I always booked and took my Microsoft exams from a test centre until the Covid Pandemic halted most of the world. That’s when I discovered that there was also an option to take the exam online from home and since then I have always preferred this option. Taking the exam from the comfort of your own home. It sounds convenient right? It is, but there are a few important points that you should be aware of.
In this post I will post the process of booking an online exam and what you need to watch out for if you don’t want to be warned/disqualified by the moderator. I will share real life stories from my own experience taking exams from home and also from people who have shared their stories with me.
Exam booking process
For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that I am booking to take the AZ-204 Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure exam from home.
- Visit the AZ-204 certification page at Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure – Certifications. For other exams you could type the exam code into search, for example AZ-104 or AZ-700 and click the certification page.
- Scroll down until you reach the schedule exam section. Click the drop down to select your country and click the orange button labelled Schedule exam, as per the image below.
3. Sign in. I use my personal @hotmail.com
Why use your personal and not work email address? Because you may leave your existing employer at a later date and the certifications you pass would be linked to your employer provided email address. To avoid the hassle, I always use my personal email address.
4. Ensure your profile details are correct and click next
5. If you are entitled to any exam discounts, they will appear here. For example if you’re a MCT (Microsoft Technical Trainer) you receive 75% discount on the exam. If you’re a Microsoft Employee, a 100% discount is available.
You may be thinking, how does one become a Microsoft Technical Trainer? Click the following link to find out more, How to become a Microsoft Technical Trainer.
There is also an option to check for another discount. For example, If you have attended a Microsoft course or a different Microsoft online event you may be entitled to a 50% exam discount, enter your email address in the field labelled check for another discount. This would be the email address you used to register for the course or online event. Click the button, check discounts to find out if there are any discounts available to you.
When ready, click Next
6. Click Schedule with Pearson VUE
7. Click the option Online with OnVUE to take the exam from home.
There is also the option to take the exam from your nearest test centre if you prefer not to take the exam from home.
8. You’ll find a few tips/checks that you should perform or will require prior to taking the exam, let’s go through each one.
It is important that you test your laptop/desktop to ensure it passes the system test. This test will check your device microphone, speakers and webcam. It will then allow you to download a test exam simulation to ensure the exam software will load on your device. Ensure that you perform another test prior to taking the exam on the scheduled day and you use the same device.
Individuals have experienced issues with sitting the exam from company laptops due to being locked down which can block the exam from launching. It is important you test your device.
Click Run system test which will take you through the required checks.
If you wish to check whether your device or operating systems meets the minimum requirements for the exam, click minimum technical requirements.
9. Your testing space
- Select an empty desk where you will place your laptop or desktop only
- You can only have a single monitor so if you have several monitors on your desk, you won’t be allowed to use them and they should not be visible on the desk.
- Remove all objects from the desk apart from your mobile phone. Your mobile phone needs to be placed at arms length on the table so it can be reached in the event of an emergency. For example, the moderator is unable to get in touch with you through your laptop or there has been a power cut.
- Ensure that no one is in the room. You must be alone
- Ensure that no one talks to you or calls your name whilst you’re taking the exam
- The exam will be recorded and the moderator will be watching you for the duration of the exam. Ensure you don’t leave the view of your web cam and do not look around suspiciously
- If you have a habit of whispering questions to yourself as you read, don’t. It is not allowed and you will be warned by the moderator.
- Do not place your hand over your mouth, for example, if you have a habit of placing your hand on your chin whilst concentrating, don’t. You will be told off and if you continue, you could be disqualified and the exam will end.
- If possible, use a personal computer rather than an employer issued computer, as the company provided device may have additional security settings that can interfere with the exam.
- Ensure your internet connection is reliable. Pearson VUE recommend a wired internet connection and to disconnect from VPN. However, I have taken many exams from home via a wireless connection without issues.
- Ensure the area where you are taking the exam is well lit. The moderator won’t allow you to take the exam from a dark room with no lights.
– An individual was disqualified because his dog was continuously barking. Ensure the room you are in is quiet.
– I have come across people who take the exam from the bathroom. I personally would not do this, however there are people who prefer taking exams from the bathroom. You could be in there for 3 hours so ensure you have a spare bathroom or else you may upset family members if they require access to the bathroom! Will a moderator allow you to take your exam from the bathroom? Yes and no. I have come across people complaining that they were allowed to take the exam from the bathroom and then when taking another exam in future, were told it was not allowed by the moderator.
– Individuals have been asked to remove posters from the wall so if you have posters on the wall or a whiteboard with text, you may be asked to remove those by the moderator.
– I was once warned by the moderator because I was whispering/reading the question to myself. I have learnt from that mistake since and not read questions back to myself whilst in an exam.
10. Your photo ID
On the day of the exam, you will require photo ID. One of the following will do, such as a Passport, Driver’s license, Identification card (national or local), Non-US Military ID (including spouse and dependents) or a Registration card (green card, permanent residence, visa). For an up to date list, click the admission & ID policies link as shown in the image below. I will discuss how you will need to present/upload the photo ID later in this post.
11. What to expect
The short video link available under the What to expect section shown in the image below will guide you through what to expect if you were to visit a test centre to take the exam and additional video demonstrating what to expect when taking the exam online from home.
12. Click the next button
13. Select your preferred language for the exam
If the exam is not available in your native language and you need to take it in a different language, you may request additional time to read and answer the questions. If you take the exam with Pearson VUE, you can use the English as a Second Language (ESL) form.
14. Read and accept the provided agreements and click next
15. Read and agree to online exam and Microsoft Policies. Tick the boxes to accept if you agree. There are a few to accept/tick as you scroll down the page. The information is useful as it provides a reminder of what you need to know and do before the exam.
16. When ready, click the agree button. Visible as you scroll to the bottom of the page
17. What language do you prefer the proctor/moderator speaks. English or Japanese. The moderator will be doing very little or no talking at all. Click Next
18. Confirm your time zone. My time zone is UK (automatically detected) so I will accept and click Yes, that’s right!
19. Select a date and time. Click Explore more times for a list of different times if available.
An advantage of taking the exam from home is that you have access to different times 7 days a week. I prefer to take the exam when everyone in the house has gone to bed, or early morning.
20. When you have decided on the time you wish to take the exam, click Book this appointment
21. Review the information to ensure you are happy. Such as have you selected the correct exam, date, time and so on.
Important: Ensure that your name matches the identification (ID) that is presented at the test center or when you take the exam from home, or you will not be permitted to take your exam.
22. When ready, click Proceed to Checkout to make payment unless you were entitled to a 100% discount earlier, you will be able to complete the process without payment.
That’s it. The exam is booked!
What next, prepare for the exam.
If you have never taken a Microsoft exam before and want to know what to expect. Here is a Microsoft provided exam sandbox demo
Exam day is here
23. You have approached the date of the exam. What does the process look like when checking in for an online exam from home.
Recommended prior to check in
- Power up your device, close down any apps, such as messaging apps, Microsoft Teams, Skype and so on.
- Ensure the device is not scheduled to reboot, for example, after windows updates installation
- Perform a system test to ensure your microphone, speaker, webcam and the test exam software launches. A link to test will be available to you in your email from Pearson VUE. You will be given the opportunity to test your system when you go through the check in process below. I prefer to test my device before so I have enough time to troubleshoot and resolve any issues.
- You will be able to check into the exam 30 minutes before the exam start time, no earlier. A link to check in will be available to you via an email or you can login to the Pearson VUE website. For example, if the exam is scheduled for 11.15am, you will be able to check in at 10.45am. Ensure you check in at the start time.
- As part of the check in process, you will have the opportunity to test your system again, to ensure your microphone, speakers and web cam work. Also, you will be prompted to end any applications/processes running on the system which may prevent the exam software to launch. You will need to close down.
- You will need to upload your photo (a selfie). On screen you will be presented with a few options to retrieve the upload link, such as scanning a QR code from your mobile, accessing a provided website address or requesting a text with the link to your phone. I usually request for a text message to my phone. Open the provided link and upload your selfie.
- Take a picture of your photo ID and click upload using the same link provided by Pearson VUE.
- Next, you will be asked to upload four photos of your surrounding area where you will be sitting to take the exam. A photo of what is in front of your laptop, the back, the left and the right of your laptop. You will upload each photo one at a time.
- The information uploaded will be verified and the session will start to record. Do not leave your laptop from this point.
- A moderator will come online at the exam start date, in this case 11.15am and may introduce themselves, a quick hello and ask that you are ready for the exam. The moderator may ask you to show them your surroundings by moving your webcam around the room. Note that in some cases, the moderator does not speak and the exam software will launch. There may also be times when the moderator does not activate the exam at the specified time. I have experienced an exam where the exam launched 15 minutes late, so hang in there and be patient. You may also experience times where the exam starts straight after the check in process, for example, if the exam was scheduled 11.15am and you had uploaded your photos by 11am, the moderator could start the exam at 11am which I prefer instead of waiting. If you’re concerned, use the live chat to contact the moderator but do not leave your laptop.
24. When the exam starts, you will be asked to agree to a few terms and conditions and the exam software will launch on your device in full screen. You should be able to see yourself via the webcam towards the top of the page and a record icon to show that the session is being recorded.
Note: if the exam software does not launch, use the live chat facility to let the moderator know. I once experienced this issue and was waiting for 20-30 minutes after the start time wondering why the exam had not loaded until I used the live chat to contact the moderator. I was to asked to exit the exam and rejoin as the exam software had failed to launch for some reason. The second attempt worked.
- you do not leave the laptop and remain in view of the web cam
- you do not speak to anyone
- no one walks past or speaks to you
- there is no background noise
- you do not whisper questions to yourself
- you do not cover your mouth
- you do not look around suspiciously
Reminder: If you have never taken a Microsoft exam before and want to know what to expect. Here is a Microsoft provided exam sandbox demo
MICROSOFT EXAM ANNOUNCEMENTS
A few announcements you may not be aware of if you have not sat a Microsoft exam for some time.
- Microsoft Learn accessible in the exam (excluding fundamentals exams) announced 22nd August 2023
You have the option to launch the Microsoft Learn website in the exam so you can double check if you can’t recall the correct answer. A Microsoft Learn icon will be visible in your exam which can be launched into a split screen. More info at the following link Introducing a new resource for all role-based Microsoft Certification exam
Note: If you do use the Microsoft Learn option be careful when closing it down after use. Do not accidentally exit from the complete exam. If you do come cross this situation where you exit from the whole exam in error, enter the exam again and contact the moderator/proctor.
- Unscheduled breaks (Announced 11th May 2022)
It is possible to request for a break in the exam. The time continues to tick and you can not go back to review questions you have already answered after the break. Here is the announcement link Unscheduled breaks now available in most exams without requesting in advance
- Exam expiration and renewals – announced 15th December 2020
Exams previously expired after 2 years and you would need to take the exam again to renew for a further two years. The renewal process would involve the same process as in being moderated with the same rules, as if you were taking the exam for the first time. As of December 2020, the exam expiry date was changed from 2 years to 1 year, however the exam can be renewed via the Microsoft Learn website. The renewal is free, a shorter exam, not moderated, no need to clear your desk and is open book. If you fail the exam you can retake the exam as long as you don’t let it expire, so ensure that you don’t renew the exam with a few days spare until expiration. I renew the exams ASAP or at least 2 months before the expiration date. For example, if I receive an email from Microsoft informing me that my exam is due to expire in 6 months and I renew/pass the exam at that point with 6 months remaining until expiration, Microsoft will add the 6 months to my renewal, meaning the next renewal would be in 1 year and 6 months. More info at Microsoft Certification Renewal
- Free official Microsoft test questions
Microsoft have launched free practice test questions for a number of certifications. A list of the available practice assessments are available at the following link, Practice Assessments for Microsoft Certifications. There were 39 available at the time of writing and Microsoft continue to add more for other certifications.
- Microsoft Applied Skills Credentials – announced October 2023 (Currently Free)
A new verifiable credential that validates that you have the targeted skills needed to implement critical projects aligned to business goals and objectives. These are free open book Microsoft verified credentials which are currently free and target a specific skill set, for example, securing Azure storage or Azure networking. These are 100% lab/task based where you are presented with a lab machine in which you will be asked to perform a number of tasks in 2 hours. Upon completion, your assessment will be marked within 60 seconds and you will be presented with a verified certificate which you can share with your network on LinkedIn. At the time of writing this post there were 14 Applied Skills assessments available at Browse Credentials | Microsoft Learn
Announcement page at: Announcing Microsoft Applied Skills, the new credentials to verify in-demand technical skills
- What is the Microsoft exam retake policy?
If you don’t pass the exam the first time, you must wait 24 hours before retaking it.
You may not take a given exam more than five (5) times within a 12 month period from the first attempt. If you failed the exam 5 times, you’ll be eligible to retake it again 12 months from the date of your first attempt.
You must pay to retake the exam (if applicable)
I would recommend you visit the following Microsoft link for up to date information on exam policies, exam policies and FAQs
I hope you found this post useful. If you have any questions please feel free to post them below.
All the best in your learning journey.