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About this time last year, I took and passed my Exchange Server 5.5 test. At the time, I had just one more test to complete my MCSE certification. I wanted to share a few comments about the Exchange Server test that I took.

Before taking the test, I was informed that I would be taking an adaptive test. Not too bad, I thought; I knew my stuff, and I had heard that all tests would be going this route. As a veteran of the Microsoft testing process, I didn't think I could be caught unprepared—boy was I wrong.

On all my previous tests (Networking Essentials, Enterprise, Server, and Workstation), I used most of the 90 minutes to answer the 50 to 60 questions that thoroughly grilled me on every detail. Afterward, I felt like I had used my brain to crush gravel—I was totally baked. But this test was different: I was done in less than 10 minutes. The test presented 15 questions that didn't touch on most of the exam objectives. I didn't answer any questions about firewalls, Microsoft Mail, upgrading to Exchange Server, and several other key points. Furthermore, the exam didn't present any situational questions. Most of the questions required only a brief theoretical knowledge on a subject. Let me put it another way: I started the test at 12:55 P.M., finished the exam, talked to the receptionist for 5 or 10 minutes, chatted with an instructor for another 10 minutes, put my papers in my car, walked across the street to a restaurant, and was seated by 1:30 P.M. I felt like I could take another two or three tests just like it. Am I a super genius? I don't think so—my study partner finished before I did.

I'm proud of the first four tests I took. I'm a systems administrator for a consulting firm, and I conduct technical interviews, have more than 5 years experience in the field, supervise two other network technicians, and generally troubleshoot Windows NT problems for new clients. I have worked on systems with more than 3500 users, installed and configured gigabit routers and switches, and seamlessly meshed NT, UNIX, and Novell into one coherent network. I've been working with Exchange Server since 5.0, and I worked as a Help desk administrative consultant for a 90,000-user Exchange company.

I began taking the MCSE tests because I was impressed by the people who had the credentials. Those people knew what they were talking about. A prospective employee who had passed the tests for Networking Essentials, Enterprise, Server, or Workstation (or at least the versions I took) would have my respect from the beginning of an interview because I know what those tests were like. But, when prospective employees or contractors tells me they took an adaptive test and they can handle my client's Exchange server, I'm afraid I'll have to ask them to prove it. Is this what the tests were meant to do? When I hire an MCP or MCSE and represent them to a client, I expect them to know what they're certified in. These employees need to be able to go on site, diagnose the problem, and fix it in less time than 95 percent of the technicians that don't have the certification. Nine out of 10 times, these network technicians aren't going to be the first person to attempt to correct the problem. Most of the time they'll have to correct what the previous technicians broke attempting a fix before they can work on the original problem. That's why the industry pays more for these individuals. Microsoft's adaptive testing doesn't inspire confidence in me. As MCPs, I think we need to address this problem to keep respect for our credentials (and ourselves) high.