Developing a certification examination FAQs

General Topics

During the exam creation process, we define a comprehensive set of specific and measurable knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to certify in that subject. The Certiport Content Development team then uses industry best practices to determine how much time the certification candidate possessing those attributes would need to complete each item written. When exam forms are assembled, this information is one factor used to decide how many items can be completed within the time allowed for the examination. In addition, periodic psychometric analysis includes verification that proficient candidates have sufficient time to complete all items contained within that exam.

No. Certiport Certification exams are designed to measure candidates’ skills and abilities in this technology, not their ability to study or memorize specific questions that were on the exam. Qualified candidates will be able to pass this exam regardless of the questions asked. As a result, to protect the integrity of the certification process, Certiport does not share information about the specific questions that were missed.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

Candidates attempting certification will see unique forms rather than a selection of items from a larger bank each time they take a certification examination. We take great care to ensure that each of the unique forms we offer fairly evaluate the performance of the student on that unique form. We manage this equating process through a scaling mechanism which sets the number of correct items required on each form independently of the other forms. In other words, while one form may require 20 items to be answered correctly for the certification level of 700, a second form may require 21 items to be answered correctly and a third may require 22 correct items.

While a specific item on a form can be different and potentially more difficult than similar items in other forms, items in those forms are also different and potentially more difficult that items in this form. It is not our intent or procedure to exactly match the items across the various forms available in our certifications.

Our ideal subject matter expert is someone who has 3+ years teaching courses related to that subject area and who also has 2+ years of professional experience working with that technology. On some projects, we use a combination of teachers and industry professionals. Why is this mix important? The teachers understand who our target candidate is now. The industry professionals understand who our target candidate wants to become and the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will help them get there.

Computer based examinations allow for immediate scoring. Once you complete your exam, you will be presented with a results screen that indicates your final score and a pass/fail status. Your results will be posted and available in your Certiport transcript.

If you took a beta, you will only see an initial score upon completion of your examination and not a pass/fail status. You will typically receive your final score and pass/fail status six to eight weeks after the beta period ends. If you have a passing score at that time, you will receive the certification congratulations email. Your final results will also be posted in your Certiport transcript.

Read carefully and pay attention to the small details.

First, READ THE TUTORIAL! The Content Team has created this tool to help you have a successful exam experience so why not use it? Even if you have seen it before, take a few extra minutes to review the information. Certiport has some of our exam tutorials available to review at any time on our Exam Tutorials page.

Secondly, take the time to thoroughly read the question. Without overthinking, make sure you know the question/task. Overlooking the small details or reading a question wrong may cause a qualified candidate to needlessly lose valuable points.

Simulations

When taking a certification examination with simulation items, the answer entered will not be visible when returning to that item (either using the ‘Previous’ button or from the ‘Review’ screen). Returning to those items erases the previous answer and you will need to complete the task again. However, if you do not return to those items, the testing engine retains your original response. Therefore, we recommend that a candidate only revisit items that they are really unsure about.

This message is included in the exam tutorials to advise test candidates:

"Warning: If you navigate back to a simulation task from the Review screen or by clicking the Previous button, all work on that task will be lost. You must perform the correct steps again to score a point."

Keyboard shortcuts and right-click functionality are not present in the Mac versions of our Adobe and IC3 exams because our simulations were designed for optimal use in a Windows environment. So, if one method of completing a question does not work in your Mac exam, you will need to try another method.

The Certiport Mac Launcher allows you to administer the Adobe Certified Associate and IC3 exams in a native Mac environment, however the interface of the actual exams and practice tests are based on Windows software. As the simulations were designed for optimal use in a Windows environment, if one method of completing a question (e.g., using keyboard shortcuts or right-clicking the mouse) does not work, you may need to try another.

For live-application exams (e.g. MOS), you are actually working in the application and are able to use most of the application’s features. (Exceptions include Help, Tell me what you want to do, Share, New, and Open. None of these application features are needed to complete the exam.) For this reason, the application must be installed on the testing computer.

For simulation exams (e.g. IC3, ACA), we have created a simulation of the application. Our goal is to make this simulation as close to the actual application as possible in methods of completion, including common ways to answer incorrectly. The actual application does not need to be installed on the computer to administer an exam with simulation items.

Our exams are designed to assess if candidates know how to accomplish a task. Unless a question designates a specific method of completion, you should be able to complete the task as if you were using the application in a non-exam setting. Our scoring is based on whether or not the end result of the task was completed and not on the steps used.

For live-application exams (e.g. MOS), you are actually working in the application and are able to use most of the application’s features. Exceptions include Help, Tell me what you want to do, Share, New, and Open. None of these application features are needed to complete the exam.

For simulation exams (e.g. IC3, ACA), we have created a simulation of the application. Our goal is to make this simulation as close to the actual application as possible in methods of completion, including common ways to answer incorrectly.

First, after the exam is over, open the application and verify that the functionality that you remembered is indeed available. If it is, document as much information as possible about the item and the functionality that is missing. Email this information along with the exam name to technicalsupport@certiport.com so that we can review your concern.

Scoring

No. Each item on the certification examination is worth one point*. Even a drag and drop item where you move multiple objects is worth one point. You either receive a point for the correct response or you do not receive a point.

*A few rare exceptions to this rule would be noted within the item itself.

No. Each item on the certification examination is worth one point*. Even a drag and drop item where you move multiple objects is worth one point. You either receive a point for the correct response or you do not receive a point.

*A few rare exceptions to this rule would be noted within the item itself.

No. You either receive a point for the correct response or you do not receive a point. Entering an incorrect response only keeps you from receiving a point on that item, it will not deduct from your score.

During the creation of a certification examination, subject matter experts define what knowledge, skills and abilities should be assessed. These items are evaluated as to functional importance and broken into sections. If skills within a section are considered essential to possess, it will contain more questions than a section considered less fundamental. It will also have questions considered to require a higher degree of subject knowledge. Therefore, each section has a varied number of questions which also vary in level of difficulty.

When reviewing your score report, it is important to keep in mind that the total percentages of all sections will not equal 100%. The percentages merely indicate the percentage of questions you answered correctly within the individual section, and are not a direct indication of whether you will pass or fail the certification examination as a whole. For example, you may get 100% in three sections that only had one question but get 25% in a section that had eight questions. Overall, you only answered five of eleven questions correctly so you would not pass this certification examination. Conversely, you could also get 0% in a section that only contains one question and still pass the exam with a high score.

Your score report is useful to gauge your level of knowledge of topics included in the certification examination. This can be correlated back to the Objective Domain for the certification examination to reference what skills are tested in each section.

During the creation of a certification examination, subject matter experts define the skills that would demonstrate the target audience for certification. These items are evaluated as to functional importance and broken into topics which we reference as sections. If skills within a section are considered essential to the subject, it will contain more items than a section considered less fundamental. It will also have items considered to require a higher degree of subject knowledge. Therefore, each section has a varied number of items which also vary in level of difficulty.

When reviewing your score report, it is important to keep in mind that the total percentages of all sections will not equal 100%. The percentages merely indicate the percentage of items you completed correctly within the individual section, and are not a direct indication of whether you will pass or fail the certification examination as a whole. For example, you may get 100% in three sections that only had one item but get 25% in a section that had eight items. Overall, you only completed five of eleven items correctly so you would not pass this certification examination. Conversely, you could also get 0% in a section that only contains one item and still pass the certification examination with a high score.

Your score report is useful to gauge your level of knowledge of topics included in the certification examination. This can be correlated back to the Objective Domain for the certification examination to reference what skills are assessed in each section.

Certiport reports scaled scores so that candidates who have to retake a certification examination can determine if their performance is improving. The actual cut score (the number of items you need to answer correctly) is based on input from a group of subject matter experts who review the difficulty of the questions in relation to the expected skills of the target audience. As a result, the number of items that you have to answer correctly varies depending on the difficulty of the questions delivered when you take the exam; this ensures that regardless of which combination of items you see, the evaluation of skills is fair—if you see a more difficult set of questions, the number of correct answers needed to pass is less than if you see an easier set of questions. As a result, providing a simple percent correct wouldn't provide useful information to someone who had to take the exam multiple times and saw different combinations of questions with different levels of difficulty.

Because the number of correct answers needed to pass varies based on the difficulty of the questions delivered, if you see a difficult combination of questions, your performance may actually be higher in relation to the passing standard even though you completed fewer questions (in other words, a lower percentage) correctly than if you saw an easier set of questions. Scaled scores simplify your ability to evaluate improvements in your performance over time. This is a standard practice across the certification and licensure industry.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

Prioritize the skills that you should practice by focusing on the content areas where your exam performance was the weakest. Additionally, you may want to review the Objective Domains for the exam.

When you are ready to retake the exam, schedule an appointment as you normally would. Note that you must pay for each exam you retake and follow the posted retake policy.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

If you pass an exam, it simply means that you have demonstrated competence in the skill domain. In addition, scores of candidates who pass cannot be compared to determine if one candidate is more competent than another; higher passing scores do not mean higher levels of competence. The same is true of failing scores; lower failing scores do not mean lower levels of competence. If you pass the exam, you have demonstrated competence regardless of your score; if you fail, you have not demonstrated competence.

Certiport exams are designed so that the total score can be used to make a pass/fail decision (in other words, to show whether the candidate has demonstrated competence in the skill domain measured by the exam). Our exams are not designed with the intent to provide diagnostic feedback about your skills, and steps are not taken during the exam development process to support that level of reporting.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

No. Receiving the same score on multiple attempts does not indicate that the program computing the results is in error. It is not uncommon for candidates to obtain similar or identical scores on multiple attempts of an exam. This consistent result demonstrates the reliability of the exam in evaluating skills in this content domain. If this happens on multiple attempts, you may want to reconsider how you’re preparing for the exam and seek other opportunities to learn and practice the skills measured by the exam.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

The actual number of questions that you need to answer correctly in order to pass an exam is determined by the difficulty level of those questions that you get when you sit an exam and our expectations of the skills and abilities of the target audience. We then transform that number into a scaled score of 700. We rely on subject matter experts to help us determine the skills and abilities that we expect of qualified candidates as well as to estimate the difficulty level of each question in relationship to those expectations. We use a combination of methods (Angoff, etc) to set the passing score.

Cut scores are used to help a candidate know if they are improving. The actual number of questions you need to answer correctly is based on the difficulty of the questions that you see when you take the exam. A scaled score ensures that regardless of which combination of questions you see, the evaluation of your scales is fair. If you see a set of more difficult set of questions, the number of correct answers to pass is less than if you see an easier set of questions. More importantly, scaled scores let you track your progress over multiple attempts. If you see a difficult combination of questions your performance may actually be higher in relation to the passing standard even if you answered fewer questions correctly then if you saw an easier set. Scaled scores simplify your ability to evaluate improvements in your performance over time. This is a standard practice across the certification and licensure industry.

The score that you get on an exam doesn’t reflect the percent of questions you got correct on an exam. Your score is also scaled to be in relation to the passing standard that we have scaled to 700. As long as it is above 700, then we know that you have demonstrated competence in the content domain. The scaled scores range from zero to a thousand. Your score is a simple mathematical conversion of the number of questions you answered correctly to the same scale that is applied to the passing score when it is scaled to 700. (Exams scaled from 1 to 100 with passing score scaled to 70.)

What if I score 850, does that mean I am more qualified than someone who scores a 750? Not necessarily. Certiport doesn’t set the passing score to make those types of judgements. If you pass, we are simply saying that you have demonstrated the skills and abilities needed to demonstrate competence in the technology given our target audience. Higher scores don’t necessarily equate more or better skills. This is why we don’t report scores on your transcripts. The only person that knows your score is you.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

Yes. Scoring is set up such that all possible correct answer combinations receive credit (except in the case of best answer where multiple answer choices might be correct but only one is best given the technical and business requirements outlined in the question). For example, if you are asked to put steps to complete a task in order but the order of two steps doesn't matter, our scoring algorithms take this into account. In other words, you will get credit if you put A before B or B before A.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

Most Certiport certification exam scores are reported on a scale of 1 to 1000, with a few using 1 to 100. The passing score for our certification exams is 700. The actual cut score percentage is determined by a group of subject matter experts and each certification exam is scaled such that the passing score is 700. Any score of 700 or greater is a "pass." Any score below 700 is a "fail." (Exams scaled from 1 to 100 with passing score scaled to 70.)

The actual number of items you need to answer correctly in order to pass is determined by a group of subject matter experts in conjunction with a psychometrician. The passing score is based on the knowledge and skills needed to demonstrate competence in the skill domain and the difficulty of the questions that are delivered to a candidate.

-Contributed by Liberty Munson, Microsoft Psychometrician

The Certiport content development team employs criterion-referenced standard-setting procedures for the certification pass/fail decision that have been developed based on universally-accepted psychometric practices. Certiport certification exams are designed to measure skills on an individual basis, rather than in relation to another person or group. Our commitment is to promote certification rather than use individual scores as the relevant point of comparison.

To summarize, we do not recommend using the actual exam score to indicate a final grade for your students. We create a certification examination to demonstrate a sufficient level to pass, not to differentiate the skill level between students.

 

Program specific FAQs

Adobe Certified Associate (ACA)

The ACA certifications are built as industry recognized certifications, which means a certified individual would be ready to go into a career using the software. In our partnership with Adobe, it was decided that we would include several items that related to working in the graphic design/arts field and not necessarily specific to the application. While these items are not related to the software, they are core principles that will help a candidate be successful as they engage in client driven projects.

More information on the test objectives. This topic is covered specifically in Domain 1.0 Setting Project Requirements.

Autodesk Certified User (ACU) | Autodesk Certified Professional (ACP)

The best practice is to answer in the format provided by the Autodesk software. The candidate should leave the precision settings of the software at default and use the number of decimal points given by the program. You should only round your answer if it is specifically mentioned in the item instructions.

Here are the general instructions provided in the certification examination tutorial about the use of decimal in answer formats:

Express decimal answers within the pattern given in # signs. For example, ____##.## Units indicates an answer of 12.34 Units.

The Revit MEP exam used to be one certification examination that covered the three Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing subjects. Certiport and Autodesk decided to create two certification examinations with Mechanical and Electrical as the main focus, but leave a mix of items regarding plumbing on both exams to cover general MEP material.

Please review the certification examination objective domains as a reference for the specific topics covered on these exams:

Revit MEP: Mechanical Objective Domain
Revit MEP: Electrical Objective Domain

No, you can use capitals or lowercase letters in your response. For example, if you want to use the response of "Answer", then any of these options will score: "Answer", "answer", or "ANSWER".

In trying to give a reasonable leeway for what we consider to be a correct answer, we allow for the exact way that the software states information, but also provide several variations, including abbreviations, conjunctions and shortened versions. However, we cannot anticipate every way a candidate might enter their answer. Therefore, the best practice is to enter your response in the way it is stated in the software or examination item.

The use of multiple monitors during an Autodesk Certification examination is not permitted for a few reasons, including:

  • A multiple monitor setup is not supported by the Certiport software and could potentially cause unknown problems to arise during examination.
  • Multiple monitors could provide an unfair advantage for those candidates and centers that are capable of having multiple monitors available during an examination.

The allotted time for an Autodesk Certification examination is set for the use of a single monitor and the time to switch between software and test windows.

If a question does not specify an option to use in the scenario presented, you should leave everything set to the default selection to complete the task.

If you are required to use a specific tool to find your answer, the question will clearly state that you need to use that tool. If a tool was not specified in the question and using two different tools will possibly give different answers, the exam is constructed so that either answer would be considered correct.

You will want to use exactly what is listed in the properties information panel.

The data file location is C:\Autodesk Exams\folder of exam you are taking. Be sure to use this folder to open the data files. Some exams (Revit, for example) require application libraries or families. These application libraries can be found in the U.S. Imperial or Metric Library folders.

Once you have opened a document, you may use the application normally. After finishing a question, do NOT save the document associated with that question. For better computer performance during the exam, please close the document files when done with them. When you have finished answering the question and have closed the document file, navigate to the next item using the 'Next' button.

This information is found in the exam tutorial, the Help menu, and in the top left hand corner of every question. A lot of the exam files are similarly named so you will want to pay particular attention to the file name listed in the exam and in the list of files.

Use Alt-Tab during the examination to switch between the Autodesk application and the exam window. You may move the application window and click on the exam. You can also simply click the portion of the Exam Window that appears at the bottom of the screen to return to the exam question.

Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS)

In order to perform a COUNTIF properly, you need to include two arguments; where to look and what to look for. In the exam instructions, the candidate will see three lines:

  • The general instructions of what you need to do – calculating how many
  • Where to look
  • Which function to use and what to look for

It may be helpful to review a Microsoft article about the COUNTIF function.

In the MOS 2016 exams, each item has a button to ‘Leave feedback after exam’. From your comments, it appears that after your exam ended, you were taken to the review screen where you are able to give feedback about specific items in the exam. During this process, you are given 7 minutes to provide feedback (refer to the tutorial). Any actions taken during that review do not affect the answers already submitted by the exam engine as your results have already been stored.

Our certification examinations use the version of Microsoft Office installed on the testing computer for all software operations and checks. As noted, a comma is used as a separator in most English versions of the Excel application, but a semi-colon is used in some other localized applications which used a comma rather than a decimal to separate values. With whichever version of the software was installed on your computer, an error message would be displayed and the formula would not be accepted if the wrong separator was used. If you did not receive such a modal error and a calculated value was displayed, any failure to score would be due to the arguments placed into the formula and not the separators used. In addition, the instructions for the Excel 2016 certifications do not display any formula prompts within the task statement.

The Certiport content development team uses industry best practices to establish the number of items included on each certification examination and the pass/fail designation.

Compared to other MOS exams, Outlook requires a higher percentage of questions answered correctly to be at the passing level, as determined by our subject matter experts, and validated by beta and continued live certification examination result analysis. So, a candidate will need to complete more items correctly as a percentage to pass the Outlook Certification Exam. This applies to MOS 2016, MOS 2013, and MOS 2010.

Yes, we encourage candidates to save their work frequently during their MOS 2013/2016 certification examination, as you would with the actual application. The tutorial instructs you to save frequently and you will see a reminder on your screen if you have not saved your work for several minutes.

The testing engine is only designed to automatically save the state of an examination when the time expires or the exam and/or a project is submitted. So, even if a candidate never saves any of their work, the system is designed to save the exam before it is uploaded. In the event of a crash, when you log back in to your examination, it will be restored at the last saved state. As with the actual application, it is always a good practice to frequently save your work.

Certiport’s system is designed to recognize when the MOS Master Certification criteria has been met. The candidate should see the MOS Master Certification listed in their transcript. However, the Master designation will not show on reports for the CATC as it is not a certification examination itself.

The MOS Master certificate will be printed and shipped to the address listed on the candidate portal account, whether or not a candidate has paid for the individual MOS exam certificates to be printed.

In the real world, managers don't tell employees the commands or specific menus to use in an application. The manager would typically explain what they would like done, and expect the employee to figure out how to do it.

The MOS 2016 exams were purposely written without menu names or commands to ensure that the candidate knows what the function does, not just how to do it. This change was put into place with the support of both Certiport and Microsoft to ensure these certifications are valuable in the workplace. So yes, about 70% of the items do not include the name of the menu used to complete the task. We recommend that the candidate read each item carefully and understand what is being asked, then complete the requested task. This applies to all the MOS 2016 certification examinations.

This error occurs when a candidate is trying to insert the database into itself. As per the tutorial, the exam instructions have three components: Task Description, Task Location and Task Detail. The Task Description tells you WHAT to do. The Task Location indicates WHERE to do it. The Task Detail tells you THE SPECIFICATIONS of what is required in the task. The error above occurs when the candidate is trying to use the Task Location instead of the Task Detail to complete the task.

In general, the Reference Image provides a guide to what the Project File should look like when all tasks are completed correctly. However, the instructions in the exam should be followed and not the reference image. For example, a task may ask you to color the font ‘Red, Accent 2, Lighter 60%’. The color in your Project File may not exactly match what color you see in the reference image because of the monitor you are using. In order to get the task correct, you need to use the color listed in the instructions, not try to match the color seen in the reference image.

In addition, it is typically the lack of attention to the small details required in a task that cause a candidate to lose points. One common error on the Create Tables and Advanced Graphics section of the Excel Expert Part 2 exam is the candidate not naming the tables correctly.

QuickBooks Certified User (QBCU)

The way that you access the full ribbon changed in the 2017 version of the QuickBooks Certified User Exam. Rather than have a scroll bar that's not there in QuickBooks, if you collapse the navigation panel on the left side of the screen (the left arrow by the search text box), you can see the entire ribbon.

 

Learning materials

We encourage all of our publishing partners to create learning materials that are aligned to both the exam objectives and the software versions. Certiport only sells learning materials that have a high degree of alignment.

Both GMetrix practice tests and Certiport’s certification exams test on the content within the exam’s objective domain. GMetrix strives to dedicate the same number of test questions on an objective as does the certification exam. Practice test questions are about the same level of difficulty as the certification exam questions.

Given the exam time limits, neither the certification exam nor the practice test can possibly cover everything found in all of the objectives. For example, one objective might require that a student know skills A, B, and C. The certification exam may test on skill A. The practice test may only test on skill B. In other instances, the certification exam and practice test cover the same skills. The degree to which they correlate exactly varies and is proprietary.

A test candidate should have a strong knowledge of the entire objective domain to pass the certification exam. Passing a practice test is a valuable indicator of this knowledge, however, to increase certification success we recommend test candidates incorporate in their test preparation both Certiport Learning Materials and GMetrix Practice Tests.

Most teachers recommend that their students pass the GMetrix exams with an 80-90% before attempting the certification exam. It is important, however, that test candidates do not rely solely on practice tests for their only source of preparation. While obtaining a high practice test score may indicate one’s readiness to take the certification exam it does not guarantee test candidates will pass the certification exam.

The best place to start is to review the exam’s objective domain. We do have some free study guides available for some of our exams. To see our learning products, including free study guides, visit our website: Certifications > (Choose Your Program)> Learn. In addition to online courses, we offer ebooks and printed textbooks. Your sales representative can guide you to the best learning product to fit your needs.

 

Exam prep

Certiport certification examinations are designed to measure proficiency in certain knowledge, skills and abilities of a subject. Instead of teaching to pass a certification examination, we recommend that students are taught to be proficient users of the specific technology. The objective domain for a certification examination is a comprehensive overview of those the knowledge, skills and abilities for certification.

Objective domains are a comprehensive set of specific and measurable knowledge, skills, and abilities that are the basis for the development of both the certification exams and learning products.

 

Localization

You can find this information on our Exam releases/languages page. This page is devoted to keeping all audiences up to date with our existing and upcoming exam product and learning product releases. Planned release dates listed here are subject to change.


Developing a certification examination: