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Microsoft's MCSE and MCSD will become HARDER to win

Redmond decides it won't replace Masters certifications, so lesser certs get more rigour

Robot wearing mortar board and brandishing certificates

Microsoft has decided it won't replace the Masters-level certifications it once described as the "pinnacle" of a Redmond-centric IT pro's education.

Redmond ”retired” the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM), and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certifications last year.

At the time of the canning, Redmond said only a couple of hundred IT pros a year felt the need to ascend those peaks of attainment, leading Microsoft to suggest the qualifications weren't helping its products to succeed.

Last September, Microsoft's head of certifications Tim Sneath told The Register Microsoft was “looking to see if there’s a better way to create a pinnacle, WITHOUT losing the technical rigour.”

Today, Sneath told us that Microsoft is not planning a new pinnacle but is in the process of adding rigour to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certifications to reflect the fact there's nothing tougher on offer in Redmond's new certification regime.

Sneath said Microsoft wants to make the MCSD and MCSE “harder for everyone”.

To that end, he said Microsoft will add "a variety of richer test types that make it harder for people to memorise answers. We're also adding richer questioning types. In test for SQL certifications we ask you to actually create an SQL query.”

The requirement to actually wield SQL has been included to make certifications reflect more real-world effort, instead of just theory.

In the same vein, Microsoft is trialling a new Review To Cert Pilot” that sees developers hoping to place an app in the Windows store have their code reviewed by members of Microsoft's Premier Field Engineering (PFE) team. Passing that review and winning a place in the Windows Store will replace one or more exams needed to attain the MCSD.

Sneath said this kind of structure is designed to make Microsoft certifications more rigorous, while also making it possible for more people to attain the qualifications. Microsoft wants big and broad community of certification-holders, rather than being able to point to a small elite.

"We are looking to much broader impact," he said.

As the new certifications are formalised, Microsoft will find ways to promote MCSE and MCSD as something special. Sneath said when he won his MCSE around 20 years ago “I thought I was pretty special. We want to bring that back.” ®

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