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How Does MCITP 70-663 Differ From MCTS 70-662?

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Many Exchange Server administrators are confused by the fact that many of the objectives for exam 70-663 are identical to those of exam 70-662. Obviously, Microsoft isn’t going to create two different exams with identical questions. So what are the differences between the two exams, and why does Microsoft require both exams even though they focus on much of the same material? In this article, Brien Posey explains the reason why there is so much overlap between these two exams, and how the exams differ from each other.

One of Microsoft’s hottest certifications at the moment is the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), Enterprise Messaging Administrator 2010. Earning this certification requires candidates to pass two separate exams on Exchange Server 2010.

The first required exam is 70-662 TS: Exchange Server 2010, Configuring (the PITC website contains an exam profile for the 70-662 exam). The other required exam is 70-663 Pro: Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.

A casual glance through Microsoft’s Training Catalog reveals that there is a lot of overlap between these two exams. I decided to acquire some video based training courses for the two exams, and I found that both of the training classes covered a lot of the same material.

Obviously, Microsoft isn’t going to create two different exams with identical questions. So what are the differences between the two exams, and why does Microsoft require both exams even though they focus on much of the same material?

The first hint about the differences comes from the title of the exams themselves. Exam 70-662’s official title includes the designation “TS”, which indicates that candidates who pass the exam will receive an MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) certification.

In contrast, Exam 70-663’s title does not include “TS” but uses “Pro” instead. This is an indication that 70-663 is a MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) level exam. Generally, Pro-level exams are considered to be more advanced than TS-level exams.

So does this mean that 70-663 is more difficult than 70-662? It really just depends on who you ask. Many Exchange Server administrators seem to think that 70-662 is the more difficult of the two exams.

I think this can be explained very easily just by looking at the purpose of each exam. Exam 70-662 covers the fundamentals of Exchange Server. This exam requires that candidates know how to install the various Exchange Server roles and that they know how to configure and manage Exchange Server 2010.

Because 70-662 covers almost all aspects of Exchange Server 2010 (with the notable exception of Unified Messaging), it should be no surprise that so many people find this exam to be difficult. There is nothing especially challenging about the individual exam questions, but the exam covers such a broad scope that candidates are required to memorize a lot of information in order to pass the exam.

By the time that a candidate completes Exam 70-662, they should have a solid understanding of Exchange Server 2010. This is why I believe that so many people find Exam 70-663 to be easier, even though it is classified as a Pro-level exam. Exam 70-663 is based on information that anyone who has passed Exam 70-662 should already know.

While that is certainly good news for anyone who is about to take Exam 70-663, I still haven’t answered the question of what makes the two exams different from one another.

To put it simply, Exam 70-662 tests to make sure that candidates know how Exchange Server works. Candidates are tested on installing, configuring, maintaining, and administering Exchange. Exam 70-663 tests to see if candidates actually understand the material from the previous exam.

While knowing the material and understanding the material may sound like the same thing, there is actually a big difference. Knowing the information means memorizing statistics, procedures, and cmdlets. As such, it is possible for someone to know the material for 70-662 without really having a thorough understanding of the big picture.

To give you a better idea of what I mean, I have a confession to make. Back in the mid 1990s, I was required by my employer to get my MCSE certification. My employer did not provide any training, nor was I allowed to take time off from work to attend any training classes. My only option was to buy books on the subjects and memorize the content. In the end, there were a few exams that I passed without ever once laying my hands on the actual software that I was being tested on.

The same thing is theoretically possible to do with Exam 70-662. There is nothing stopping a candidate from buying a few books, memorizing the material, and passing the exam.

In contrast, Exam 70-663 tests to make sure that candidates really understand the material, and that they can apply their knowledge of Exchange in a real world situation.

I guess that it might be possible to buy some books, learn the material, and pass Exam 70-663, but doing so would require much more than just memorizing statistics and procedures. The candidate would have to understand high-level design concepts well enough to apply them.

Let’s look at an example: Exam 70-662 might ask you what server roles are included in a typical Exchange Server 2010 installation. The answer, of course, is the Hub Transport, Client Access, and Mailbox Server roles. As you can see, this is information that a candidate could easily memorize from an Exchange training book.

In contrast, Exam 70-663 might have a question that asks whether it is appropriate for a corporation to perform a typical Exchange Server installation when their primary goal is redundancy.

On the surface, this is a simple yes/no question, but think about the implications. A candidate would have to know what a typical Exchange Server installation consists of, and they would also have to know what is required for implementing redundancy in an Exchange Server environment. It’s an easy question for anyone who really understands Exchange, but it may prove challenging for those who have only memorized material directly related to the exam objectives.

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