Understanding the Microsoft exam pass mark


So you are getting ready to sit for your next Microsoft exam or at least considering to sit for one.  What you would want to do is to come up with a strategy that eliminates the chances of failure. Microsoft exams are well known for their nature of being quite reasonably difficult, therefore adequate preparation is required. The question then is how many marks do you need to pass the exam?

All MCP exam scores are scaled. This process converts the number of points that you earned on the exam—in most cases, this is equivalent to the number of questions that you answered correctly (this is called a “raw score”) to a common scale that in Microsoft’s case ranges from 0-1000. Scaling scores makes it easier to compare scores from one administration to the next.

When changes are made to an exam, the raw cut score (and percent of items that you must answer correctly in order to pass) changes because the cut score is based on the difficulty of the content on the new version of the exam. With scaled scores, you can compare your performance across retakes; if Microsoft provided raw scores or percentages, it would be very difficult for you to know if your performance had improved from one attempt to the next if changes were made to the exam between your attempts.As an added benefit, scaling scores makes it much easier for Microsoft to communicate the passing score for the exams—a score of 700 is required to pass any MCP exam.

700 is not equal to 70%

The notion that a score of 700 equals 70% is not true; in fact the actual percentage of items that you have to answer correctly varies for exam to exam and can range from roughly 50% to 85%. It would be difficult to tell what the range is exactly for all exams or what the cut score percentage is for a specific exam. What must be clarified however is  that the pass score varies—on some exams you need to answer a higher percentage of items correctly to pass than you need to on other exams. The cut score for a particular exam is based on input from SMEs, the minimum qualifications for competency, and the difficulty of the item pool


The best strategy to use when sitting for a Microsoft exam is to aim to get 100% of the questions correct. Microsoft exams are designed to pick out the cream of crop from the millions of Microsoft professionals around the world, therefore the standard is very high. As the saying goes “If you can’t aim for the sun, then at least shoot for the stars!”.

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