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What is a beta exam?

A. Vendors typically write about three times as many certification test questions as you'll see on any one exam. For example: You sign up for a regular test, and it has 50 questions on the exam. You fail the test and have to retake it. On the second try, you recognize a few of the same questions, but many are ones you hadn't seen the first time. If you take the test again, you still see questions you haven't seen before. This approach makes the exam a real test of knowledge, and prevents people from being able to just keep taking the test until they finally pass. In the hypothetical example above, about 150 questions were in the question pool used to build these exams. That's why you would have noticed many different questions each time you took the exam.

The beta exam is the final tune-up for the exam that the vendor will soon make available to the public and contains all the questions in the question pool for the test. The beta exam is the final test of the exam questions. If a question turns out to be too hard (everyone misses it) or too easy (everyone gets it right), then the vendor might eliminate the question from the test. Beta exams are usually available for a short period of time (one to two weeks) to a limited testing group. They're usually free or at reduced cost, and they're long and exhausting. When you complete the test, you receive no feedback about whether you passed or failed until sometimes two to three months afterward, when results are mailed out. If you can take a beta, you'll get a good idea of what you'll need to study when the test goes live. Check vendors' Web sites for information about beta tests.

Microsoft Exam Resources

Cisco Beta Exams

Novell Tryout Exams

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