So, there’s been a lot of confusion, lately, over the sudden emergence of a lab-based version of Microsoft’s Active Directory Exam, labeled 83-640. Microsoft’s exam page was published back in November of last year and since then, questions have just been flying all over the forums and blogosphere about what this means for Microsoft Certifications. Let’s see if we can’t answer some of the questions and dispel some of the rumors.
First, the test itself: 83-640 is a performance-based exam with a multiple choice component. So, you get the best of both worlds. Sounds great, right? In theory, a virtual lab would be a better demonstration of a candidate’s ability to actually use the given product, rather than simply memorize and regurgitate facts on a fully multiple choice exam. That creates trust between the successful candidate and an employer and adds value to the certification as a whole. Win for everyone.
Unfortunately, it looks like there’s a few snags. Distribution appears to be a big one. 83-640 is offered here in the US, but only in specific areas. The official word from Microsoft is that before an area can begin offering the virtual lab, they have to meet some fairly stringent infrastructure requirements. This is because the content for the labs is offered over the Internet on virtual machines. Once the area meets the infrastructure requirements, they have to test a bunch of people. Once Microsoft seems reasonably sure that the area can adequately handle the load, they pull 70-640 from the roster.
In practice, things seem a little spotty. Pay attention to the comments on the page we linked above. One imagines offering content over the Internet, rather than on site, would pose some serious security and QoS risks, even on the best of days.
So, moving forward, what does this mean for Microsoft certs? For the time being, not a lot. Microsoft is quick to point out that the expense of developing and delivering lab based exams is prohibitive, and they are proceeding with caution. Comments on both borntolearn and technet blog posts all indicate that we may see a single new lab exam sometime next year, but as to when all of Microsoft’s exams will switch format—that remains to be seen.