Microsoft adds unscheduled breaks to most certification exams

Farewell to scheduling your emergencies in advance


Microsoft is to permit unscheduled breaks into its exams, bringing relief to students working through the often lengthy process.

It has been possible to request a break in advance in the past, but leaving the keyboard without prior agreement was a definite no-no. Even with some certification exams moving online in some regions, monitoring has meant following the rules.

However, from next week, it will be possible to hit the pause button (in icon alone – the caption reads 'Take a break') and leave your screen for a few minutes.

There are, however, some provisos. Microsoft has built five minutes into the exam time for use as a break, meaning that the exam duration won't change but there will be fewer questions. Breaks can be as long as needed, but that clock will keep ticking.

Once a break is started, you can't return to any questions already viewed. It also isn't possible to take a break in the middle of a lab or within a problem solution question set (where you indicate if the presented solution solves the problem.) It's fair enough, really.

Before going on a break, students will also be prompted to review any previous questions and will be reminded how much time and how many questions remain.

The Register asked Microsoft if these rules also apply to online exams, and will update when the company responds. It would be disappointing if not, particularly since Microsoft says the unscheduled breaks will be available in "most" exams.

Microsoft engineer Michael Bazarewsky, for one, seemed pleased about the news.

The move is welcome, if a little overdue. Other examinations permit breaks, although some still do not. Cisco's online proctored exams, for example, do not allow for a break during the exam "for any reason" [PDF], and the exam will be ended if the student leaves their computer.

AWS permits unscheduled breaks at a test center but does not allow participants to stand or leave the view of the camera for any reason during an online proctored exam.

The reaction to Microsoft's decision ia largely positive, with users describing it as "Good news" and accepting the compromise of not being permitted to go back to prior questions if a break occurs. ®

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