always a problem, but some of the new or reintroduced question types do make this harder, for example:
    "select all that apply" is harder to remember the right answers than a single multiple-guess one

    "shared scenario, same answer set, different question" - several questions in a row (from a pool) where the scenario is the same (reduces time spent reading) and the answer set is the same, but the question to answer is different.
    The repeated answer set makes it much harder and more confusing for the braindumper - they have seen these answers before, and the right ones were A and D. But was it for this exact question?
    I have not seen any of these "in the wild" yet, but anticipate questions such as "Which of the following computers can have Windows 7 installed without upgrading the hardware first?", "Which...only after upgrading one or more components?", "Which of the following computers cannot be installed with Windows 7?" and maybe six or seven different hardware specs with combinations of processor, RAM, HD space, graphics support or whatever.
     
    Certifications: MCT, MCSA:Messaging 2003, MCTS:Dynamics CRM 4.0 and 2011; MOS: Master Instructor 2003, 2007
    WIP: Writing CRM 2013 Customization course. Planning to take all CRM 2013 exams ASAP
  5. dmarsh

    dmarsh Petabyte Poster

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    I believe currently the MCPD upgrade exams are random questions from the combined pools of questions from the normal tracks, so its likely that you are being tested on the full syllabus including both old and new material. However I cannot confirm this.

    This means that there is an ever expanding syllabus and you have to basically study for 4-5 exams to attempt the upgrade, this makes upgrade exams unrealistically tough for a genuine student. I suspect the vast majority of people who pass upgrade exams to be dumpers already, and its likely to get worse.

    Don't beleive everything you are told, people bend the truth every day and call it 'spin' , 'marketing' or 'PR'.

    They've been saying the same stuff for 10+ years now, certification tests aren't noticeably any better than some of the first ones I took.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2012
  6. AdamV

    AdamV Bit Poster

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    I know the debate has gone on for some time. The problem is a typical one of scale - there are hundreds of fraudulent people stealing content (ie through corrupt test centres allowing illicit things such as writing materials, laptops or cameras) or dumping content (from actual test-takers remembering and sharing questions). This content is shared with thousands of others. Often for a profit through sites offering 'practice tests with guaranteed pass" and so on. These sites can make huge sums of money for very little outlay or cost, and in jurisdictions with almost zero chance of realistic prosecution. Sites are shut down one day and back up the next with a new domain name.

    As for exam counter-measures:

    I think it was a mistake to remove the "select all that apply" based on pressure from test-takers. It was good to see this reintroduced (last year I think).

    The "shared scenario, shared answer set" style is a recent innovation and so far only being introduced in new exams (eg SQL 2012, Private cloud etc), then they may back-date this into older content. (for "may" you might choose to read "eventually, shortly after pigs fly")

    I took one of the early betas of the Windows Server 2008 exams with a real live virtual machine environment where you had to actually perform the required tasks but had flexibility to do this how you wanted eg GUI or command line. This was not only a good way to take the exam and more like a real-world situation, but far harder for anyone to write or learn from a braindump file.
    Unfortunately Prometric were not up to the job of delivering this reliably to test centres so it had to be shelved (supposedly for a short time to iron things out, but it has been years now). If they could bring this back, it would make a huge difference.
     
    Certifications: MCT, MCSA:Messaging 2003, MCTS:Dynamics CRM 4.0 and 2011; MOS: Master Instructor 2003, 2007
    WIP: Writing CRM 2013 Customization course. Planning to take all CRM 2013 exams ASAP
  7. dmarsh

    dmarsh Petabyte Poster

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    This technique is as old as the hills ans has been in use on practically every cert test I ever took.

    Maybe new for MS, certainly not new for certification in general, again was in cert tests I took 10+ years ago.

    There is absolutely no evidence that simulations have made cert exams any harder to brain dump. I have seen the simulations in MS cert exams also, the questions were pretty easy, brain dumps with the screen shot storyboards on how to brain dump them exist and arguably make them the easiest questions to dump.

    Everything you say sounds like an MS PR press release...

    I am sure testing centres don't get the lions share of the profit given that they must maintain physical premises, staff and equipment. Prometric just license the centres and set the hardware requirements, its likely the underpaid test centres would just close shop if they significantly upped requirements without upping the revenue, many test centres I've frequented have already decided to close as its not worth their while.

    Inadvertently you have hit at the nub of the whole problem with the system though, which is running costs and delivery. The way the exams are delivered at a lost cost effectively ensures they are not reliable. There are far less issues with other examination systems used around the world by schools, colleges, universities, police, military, etc.

    However ironically the retail price of the exams is not cheap compared to other examination systems, that require human invigilators, human marking and yearly creation of new examinations. So there must be a decent chunk profit going to somebody for creating what is a rather crap system...
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2012
  8. AdamV

    AdamV Bit Poster

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    I agree, simulations are pretty pointless, and in fact in some cases make it ludicrously easy since you can't follow wrong paths that have not been predicted, and often only the right path works at all, just requiring some trial and error (especially some of the earlier flash-based ones).

    Real, actual virtual machine environments just show you a regular server with a desktop and a start button. You can do anything you normally would do in the real world. In the exam I took, there were two machines involved, I forget the details but it was either a DC and a member server or maybe two DCs with different roles or in a parent and child domain. Either way, for any given question you had to know where to begin, as well as how to get to the end. And while I am sure these things can and will be copied, it seems like it is much easier to build a bigger pool of questions based on a a vanilla server installation than it is to build lots of different simulations.
    Also, if I rote learn, for the sake of an example, how to install DHCP on a member server and authorise the new server using the appropriate user credentials (ie an enterprise admin), haven't I just learned how to do that particular task or skill? Showing that I know how to do this no matter how I learned it is very different from knowing that the answer is "B: install DHCP and authorise the new server"

    Unfortunately delivering these as a hosted on-line solution simply did not work out. Some places had bandwidth issues, test centres and candidates were frustrated by having to book a very narrow time-slot for exams, and often they were not available even when sticking to that time (only so many concurrent sessions per server etc).
    I agree that test centres seem to get less and less out of an increasingly painful problem. Some obviously feel obliged to offer testing as part of the overal package, but I am sure none are in it for the profit (I have yet to see a site offering testing alone, so it does not look like a profitable business model).

    Prometric get a chunk of change for doing not very much, not very well, it seems to me.



    As for PR, maybe I drank too much Kool-Aid. Or maybe I just try to find and share the positives in amongst lots of bad things.


    Yes, computer-based exams are not the best differentiators of candidates (that's why we interview when hiring, right?), but they are the best thing we have for getting it mostly right, most of the time. If someone does not have the cert it does not prove they don't know the subject, but I can assess them in other ways and decide if they have the nouse for a particular job (and possibly make paid-for training part of their personal development plan and possibly certification part of their probation or annual review). If they do have a cert I need to dig deeper to see if they can back it up with demonstrable skills and knowledge (to weed out the braindumpers).

    Yes, braindumpers will never go away, and will always find ways round almost any countermeasure, because it is in their commercial interests to do so. But that should not mean we dismiss all attempts to defeat them as totally pointless and futile. A related but often overlooked point is that we want to be able to discriminate - ie correctly identify people who do know the subject from those who don't. This includes trying to outsmart braindumpers, but also candidates who simply have not learned or prepped enough.

    Yes, some exams are in the market for seemingly short lifetimes before new ones replace them (see braindumpers, above, unfortunately this countermeasure is also counterproductive against genuine test takers too).


    I agree that trying to deliver exams like this at such scale is a large part of the problem.
    At university we had a different exam paper every year, albeit some questions got recycled a bit and reworded or introduced a few new numbers. But there was no way you could simply learn the answers to last year's paper and repeat them exactly over and over again. By using previous papers and working out the answers you could prepare for an exam, and yes, this would help a lot but partly that was by preparing you for the style of questions as well as re-visiting and revising the subject matter. So once a year, someone had to write a paper.
    But writing a new exam for every day, or even every month, or every country simply does not stack up economically. Having a random pool of questions and displaying answers in a randomised order is a good start, but far from perfect.


    I would be interested to hear what other things certforums members think could be done to improve the 'integrity' of Microsoft exams (since this is where my professional qualifications lie, I don't want my certification devalued by braindumps, or just bad press about them being worthless, or anything else) - what do other vendors do better? what can be done to the way questions are structured? should exams be longer and have more questions? should the passing bar be higher? should exams be more expensive? require annual re-takes? what suggestions can we make to ensure the certs we already hold or aim to get will be worth something in the job market?
     
    Certifications: MCT, MCSA:Messaging 2003, MCTS:Dynamics CRM 4.0 and 2011; MOS: Master Instructor 2003, 2007
    WIP: Writing CRM 2013 Customization course. Planning to take all CRM 2013 exams ASAP
  9. JK2447
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    JK2447 Petabyte Poster Administrator Premium Member

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    Hi Adam, I've enjoyed reading your posts mate. What could MS do better?.... No idea ha ha I'm a Server Admin so don't really know what more they could do other than continue to increase the pool of questions to such a number that the odds are reduced of someone memorising the answers. They could have someone constantly create questions on a subject, have a team vet the question, then release it into the wild with a rapid turn around replacing questions as they go. My suggestions could be a load of tosh because I'm a test taker not a test maker. I wouldn't have a clue how difficult it is to produce an exam that is taken world wide.

    Braindumpers are only setting themselves up for a fall if you ask me. Are Microsoft certifications still worth doing? They 100% helped me get my Server Admin job so in my personal experience, they very much still hold their value. I better get off my soap box, finish this PowerCLI script then get my 2008 books out :)
     
    Certifications: VCP4, VCP5, VCP6, VCP6.5, VMConAWS Skill, BSc (Hons), HND IT, HND Computing, ITIL-F, MBCS CITP, MCP (270,290,291,293,294,298,299,410,411,412) MCTS (401,620,624,652) MCSA:Security, MCSE: Security, Security+, CPTS, CCA (XenApp6.5), MCSA 2012, VSP, VTSP
    WIP: VCAP 6.5 DCV (Design)
  10. Dray

    Dray New Member

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    This is one confusing cert , I am a VA on 2008r2
    Certification/Version : Windows Server® 2008 R2, Server Virtualization
    Certification/Version : Windows Server® 2008 R2, Desktop Virtualization
    Certification/Version : Windows Server® Virtualization, Configuration,
    they credited gave me

    Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate

    Certification/Version : Windows Server® 2008 MCSA 2008

    Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert

    Certification/Version : Private Cloud

    MCSA should have no version or it should say Private Cloud to distinguish it from the old MCSA which has a version , my transcript should say Private Cloud 2012 , because all the products are 2012 scvmm,ops,sc,DP this has nothing to do with the OS

    After studying my ass off and sitting 1 cloud exam (70-246), i think these products deserve an individual exam each, you are discrediting the product by only answering a few questions on 1 subject,then calling yourself an ops specialist or a data protection specialist, these products have been out there for a long time.

    They have nothing in common with the old cert , but marketing for EA was piss poor its a HR nightmare, for me having a EA is 70% in having an old MCSE without an elective e.g

    EA plus cloud ,EA+Security EA+ Virtualazation makes more sense

    imho
     
    Certifications: Alot
  11. Kitkatninja
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    Kitkatninja aka me, myself & I Moderator

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    Not sure about what Prometric gets as part of it's share to deliver any exam (not just MS exams), however test centres only get $5 (£3.20) per exam only if that centre does 45 or more tests per quarter, otherwise the test centre gets nothing. Considering that you have to get a person who has not taken a professional exam to be a procter, purchase the PC's for the exams, purchase the internet connection, get someone to set up the "testing" centre as well as the facilities (building), electric, etc... Pure test centres do not last long.
     
    Certifications: PGDip, BSc, HNC, LCGI, MBCS CITP, MCP, MCSA, MCSE, MCE, A+, N+, S+, Server+
    WIP: Master degree

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