Azure, Certifications, Professional

Why take Microsoft beta Exams

Taking Microsoft beta exams is an interesting topic within the Microsoft community. I decided to write this post after successfully passing the DP 203 Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure which I have also posted a study guide on. Additionally, I have passed other beta exams and figured it was worthwhile to let help others who might be evaluating this path. First let’s describe beta what the Microsoft beta exam process is.

Background

As defined by Microsoft a beta exam is:

 Beta exams are a critical part of our exam development process. When you take an exam in its beta form, you’re providing us with useful information to evaluate the quality of the exam and its questions. After an exam has been through its beta process and we have incorporated relevant changes, we can use it to certify people in cloud-based job roles and specialties.

Microsoft Docs

Additional beta exams are taken and an offical grade is not received until at most two weeks after the exam has been official released. This can lead to around a 16 week turnaround time on some exams. Something not everyone is willing to wait on.

Downside

Given the turnaround time for grading exams this leads into the next segment, the downsides with beta exams. Due to the long turnaround time some folks wait weeks to find that they barely missed passing an exam. Normally they may have instantly found out they barely missed the cut and immediately rescheduled their next exam. With the beta exam process, they have to wait longer to find their results out. During this time some of that knowledge and experience of taking the exam had decayed.

Other folks argue that they shouldn’t have to pay Pearson Vue (Microsoft’s testing provider) for the right to experiment or help set the standards for their exams. This rational is logical and to be fair beta exams are offered at 80% off to help entice more folks to take them as well as 25% percent off voucher for a future exam. From my perspective I don’t pay for them since I qualify for free beta exams as part of my Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) certificate. Side note if you’d like to know more about the MCT program an it’s benefits check out my post on “How I became a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)”. An additional argument to made against studying and taking a beta exam is the topics and areas covered by a beta exam may change as they are not finalized. This could potentially lead to more hair pulling and confusion on the test takers end.

Upside

The other side of the coin is that these exams can be viewed as an ultimate test of knowledge around a subject area. The ability to take a professional exam around a discipline which you are familiar with without the added benefit of training material. The only material that is available to you is the course outline. From there it is upon yourself to either recognize your skill set overlaps or do studying on the areas where you might be weaker. If you think about it this way it really is a true test of what your current skillset is.

Cost was listed as a downside but I’ll also list it here as an upside. Since these exams are available at a discount and provide you with a discount on a future exam then this could be a way to save some money in your pocket.

Another upside is being able to provide feedback on the exam topics, questions, and format. This feedback as stated above is taken into consideration when baselining and determining exam topics. Contributing to this process can have it’s own internal reward for those that take it.

An additional consideration is that any certification earned as part of taking the beta exam is valid. A certification earned via a beta exam vs one that is fully productionalized is no different and no one can tell that you may have earned it off a beta exam.

Conclusion

Personally, I enjoy taking beta exams and think it is a unique and fulfilling challenge. Unique in the sense that you are testing your baseline knowledge without the assistance of study guides and materials against Microsoft best practices. Additionally, you are providing feedback just by taking the exam directly to the community. I always encourage people to submit additional feedback on exam questions that they felt weren’t necessary or needed clarification as again this helps enhance the value of your certification. If you are evaluating taking a Microsoft beta exam, I’d encourage to at least try one out that you are comfortable with so you gain that experience.