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Azure expands online exams, delays cert retirements and expirations

Eric Pulsifer
Eric Pulsifer

Due to coronavirus-related testing center closures and our current WFH-heavy world, Microsoft has announced efforts to make its certification process more remote friendly. The bundle of changes bubbling up include ramping up online exam capacity, extending cert expirations, delaying retirement of certs and exams, and nixing fees for canceling or rescheduling exams.

I Azure you, we’re open

If you’re working on getting Azure certified (and there are loads of reasons why you should), you may have already been aware that Microsoft offers the option to take role-based Azure certification exams online — with no need to go into a testing facility. However, with most testing centers shuttered, the demand for online proctors and those precious online exam slots is going up. To counter this, Microsoft reports it’s working with exam-delivery partner Pearson VUE to expand online testing capacity.

Other changes announced include:

  • Cert expirations pushed out six months As with the milk in my fridge, previously set expiration dates mean a little less in the current climate. For those with role-based certifications (that includes all the Azure-related ones) set to expire between now and the end of the year, certifications will be extended by six months. For example, if your cert was set to expire on September 30, 2020, it will now expire on March 30, 2021. (Math!) There’s nothing needed on your part for this. These dates will be automatically updated, and you’ll be able to view the updated expiration date in your certification dashboard within 30 days, according to Microsoft.
  • Cancelation fees waived — Because the only thing more prevalent right now than Tiger King memes is uncertainty, Microsoft and Pearson VUE are temporarily waiving exam reschedule and cancellation fees if made at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. The previous policy required cancelation six days in advance.
  • Some cert and exam retirements are postponed — To offer more time to complete exams and earn certs, Microsoft is pushing back the retirement date for several certifications and their related exams until January 31, 2021. These include the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications, which were set to retire this summer. (Note that while the announcement post from Microsoft has a typo that might read like the Azure Solutions Architect Expert cert is retiring, that certification isn’t going anywhere … though the two exams for it are slated to get a refresh soon.)

Prefer to wait things out and take your exam in person? The latest testing availability info from Pearson Vue is available herebut unless you’re reading this in the sweet, sweet future, I’ll save you a click and tell you pretty much all testing centers are closed.


Just what the proctor ordered

Online exams are offered at regular intervals and proctored — test-taking lingo for “monitored” — via your webcam to ensure everything is on the up and up.

The system requirements are pretty basic and in line with what you’d expect. You don’t need a beefy VR gaming rig to test online, but if you’re running a pirated version of Windows XP on a vintage desktop with a dial-up modem (or using a touch screen), that’s going to be an issue. To ensure your device, setup, and network are up to remote-exam snuff, Microsoft offers an online system test .

Check out the full requirements or run the test here — just make sure you run the test in same location and on the same hardware/network as you’ll use come test-taking time.

What about the other cloud providers?

(Updated April 24, 2020) AWS announced last week an expansion of exams offering online proctoring, growing the option from just the entry-level Certified Cloud Practitioner exam to include all of the AWS certification exams.

And better late than never, Google Cloud recently joined the remote test-taking party, offering up two of its most popular cert exams online — and saying other exams are on their way. For now, the Associate Cloud Engineer and Professional Cloud Architect certification tests are being be offered online. These exams are currently only offered in English. In addition, GCP certifications expiring between February 13 and May 30 are being granted a grace period to re-certify until June 30.

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