700 does not equal 70%!!!!!
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 they make changes to their exams, 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 they 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 they had made a change to the exam between your attempts.
As an added benefit, scaling scores makes it much easier for them to communicate the passing score for their exams—a score of 700 is required to pass any MCP exam. What’s the cut score for 298? 700. 350? 700. 640? 700. 680? 700. By the way, scaling scores is not unique to Microsoft; most certifying organizations provide scaled scores rather than raw scores for these reasons.
Here’s the key that bears repeating—700 is not equal to 70%. I hear this a lot… I need to answer 70% of the questions correctly to pass the exam. This 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%. I can’t tell you what the range is exactly for their exams or what the cut score percentage is for a specific exam, but I can tell you that it 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. Carrying this one step further, this also means that the score that you see in the score report is not the percentage of items that you answered correctly (unless you answered all the questions correct (1000=100%) or incorrect (0=0%), but these are the only exceptions). It’s simply an indication of your performance in relation to the cut score.
Microsoft doesn’t arbitrarily decide what the cut score should be on an exam. They set the cut score based on input from SMEs who help them determine the point at which minimal competency is demonstrated given the target audience for the exam. Every step of the exam development process is driven by SME input; nothing is done arbitrarily, including setting the cut score.