A Behind the Scenes Look at Beta IT Certification Exam Scoring

A Behind the Scenes Look at Beta IT Certification Exam Scoring
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Behind the Scenes When Scoring Beta IT Certification ExamsBehind the Scenes When Scoring Beta IT Certification ExamsEver wondered why you have to wait awhile – and sometimes, wait some more after that – to get results for beta certification exams, when you get your regular cert exam scores upon completion of the test? Turns out there are some very good reasons why there’s a delay, and why that delay varies from test to test.

In poking around my usual certification sources this morning, I saw a tweet from Anne Martinez that reminded me that there’s a variable delay in getting scores from beta exams. In turn, her tweet referenced an MS Learning video from Liberty Munson, psychometrician-in-chief at Microsoft, in their Ask a Certification Expert (ACE) series, who explains why it takes a while for beta test takers to get scores from Prometric.

Liberty MunsonLiberty Munson

Liberty Munson takes viewers through the beta exam evaluation process, to explain why results aren’t (and can’t be) instantaneous.

As it happens there are several good reasons for such delay, which I will recap and explain:

  1. Beta exams include new stuff, so answers need careful analysis to separate out questions that are too easy (too many candidates get them right) or too hard (too many candidates get them wrong), so as to concentrate on those that differentiate between candidates who know their stuff from those who don’t, and thus also separate those who should pass from those who should fail such an exam. Such analysis not only takes time it also takes a sufficiently large population – MS reports on a “blackboard bullet” in this video that typical beta exams attract at least 300 test-takers – to make such results statistically meaningful. This information is also used to calculate the “cut score” (passing threshold) for the exam as well, which is necessary to separate those who pass from those who fail.
  2. Interest in topics varies from exam to exam. Sometimes, MS attracts a full complement of test-takers in the first week of offering a beta; sometimes it takes two to three weeks for the full complement to take the test. This accounts for some of the variation in the time it takes to get results back.
  3. Once a full complement of results is available, the question analysis described in item 1 can take place, and Ms. Munson and her crew decide which questions on the beta exam will actually count toward the final score. This list of questions (by unique identifier, with corresponding correct answers) is transmitted to Prometric, which then re-scores the beta exams on a per-candidate basis. Only after re-scoring, can results be communicated to individual beta test takers.

So that’s why it takes time (at least two weeks, sometimes longer) for beta exam results to make their way back to beta test takers, and why results come faster for some exams (which attract a full complement sooner) than for others (which take longer to attract a full complement of beta exam test takers).

Ed TittelEd TittelEd Tittel is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who’s worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.

Check out Ed's Tom's IT Pro  Making It in IT - Certification & Training blog here.

See here for all of Ed's Tom's IT Pro articles.

(Shutterstock image credit: Beta Badge)

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