Certification: First Experience of Searching Learn Content During Exams

Learn search bar

I took AI-102 yesterday. It was the first exam that I've taken where Learn content was available. There's an icon at the bottom centre of the screen, beside the one that lets you take a break. (I haven't used that break option yet but that was also a great recent additon).

Did it help?

There were a couple of places where I found it helped. It's not going to teach you the content, even though the training parts of Learn are available. That would mostly take far too long. What it worked well for, was to confirm the purpose of a specific option, etc.

Questions are meant to be designed around the application of knowledge, not around pure knowledge. (Yes, I know some of these still exist)


The way it works is that a browser appears on the right-hand side of your screen, and your question stays on the left. For most multiple choice questions that's easy enough, but a little more challenging (screen real estate wise), for case studies.

What was hard to work with, was moving the exam monitoring/counter popup thing around, to keep it out of the way of the browser tabs. It was never a problem with exam pages, but that popup thing was designed to be as small as possible, to stay out of the way. I found it hard to move, as you needed to click like a normal window, but there is almost no blank space on it that you can click without doing something, instead of just selecting it.

The team could improve that experience by making sure that popup thing had a blank space that would work well as a handle for dragging.

I was recently asked if there's a limit to the number of tabs you can have open. Someone mentioned that he'd had a large number open. I found it refused to open more after about 5 (didn't note the exact number). But any more than that would be awkward.

The Search Experience

What I do find hard with it, is the searching for content. The search bar in Learn is not a good way to search Learn. Let's face it, almost no-one searches Learn content by going to the home page, and using the search bar. I'd guess that 99% of traffic to Learn comes from search engines, and they do a far better job of indexing the content.

We're not going to get a Google search in there (i.e., what most people would actually use), but it would be interesting to have the option to use Bing search and enforce a site restriction for Learn. I didn't try to find out, but I'm guessing they have a limit to any external links that you can connect to from within Learn.

Limit the Scope

Another important note: in the search, there are options to restrict the scope of the search. Make sure you use them !

Scope options in Learn search

I was doing an AI exam, and at first, I'd go looking for a class name, and getting results from Dynamics, etc. that I didn't want. Remember that it's all of Learn, with all products, all documentation, training materials, tutorials, etc. Using the scope options, for this exam, I could say just .NET and Azure, and the results were far better.

Timing and Rabbit Holes

After getting into the exam, I knew I had plenty of time as I was pretty confident with the material. I'd spent weeks prepping, and doing the labs, etc. and a lot of it was familiar before I started. (Note for any certification people reading: the labs for AI-102 really need updating).

Because of that, I searched as I went, but I'd strongly recommend that if you aren't really confident on the content, you don't do that.

I did find that when I tried to research topics, that I really burned time. In fact, I burned way, way more time than I was expecting. Most of that was because the searching option isn't good. But you could easily go down long rabbit holes with this, and simply lose track of time.

A rabbit
Unsplash image by Gary Bendig

I'd recommend that as you go through, you choose your best answer even if you have doubts, but flag the question for later review. You'd be better to make sure you've answered everything, then go back to research what you need to check, based on your available time.


Thanks to the certification team for a great new option! Two areas I'd love to see some work on:

  • Making the popup thing easier to move around
  • Considering whether a restricted Bing search might be a better option


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