Over the past year I’ve taken multiple Microsoft certification exams online, through Pearson VUE. If you’ve never taken an exam in this format before, it can be quite a daunting experience. Here’s some info from my experiences so far to help you prepare.
Scheduling an exam
Scheduling an exam through Microsoft Learn is pretty straightforward, you will find a lot of flexibility in times especially if you look beyond the current week. There are often times available 7 days a week, so heaps of flexiblity. When working out a suitable time to schedule your exam, note the exam length (they tend to differ depending on the level of the exam i.e. a fundamentals exam tends to be shorter than an associate exame) and also be aware that registration opens 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. The registration process can take a bit of time to run through (especially if you run into issues!).
As noted above, registration opens up 30 minutes before the exam time, there’s quite a bit to work through prior to the exam, I’d advise you to make use of this window - better to run through registration early and start early than to be rushing through registration and starting your exam flustered. I’ve now started to work off the basis that my exam starts when registration opens, it helps me prepare my schedule and prepare mentally.
Preparing for the exam
Review the rules
I’ve given you an outline below of the conditions for my exams, the conditions may change so ensure you’re up to date with what is expected. Details should be available from your schedule confirmation email.
I’m going to put together a separate post on preparing for exams. Stay tuned!
Plan a suitable location
You are required to be alone in a room. There should be no noise or interruptions and you are required to sit in front of your webcam at all times. Also note you can have a drink, so long as it is in a clear vessel. Plan a test area ahead of time, make sure it is comfortable and free from clutter. We have a box room that is pretty clear, any clutter is ripped out on the day and left outside the door so there is nothing visible that could result in the proctor wanting to examine your room. Tensions will be high as it is, the last thing you want is to be asked to wave your camera around the room to inspect random stuff!
Make a plan with family
We always plan that family will be somewhere else on the day. That’s a personal choice, not suitable for everyone but for us it’s just easier to coordinate the exam with other activities. However you work this, it’s important for everyone to understand they need to be quiet!
Preparations on the day
About an hour before the exam, I will prep everything;
- all junk out of the room
- get a drink ready, place it on the desk
- find my ID, also placed on the desk
- set up my equipment including laptop charger, mouse mat, mouse
- check laptop is charging, check mouse is connected
- take my watch off and leave it elsewhere
I will then go for a walk just to clear my mind.
You are required to take photos of your face, your ID, and take photos of your room from all four angles (in front of your desk, behind, from left of room, from right of room). All of these photos need to be uploaded to their site and the photos will then be evaluated. If anything looks amiss, the proctor will jump on the session to request they inspect what they don’t like the look of. This is why I rip everything out of the room - nothing suspicious, nothing to inspect! Depending on internet connection and inspections, this could take quite some time hence why I give myself plenty of time to get this sorted.
Once photos are done, phone goes out of the room. Deep breathe and then start!
During the exam
First things first, you are required to sign an NDA prior to the exam then away you go!
Last thing before you get started - make a mental note of how many questions there are, this will be presented right at the start of the exam and will also be displayed at the top of the exam window. The main reason for this is that the questions can be bucketed into more than one section and I wasn’t aware of this initially. On one exam I almost ran out of time having gone over my answers multiple times thinking I had plenty of time remaining only to realise that there were a few scenario-based questions at the end once my main questions had been submitted! This may well be because I didn’t read some instructions properly!
You are expected to remain within the camera at all times, you can’t see anyone the other end but there is this odd feeling of being watched that you might need to come to terms with ha ha. You are also not supposed to talk - this is something I found difficult, I like to talk myself through issues, I have been pulled up on this on one occasion.
After the exam
You made it! You should learn of your fate immediately (unless it’s a beta exam). You will receive a score and information on how you rated for each specific focus area.
If you weren’t successful
If you weren’t successful, the results will be broken out into the focus areas and you should be able to establish from the results where you dropped points. Make some notes of where those gaps are and make sure you double down on them next time. The good news is you know what to expect next time. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you did the best you could and that’s all you can ask :)
If you were successful
Congrats! Very shortly you’ll be able to see the badge on your acclaim page. Use your acclaim page to promote your success on available social media platforms - you’ll be surprised at how many folks enjoy celebrating your success with you. Now to plan your next one!
Something that was pointed out to me whilst I was writing this, is it is possible to get hold of your scores after the exam has passed…I didn’t know this was a thing! If you go to your learning dashboard, one of the tiles will say Exam providers, select Pearson Vue and hit go. You will then enter a page listing all of your completed exams. On the right hand side you should see a link that says “View Score Reports” which will give you a summary of each of your exam scores and showing a breakdown of categories. Very useful!