There is a disproportionate amount of clamoring and piping up about beta exams given how few of you, in the big scheme of things, take them. This leads me to believe that:

A) we need to make more information available about betas and/or

B) the type of people taking beta exams are the type of people who are going to clamor and pipe in any case.

I'll be frank; I suspect B. Unfortunately, we haven't updated our page about beta exams since 2001 (I believe this is around the same time someone invented fire), so I really can't rule out A just yet. Here is what we're planning to post on Microsoft.com, please tell me if we've missed something you people would like to know.

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In much the same way as software is released for beta testing, Microsoft releases “beta exams” during the exam development process, inviting select candidates to help us conduct an objective and critical review of each exam before release. Your participation in this step of the development process helps us produce exams that are challenging, relevant, and accurate; a step we feel is critical to maintaining an industry-leading level of recognition and respect for Microsoft Certifications.

During the beta exam, participants respond to a subset of the pool of questions defined for an exam using the same test equipment and in the same environment as the live exam. The results of the beta—candidate performance and verbatim comments—determine both the final question sets and the scoring model for the live exam. Participation in a beta exam is your opportunity to:

  1. Influence the future of the Microsoft Certification program. Your expertise and feedback will directly translate into world-class exam items, which ultimately determine the value of our certifications. The beta process is also an excellent way for you to begin, or further, your relationship with Microsoft.
  2. Be the first to pass an exam—or earn a certification. If you pass the beta exam, the exam credit will be added to your transcript when the live exam is released. And if the exam qualifies you for a certification, you will earn that certification. If you pass, you will not need to take the again exam in its released form.
  3. Take an exam for free. In recognition of your time and contribution to our development process, we offer the beta exams for free to our target candidates.

The basics of beta exams

  • Beta exams are typically offered by invitation only; however, in some cases, they are publicly announced.
  • All beta exams are offered at Prometric testing centers, with some regional restrictions. They are offered for a limited period of time and for a limited number of seats.
  • The format is similar to that of a live exam, though it will likely contain more questions.
  • The exam naming convention 71-XXX is used for beta versions of MCP exams; when the exam is released in its final form the naming convention 70-XXX is used.
  • Candidates take the exams free of charge.
  • At the end of the test, you have 30 minutes to feedback on the exam and on individual questions.
  • Participation in the beta process is completely voluntary and Microsoft makes no promises or guarantees regarding the beta exam process.

How to participate

Microsoft will determine whether beta exam invitations will be sent to select candidates only or publicly announced. In an invitation-only scenario, we generally identify qualified candidates based on experience working with the technology and related exam history. This ensures that the released exams measure the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the target audience. Invitations and registration codes are sent via e-mail to selected candidates. Receiving the invitation does not guarantee you a seat in the beta; we recommend that you register immediately. In order to receive invitations, you must be subscribed to the MCP Flash; this is to help ensure we respect your contact preferences.

· Subscribe to the MCP Flash

· Update your e-mail address in the Microsoft Profile Center (logon required)

When beta exams are announced publicly, we promote the opportunity in our newsgroups and on certification-related blogs. We recommend you participate in the community to find out about upcoming beta opportunities. Find related newsgroups and blogs on the Community page

Beta exam scoring

Unlike your experiences with live exams, you will not receive a score immediately upon finishing your beta exam. This is because the scoring model for the exam isn't available yet when you are taking the beta. The scoring model is determined by the cumulative results of the beta, as illustrated in this overview of the scoring process.

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Your score will originate with Prometric and then be reflected on your Microsoft transcript. In general, results for beta exams are published on or near when the final exam goes live. Participation in the beta process is completely voluntary and Microsoft makes no promises or guarantees regarding the beta exam process.

Each and every comment that you provide during the beta exam is read and evaluated. Once the beta exam period ends, the results are statistically analyzed in a way that allows Microsoft to evaluate the performance of each question and each section of the exam. Learn more about what happens to your feedback on this MSDN blog. A group of subject matter experts (SMEs), from outside of Microsoft, are then brought to the Microsoft campus for a focus group.  Some of these SMEs are identified from the pool of beta candidates who scored very well on the exam, and some have not taken the exam yet. The focus group reviews questions that have been identified as having potential errors based on the statistical analysis and comments. Based on their input, our team decides if each question is valid and relevant, needs modification, or should be removed from the exam.

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Frequently asked questions

How do I provide feedback during the exam? To flag an item for review while taking the test, select the checkbox in the upper left hand corner. After completing all the items, you will see a final screen with the item numbers listed and the ones that are marked will be highlighted. In the comment period at the end of the exam, these items remain highlighted. By clicking on any item, highlighted or not, you will be taken to that item and given the opportunity to provide comments in a pop up box while viewing that item. You will not be able to change your answer while viewing that item.

Why can’t I take a beta exam in my country? Often our beta exams are restricted in certain countries (including India, China, and Pakistan) in efforts to reduce piracy and maintain the integrity of your certifications. Live versions of the exams will be available in all countries, even if the beta was restricted. As part of our comprehensive anti-piracy program, our statistical analysis has shown very high piracy problems in certain centers and countries. Unfortunately, limiting participation at these centers and countries is the best course of action in the short term. We sincerely regret this inconvenience to our many, highly valued customers in these regions who would like to participate. We are actively working to find a solution and look forward to including you in future beta opportunities. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to maintain and improve a highly recognized, highly respected program of Microsoft Certifications.

Why can’t I find the beta listed at Prometric? Remember that the beta will be listed as “71-XXX” rather than “70-XXX” in Prometric’s systems. If you still cannot find the exam, the beta period may have ended, or you may be in a country with regional restrictions.

How do I take the beta exam for free? A registration code will be included with the beta invitation, whether it is posted publicly, on blogs or newsgroups, or sent via e-mail invitation. You must register with this code in order to take the beta exam for free at your local Prometric center.

Are there any study materials available for this beta? In most cases, the product planner will publish a preparation guide listing skills measured on the exam. Although Microsoft tries to make exam preparation guides and learning material available as early as possible, there may not be material ready in time to support a beta exam. Generally people who are interested in beta exams are self-motivated individuals who have historical experience with the technology or are working with the beta product; we recommend consulting your peers, product group community resources, and early-adopter articles for support.

Do I have to take the exam again when it is "live"? No. If you pass the beta exam, you have earned credit for that exam, and any resulting certification. You do not need to retake the exam in its live form.

May I retake the beta? You cannot retake a specific beta exam. There are a limited number of seats available and they are intended for a variety of candidates. A beta exam should be taken seriously and not used as a practice test.

If I fail the beta, can I retake the exam? Yes. You may take the exam in its live version, at the normal cost.

I think I should have gotten my results by now, what should I do? A good rule of thumb is to expect a score by the time the live version of the exam becomes publicly available; this may be 16 to 20 weeks after taking the exam, due to the comprehensive process involved in evaluating beta exam results. If you feel your score should be available and is not, first see if Prometric has posted a score for you. If not, contact Prometric. If Prometric has posted a score, but it is not reflected on your Microsoft transcript: contact Microsoft.