If you’re scrambling to schedule a Windows NT 4.0 exam before Dec. 31, don’t sweat it. The exams’ execution has been stayed. Late yesterday, Microsoft announced it was delaying the retirement of exams that had been slated for retirement on Dec. 31, 2000, until Feb. 28, 2001.

What’s up?
I suspect there are two reasons for the Windows NT 4.0 exam retirement delays. First, large numbers of IT professionals are trying to pass these exams before time runs out. Apparently, demand is so high that testing centers simply can’t accommodate some IT pros, leaving them unable to take exams before the deadline passes.

Second, extending the deadline two months increases the number of MCPs eligible to take the Windows 2000 Accelerated exam. The more certified professionals Microsoft can move to the new platform, the better.

What if I’m already a Windows NT 4.0 MCSE?
If you’re already a Windows NT 4.0 MCSE, there’s nothing new here. Your certification still expires Dec. 31, 2001. However, if Microsoft can change its retirement dates once, who says it can’t do that again?

Has anyone seen the survey Redmond ran on its Web site asking IT pros when they planned to take the Accelerated exam? Look for the same overwhelming demand for test-center seats to hit next year again right around this time.

But don’t get your hopes too high. Even if Microsoft does decide to delay the retirement of the NT 4.0 MCSE late next year, it will probably do so for only 60 days.

The new NT 4.0 test
While you may have heard rumors late last week about this potential NT exam retirement delay, you probably didn’t hear about the new NT 4.0 exam that’s coming out. I didn’t, until yesterday.

Microsoft is creating a new exam. Its purpose is to give the IT community a certification that will demonstrate an administrator’s skills maintaining and troubleshooting an NT 4.0-powered network. The new exam will also test a candidate’s Windows 2000 transition skills. For example, you’ll need knowledge of the Windows NT 4.0-to-Windows 2000 client migration process to perform well on the new exam.

This exam’s questions have never been seen before. They haven’t appeared on other tests. Redmond is creating an entirely new pool of questions for the exam, which is due out in beta sometime in the second quarter of 2001.

Talking to a Microsoft contact yesterday, I was told the company is rolling out the new exam to address the void that will be left when no Windows NT 4.0 exams are available. After Feb. 28, 2001, the old NT 4.0 exams retire. Implementing this new test ensures that everyone in the IT community has a legitimate and credible NT exam opportunity available to demonstrate troubleshooting and administration skills.

There’s one side benefit here, too. If you’re not yet an MCP or MCSE, the new Windows NT 4.0 test counts as an elective toward both the Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 certification tracks. Passing the new exam provides MCP status.

If you have additional questions regarding either of these announcements, visit Microsoft’s Web site. You’ll find more information on both of these announcements, including an FAQ, here.
Are you surprised by Microsoft’s decision to postpone retirement of the NT 4.0 exams? Does this news affect your plans? Do you think the new NT 4.0 test is a good idea? Start a discussion below and tell us what you think.