Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Taking the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Exam

Contrary to popular opinion I did not do it for the free t-shirt. Certaport was offering teachers at the CSTA Conference the opportunity to take a MTA exam (or exams) for free. If you passed you also got a t-shirt with your certificate. I had other reasons to take it though.

Yes, I wanted to test myself a bit. I had not studied for any of them and I hadn’t planned on taking any exams. When several of my friends took exams (and passed of course) I decided maybe I should try. I chose the Block Based Programming exam because I teach some block based programming. The exam is currently based around TouchDevelop which has been discontinued but the exam will be rewritten for the blocks in soon. In any case, I know some TouchDevelop so it seemed a good choice.

More importantly I was curious as to how the tests were given. What sort of questions where asked? How are they presented to the test taker? And more process sorts of questions.

It turns out that questions are asked several ways. There are a few ordinary multiple choice questions. There are a few questions where you have to read and understand code. There are also questions where a problem is explained and code is shown with “holes” that you have to fill from drop down lists. There are also Parsons Problems types of questions. In these you are presented with a problem, 6 to 8 lines or blocks of code and asked to place the right blocks in the correct order to solve the problem. There are usually extra blocks of code. It’s harder than you might think. There were also questions I would categorize as software design or software engineering questions.

In fact, the whole test is harder than you might think. You really do have to think and I was concerned about the 60 minute time limit for the 39 questions. My friend, Doug Bergman took the Java certification and told me he thought it was Advanced Placement CS level of hard. I feel pretty confident in saying that these are rigorous (especially for first level certifications) exams.

I wish I had a system like that to give quizzes and exams to my students. Especially the Parsons Problems style of questions.

Oh, yes, I did pass and I did get my free t-shirt.

1 comment:

Burgess said...

I worked on a prototype for a Javascript / HTML / CSS Parsons problem builder.

My thinking was you could create a playlist of codepens to pull from and have the students piece them together like jigsaw puzzles.

You mentioned a desire to have that type of teaching tool available to you, I would be MORE than happy to help!

What languages would you want this type of quiz maker to support and what do you envision for this tool? Please email me directly or respond to this if you would like to talk about this more!

Check out my prototype here:

If you click load you will be given a super simple example. It is very barebones as is but it was more to put a pen to paper and start getting a feel for what I wanted to make. There are so so so many nice features that could be added but it would be helpful to talk with someone else who sees the value in this type of assessment.

I also found in a quick search a Java REPL which means I know I could do something similar with Java (I'm assuming that is your current code desired language).

Forgive the verbosity. I am excited!!