How MCP Exams Are Developed

How MCP Exams Are Developed

At the heart of the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program are
carefully developed, computer-administered exams that measure your ability to
perform a specific job function or set of tasks in the real world.

Certification exams measure real-world skills

Every job function and technology requires different skills. MCP exams test
the specific skills required to use Microsoft technologies and/or perform the
necessary job functions in areas like systems engineering, database
administration, and solutions development. These rigorous exams go well beyond
testing your knowledge of a product or terminology because in the real world,
you are rarely called upon to recite a list of facts. Instead, you need to apply
your knowledge to a situation by analyzing technical solutions, solving
problems, and making decisions.

We recommend that you gain at least one year of experience working with a
Microsoft product or technology before attempting the corresponding
certification exam. We also recommend that candidates become familiar with exam
content by reviewing an exam’s preparation guide thoroughly before taking the

The exam development process

To ensure the validity and reliability of our certification exams, Microsoft
adheres to a rigorous exam-development process, consisting of eight phases:


Job analysis


Objective domain definition


Blueprint survey


Item development


Alpha review and item revision


Beta exam


Item selection and cut-score setting


Live exam

The following paragraphs describe the eight phases of exam development.

Phase 1: Job analysis
The job analysis is a breakdown of all the tasks performed within a specific job
function or when using a specific technology. This analysis includes identifying
the knowledge, skills, and abilities that relate specifically to the performance
area being certified.

Phase 2: Objective domain definition
The results of the job analysis provide the framework that is used to develop
objectives. The development of objectives involves translating tasks into a
comprehensive set of more specific and measurable skills and abilities. The
resulting list of objectives, or the objective domain, is the basis for the
development of certification exams and training materials.

Phase 3: Blueprint survey
The final objective domain is transformed into a blueprint survey in which
technical and job function experts are asked to rate the importance of each
objective. The blueprint survey phase helps determine the appropriate number and
types of items to include on the exam. Contributors may be MCP candidates
recruited through blogs and other online forums or from within Microsoft. Based
on the contributors’ input, the objectives are prioritized and weighted. The
actual exam items are written according to the prioritized objectives.

Phase 4: Item development
A pool of items is developed to measure the blueprinted objective domain. During
this phase, items are reviewed and revised to ensure that they are:

Technically accurate

Clear, unambiguous, and relevant

Not biased toward any population subgroup or

Not misleading or tricky

Testing for useful knowledge rather than obscure or
trivial facts

Items that meet these criteria are included in the initial item pool

Phase 5: Alpha review and item revision
During this phase, a panel of technical and job function experts reviews each
item for technical accuracy. Once the items have been verified as technically
accurate, they are edited for clarity.

Phase 6: Beta exam
The reviewed and edited items are then beta tested. During the beta exam,
candidates respond to and comment on items in the pool. The beta exam allows
Microsoft to evaluate the quality of the item in an exam situation and helps to
ensure that only the best content is included on the live exam.

Phase 7: Item selection and cut-score setting
The results of the beta exam are analyzed to determine which items should be
included in the live certification exam. This analysis is based on many factors,
including item difficulty and relevance. Generally, the desired items are those
that were answered correctly by anywhere from 25 percent to 90 percent of the
beta exam candidates. This helps ensure that the exam consists of a variety of
difficulty levels, from easy to difficult. Microsoft also reviews comments made
about the technical accuracy of questions with a panel of technical and job
function experts. Their input helps determine the final item pool from which the
live exam will be created.

Also during this phase, this panel of job function experts determines the cut
score (minimum passing score) for the exam. The cut score differs from exam to
exam because it is based on the difficulty of the item pool and the expected
performance of the minimally qualified candidate.

Phase 8: Live exam
Once all phases are complete, the remaining items are distributed into multiple
parallel forms, or versions, of the final certification exam.

MCP exams are administered by Prometric, an independent testing company. The
exams are available at testing centers worldwide.

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