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InfoQ Homepage News A MS Certification Based on Publishing an Application

A MS Certification Based on Publishing an Application

Microsoft has been trying to create generally accepted IT and software development certifications for at least two decades. In an attempt to distinguish between those who actually know the material and those who are just good at memorizing study guides they’ve tried a variety of tactics.

Back in the late 90’s Microsoft experimented with improving standardized testing through the use of adaptive tests. These are tests that become harder with each correct answer and become easier with each wrong answer. Rather than a set number of questions, an adaptive test continues until the candidate consistently answers multiple questions at a given difficultly level without being able to answer questions at a higher level.

For modern tests such as “Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012” the focus has moved multiple choice to actually writing code during the exam. Depending on the question, the code can be constructed by arranging pre-determined snippets to typing lines of code from scratch in a blank textbox. (The latter includes a basic syntax checker, but you can’t execute your code to test it.)

A larger endeavor was the failed Microsoft Certified Architect credential. This was by far their most difficult certification. Few people were even accepted into the program, and those that were had to submit their work history and an architectural solution case study. Completion of the program, which was expected to take a year, included a review board process structured much like a doctoral thesis defense.

This credential had several flaws that eventually led to its retirement. It was based not just on skill, but also one’s ability to prove that they have been already working for ten years, five of which had to be as an architect. Since certifications are usually seen as a means of advancement, few people who qualified for the program felt it necessary to apply. And even if you were interested, you still had to find 7,500 dollars to pay for the board review. Finally, those who passed were expected to recertify every five years.

Throughout all this, developers have been complaining that what’s really needed is a certification based on actual programming. With the App Review To Cert Program, they finally get it.

Under this program, developers can skip most of the exams for a MCSD: Windows Store Apps certification by an application for review. The application must be a Windows Store App written in C# or HTML5 (no C++ or Visual Basic) with no third party components such as the Unity game engine. The review is in the form of a 2 to 4 hour technical interview.

If the candidate passes the review, he or she has two weeks to publish the application in the Microsoft Store and 90 days to pass the advanced Windows Store exam for C# or HTML5. (In other words, the technical review is a substitute for two of the three exams.)

For developers who are new to the .NET ecosystem, the review process will probably be easier than passing the “Programming in C#”. This exam contains a lot of material geared towards .NET 2.0 era libraries, many of which that are not even available in Windows Store apps. For example, working directly with ADO.NET, the Windows Event Log, and the creation of performance counters.

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