Some e-mails are more fun to receive than others. Take, for example, the threads finalizing the rendezvous time and location for the weekly TechRepublic mountain bike adventure. Those are fun.

But then there are the e-mails like the one I received from Microsoft a week ago Tuesday. Here’s the subject: Microsoft Windows 2000 MCSE Exam Available Now—Others Following Shortly.

All of a sudden, it’s time to get back to business. Nothing against Microsoft, but I’m having visions of weekends spent studying instead of, well, doing anything else.

Ready or not
Whether you’re ready for them or not, the new wave of MCSE exams is here. At the time of this writing, Redmond had already released a handful of tests. And more are coming. If you heard a “Yipe!,” that was 800,000 MCPs and 280,000-plus MCSEs realizing it’s time to begin upgrading their accreditations.

Here’s the exam timetable I received:

  • June 8: Exam 70-216—Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
  • June 13: Exam 70-219—Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
  • June 15: Exam 70-210—Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • June 22: Exam 70-215—Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
  • June 29: Exam 70-217—Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure (Note: this exam may be delayed.)
  • June 30: Exam 70-240—Microsoft Windows 2000 Accelerated Exam for MCPs Certified on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
  • July 11: Exam 70-220—Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
  • July 19: Exam 70-221—Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network
  • August: Exam 70-222—Migrating from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000

If you’ve been working with Windows 2000 since the OS was released in beta form, and you just can’t wait to take a crack at the new exams, you can begin registering the day before they are released in their live versions. Just be prepared for a new experience.

A different OS, a different test
Microsoft claims it has changed the testing format to better emulate real-world experiences. In addition to the traditional multiple-choice items, expect to find select-and-place questions, case studies, and simulations. Oh, you’ll also find that the beloved adaptive testing method has returned.

In addition, the format of exam reports has changed. According to Microsoft, you’ll continue receiving information on the required passing score and your own performance. However, the company said that “beginning in June, candidates will no longer receive feedback on each exam section—information that does not meaningfully reflect complex item types.” Instead, the tests have been updated to “validate a candidate’s ability to perform a specific job function or set of tasks in the real world. They are neither designed nor intended to provide feedback on areas for potential improvement.”

Want more information? Check out Redmond’s site.

Tough love
Redmond is also using tougher language regarding its often-ignored non-disclosure agreement (NDA). And, it’s going out of its way to plaster that information on news releases, its Web site, and in other locations. You just may want to keep your lips sealed after taking these exams.

According to one note I received, Microsoft is making it clear that candidates must keep the information they see on an exam to themselves. Even Web sites are being warned not to distribute exam content information, at the penalty of being “immediately and permanently ineligible for any Microsoft certification.”

How you punish a Web site, I don’t know. But I sure don’t intend to find out. Redmond promises swift action against candidates who try to cheat and against Web sites that violate the NDA. This time, I think the powers-that-be mean it.

That’s all fine by me. I have no issue with Microsoft protecting the credentials I earn on my own merit.

Erik Eckel MCP+I, MCSE is editor in chief of TechRepublic’s IT communities. He’s previously held positions as a high-speed IP access product manager and a communications representative for nationwide long-distance, data networking, and Internet services providers.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.