So, have you heard? If you’re planning to use Exam 70-240 (Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT) to migrate your certification from the Windows NT 4 to the Windows 2000 platform, you better take note.

Have a bad day on this puppy and you get to start all the way back at square one, as if you had never earned a single certification from Microsoft. Ever.

But that’s not FAIR!
Whether or not it’s fair is beside the point. Microsoft has made the rule, and now IT professionals have to live by it.

I talked with two Microsoft Certified Trainers this week, as well as another MCSE who boasts more than 20 Microsoft exams on his resume. What did these IT professionals have to say?

One said the change is a good thing. The harder the MCSE designation is to achieve, the more valuable it will be, he felt.

The other two? They were, well, livid.

They didn’t understand how, if you have a bad day on one single exam, the several thousand-dollar investment made previously in certification training is all for naught. Uh-uh.

Nevertheless, one of them said he’ll trudge on. What about the other IT pro? He said, yelled actually, that he’ll let his 20-plus certifications (retired or not) and industry experience speak for his abilities from here on out.

Why the change?
What makes this exam so different from any of the host of other Microsoft fields? That’s the question I had, so I contacted Donna Senko, Microsoft’s Worldwide Director of Certification and Skills Assessment.

“It really is a security issue,” Senko said. “It’s a matter of protecting the credibility of the certification by keeping the exam secure.”

Couldn’t Microsoft penalize candidates that violate the terms of their non-disclosure agreement instead? You can’t take an exam without agreeing to the NDA. Further, you’re prohibited by law from discussing the specific content of the exam. So if folks are violating their agreements, why not penalize them, instead of the honest IT pros just trying to make a living?

Offering a single opportunity is “the only viable solution,” I was told. Senko added that Microsoft is taking “a proactive step by keeping it (the certification) relevant.”

But isn’t a one-time shot a little severe? Even attorneys, who help make and interpret this country’s laws, get more than a single chance to pass the bar.

No, I was told.

Microsoft’s never before “offered an upgrade path,” Senko added. The upgrade path is a “benefit for people with the appropriate qualifications.”

That’s why the exam is offered for free. That’s right. No charge.

It isn’t going to work
If the goal of the one-shot opportunity and lack of a beta test is to protect the exam’s integrity by eliminating the abundance of simulation tests and brain dumps, it’s not going to work.

If IT pros chose to ignore their NDAs before, the new announcement that you can take an exam only once will do nothing but infuriate them and further encourage such behavior. The brain dumps, which I’m on record as disfavoring for a variety of reasons (including the fact they’re often inaccurate and error-ridden), will continue to thrive.

And, consider this. On the very day I write this, what should appear in my e-mail box? Check this out:

“Transcender’s development team has doubled in size and has created a special lab to specifically focus on the Windows 2000 certification exams.

The following exam simulations are currently in development:

  • 70-240—AcceleratedCert 2000
  • 70-097—AccessCert 2000
  • 70-217—DirectoryCert/Admin 2000”

The list goes on, but it’s important to notice that 70-240 is the very first test listed. The sims are coming; there’s no doubt.

Is there a method to the madness?
Playing the devil’s advocate, there is an argument to be made.

If an IT pro who works in the field every day and who invested in and received MCSE accreditation a long time ago fails the 70-240 exam, is refresher training appropriate? Candidates who fail 70-240 and want to retain certification will have to successfully complete the four core Windows 2000 exams. The preparation and study required for passing those tests would certainly help bring their skills back up to par.

The big question is whether candidates would be willing to invest their time, energy, and resources in the process, having done so already with the NT platform and arrived at such a disappointing end.

Erik Eckel is Community Editor for AdminRepublic. He’s worked with computers since the introduction of the IBM PC, and he even works with Macs and Linux. He received MCP+I and MCSE accreditation in 1999.

What would you do if you failed? Will you even take the accelerated exam? Post your comments below.