Microsoft this week just completed a second beta test of the 70-291 Windows 2003 Core Networking Infrastructure exam, despite having released the original exam last August. Apparently, enough new material is being introduced as a consequence of the pending release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 that this exam is going through another revision.
It's an unusual step. Existing exams rarely go through a second beta like this -- unless there are significant numbers of new questions introduced. When that happens, Microsoft generally performs a statistical analysis on the responses before approving a final slate of questions. Typically, the company introduces 6-10 new questions per exam per month, so this beta indicates that a fair amount of topical changes are in the works.
Only those who already hold MCP or other Microsoft certifications get invited to take the company's beta exams. And since this beta period ended July 27, those who haven't participated can be sure that they won't get to see the new version of the exam until it goes into public release. If history is any guide, that should occur some time between mid-September and mid-October.
Bottom line: Those who don't plan to jump on Windows XP SP2 in a big way in the next 6-8 weeks might want to schedule 70-291 as soon as possible so they can take the current version of this exam before the new material is introduced for all takers to see (and answer). Candidates who plan to sit the exam after mid-October should plan on spending some time with Windows XP SP2, learning all about its many new features -- especially in the area of security.
This beta also suggests a couple of other possible scenarios related to XP SP2:
- Given that Windows XP SP2 introduces enough changes into an infrastructure exam to demand a beta, it may also be the case that desktop core exam 70-270 -- whose primary focus is Windows XP Professional -- will also go through the same process.
- Likewise, given that Windows XP SP2 introduces a lot of new security functions and features -- and introduces reasonably secure Windows desktop defaults out of the box for the first time ever—it's also likely that exam 70-299, whose primary focus is implementing and administering security on Windows Server 2003 networks, may also change
I'll keep a careful watch on additional changes that Windows XP SP2 may bring to the Windows Server 2003 exams, and will report on anything else that pops up.
Ed Tittel is a long-time certification follower. He's series editor for Exam Cram 2, a popular assembly of cert prep books from Que Publishing, and a contributing editor for Certification Magazine. He also covers certification topics for InformIT.com, and numerous other TechTarget Web sites.
This was first published in July 2004