Earlier today I decided to try my hand at the all-new Microsoft Applied Skills!
In a nutshell, Microsoft Applied Skills are a collection of targeted learning tracks on Microsoft Learn, backed by lab-based assessments. The output of this is, upon passing the assessment, a verifiable credential tied to your Microsoft Learn profile, much like a certification is.
Take for example the Applied Skill credential I gained earlier, called "Secure storage for Azure Files and Azure Blob Storage" - found here. You can (optionally) prepare for the assessment via a set learning path (a series of related Microsoft Learn modules), or jump right into the assessment.
The assessment is free, open-book, and a web-based lab. By that I mean, once you start the assessment you are presented with a web-based virtual desktop environment from which you can access the Azure portal. From my experience earlier, within the portal, I found a subscription, a resource group, and some resources already deployed. Via a web browser on the remote desktop itself, I was provided with three scenarios from which I had to complete specific tasks.
Upon completing all scenarios, I clicked submit and was (within about 30 seconds) presented with my results:
You are given 2 hours to complete the assessment.
It's not yet clear to me if and when these credentials expire, but the assessment can be re-taken ~70 hours after the first attempt.
The assessments are very similar to the labs that occasionally pop up in Microsoft exams.
Thankfully, Microsoft Applied Skills do not need to go through a proctor such as Pearson Vue, and are free and readily accessible from Microsoft Learn, here.
The following assessments are currently available to take:
To my knowledge, Microsoft Applied Skills was launched on October 25th, but I only found out about them in a Tweet from my good friend Keith Atherton. So thanks for the heads-up Keith! 😁
You can read the official announcement here, and there's also a nice little intro video below:
All in all, I found the assessment experience relatively pain free, and some of the tasks certainly tested my skills. I'll openly admin I made the most of the open-book policy, and had to look online for guidance on occasion.
I do however find myself asking why Microsoft Applied Skills have come about, and what it may mean for the future of Microsoft examinations. Bearing in mind that Microsoft Learn is now accessible within proctored exams, and renewals are un-proctored, free and fully open-book - I wonder if this is the future for verified skills testing, and what the implications of that are.
Still, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed the assessment process, and I plan to study for and take the other Microsoft Applied Skills as and when I can. Both the training and assessments are free, so why not?!