On a trip to Redmond earlier this year (when I was one of 6 people deciding on content for the 70-445 and 70-446 exams), I had the chance to meet Howard Dierking. Howard is the Product Planner for Developer and Database Certifications. It was great to meet him – he has a lot of enthusiasm for certifications, and really wants to do the best he can to make them right.
Anyway, during our conversation, we talked about the possibility of getting the community to write questions. In July last year I had spent two weeks writing the simulation questions for 70-431 (along with three other experts), and although I think generally we did well, and I get a lot of good feedback on them, I don't think that this is the best way of getting questions. Especially not multiple-choice questions.
The biggest problem I see with the Microsoft certifications is that they're not worth much. Too many people consider that MS certifications are pointless, and that people who know their trade actually tend to not be certified. Now, I don't think this is really the case, but certainly there's an argument for saying that the MS certs are too easy to get (compared to Oracle, Cisco, etc). Especially with brain-dumps out there to help people cheat.
Yes, cheat. Using brain-dumps is cheating. Since I wrote my earlier post about 70-431, I have had lots of people write to me asking for brain-dumps about the simulation questions. I tell them to use the product, to learn the skills, and to not cheat. Sometimes I offer to pass their details to Microsoft, but I know this is just a childish reaction. It just grates, because I want these certifications to be worth something.
So how to stop cheating? Well, one method is to increase the size of the pool of questions. Then people will have more trouble learning the cheat answers. But getting people to write questions is expensive for Microsoft. So how to address it? Well, one method is to get the community to write them. The community is very giving, and if you get a hundred people to donate a question each, you'll probably get 50 decent questions. If you can get them to write a handful each, then that's moving along nicely. You still have to put those questions through vetting processes, but that's much less expensive than getting them written in the first place.
I'm very pleased to see that Howard has been progressing this idea some more. If you're keen to help, then drop him a line (via his blog I guess).
And I encourage you to do this. If you have a Microsoft Certification, or are considering getting one, you should do what you can to make these certifications worth more. Making the exams harder, better, more relevant – that's achieved with having a larger pool of questions, written by experts like you.