Microsoft Learning (my group) has some ambitious plans in the arena of increasing the value of Microsoft Certifications. I.e. keeping pace with Microsoft technology releases and the industry, looking at ways to improve your test-taking experience, and protecting the integrity of your certifications*.

In line with that, we have decided to partner with just one exam provider for delivery of our exams in the future—setting us up to improve your testing and certification experience. The change is that in the past we have worked with two partners—Pearson VUE and Prometric—and in the future we will be partnering with just Prometric. If you’re bothering to read my blog, you’re probably pretty familiar with one or both of these excellent organizations.

We have a policy of making big announcements to internal Microsoft people first, then to our closest business partners (i.e. the CPLS training partners and MCTs), before we make public announcements. So I know some of you have already heard this. But here is the announcement:

Microsoft Learning announces its decision to move forward with Prometric for delivery of its Microsoft professional certification and Microsoft Dynamics exams. Pearson VUE will discontinue selling Microsoft professional certification exams after August 31, 2007. To accommodate those who purchase Microsoft professional certification exams through August 31, Pearson VUE will continue to administer the exams through December 31, 2007. Pearson VUE will discontinue selling and administering Microsoft Dynamics exams after December 31, 2007. Additional details regarding this transition will follow over the next few months.

As usual, official announcements are impressively official and somewhat lacking in juicy details. I am kind of the opposite; I’m not particularly official and I’m a huge fan of J.D.s. In this case, however, there have been months and months of discussions, negotiations, meetings, and debate over this very big decision—and I wasn’t present for any of that, so I won't espouse on all the ins and outs. Here are the bits I do know:

By working with one exam delivery partner, Microsoft Learning will be able to get more efficient--ultimately improving how things go for you when you're working on a Microsoft Certification. In my understanding, this could mean that you'll see things like faster roll-out of new testing technologies (maybe you've heard that our goal is to have simulations in every MCTS exam in the future?); a more consistent testing environment (i.e. security, comfort, equipment, moderating...); efficiencies in getting the exams we release (hundreds every year) to a test center near you; more efficient and integrated reporting of your records (this one is near and dear to my heart--perhaps it is to yours, too, if you've ever had to merge your records...); less complicated troubleshooting, and therefore faster resolution, of any reporting or testing issues (wait! this one is nearer and dearer to my heart... ).

For those of you who only take exams at Prometric today, there is no action required. For those of you who take Microsoft exams with Pearson VUE, you will (understandably) have lots of questions about how this will work. Microsoft Learning and Prometric will take every possible step to make sure that those of you who need to transition to Prometric for Microsoft testing will be taken care of.

Having said all that, I want to say clearly that this decision was not made lightly. Would it be too OT to add a personal note here? I will. Man! What a pleasure it has been to work with Pearson VUE. I know we'll do great things with Prometric, and this decision has my support. But only half my heart! Thank you, friends at Pearson VUE. <edited 7/6 to stay slightly more on topic!> But back to business. This is a big change and it will affect many of you, all of us at Microsoft Learning, and, of course, the people we've been working with at both of our partners to deliver certification to you. Knowing that, there is a lot of work to be done to make this transition work for everyone. We will announce this in the MCP newsletter this month and we’ll be sharing more information on the transition as we have it. In the meantime, let us know if you have questions and we’ll get you the information you need.

*I say that a lot, and it occurs to me it might sound pretentious or, worse, like meaningless business-speak. What I mean by 'protecting the integrity' is making it harder for people to earn "paper MCSEs" and the like--to give people confidence that a Microsoft Certified professional has the skills and/or experience their credential says they do.