The Moment of Truth

If you have taken any Microsoft exam, you have experienced what I call the moment of truth—probably more than once. I’m talking about those long seconds you must endure after you click the End Exam button as you wait for your score to appear. My eyes always seem to travel first to the bar graph, those two lines that compare my score to the passing score. As many times as I’ve taken a test, I can never remember which line represents the minimum score and which line represents MY score, and my eyes are usually too exhausted to read the fine-print explanation. So I just stare at the two lines for more long seconds, trying to remember which line means what, wondering whether I’ve passed.

Blurry eyes and a fried brain have been the worst of my troubles, and it seems that I’ve been lucky. I've taken many tests, and the testing center personnel have always been friendly and professional. It’s the same routine every time—I show two forms of ID (even when taking a test at a center where I teach classes regularly), surrender my bags and other possessions for storage in a secure area, and follow a center staff member to a private testing location where, behind a closed door, I can take the exam without distraction. I have never had problems with the testing machines, and the tests have always been ready for me when I arrived.

Some of you have not been so lucky. I have heard several stories of substandard machines that eat up much of your precious exam time drawing exhibits, machines with such low resolutions that you can’t even see the exhibits, and testing centers that don’t have your names on their lists. But a story that Windows 2000 Magazine received last week is the most horrid. The writer, whom I’ll call Macsie, arrived at the center to find no one in the greeting area. When someone finally did show up, that person never asked Macsie to sign in and didn't collect his cell phone or his Palm Pilot before leading him to what appeared to be a store room. The room had a sheet of plywood separating two testing stations, but test takers had a full view of each others' monitors. And during the test, the door remained open, so Macsie heard all the noises from the reception area and a class in the next room. Macsie didn't say what his results were, but because he's hoping for an opportunity to retake the exam, I presume that he didn't pass.

Macsie, and all test takers, need to know that there are strict rules that authorized testing centers must follow to maintain their testing center certifications. Next time, I’ll discuss these rules and what recourse you have if you encounter a center that doesn't follow them. In the meantime, I suggest that you write to [email protected] with problems or complaints about your testing experience (e.g., problems with a center's personnel, policies, or equipment).

Good Luck with your tests. I hope you’re all as lucky as I have been.

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