To maintain your MCSE certification, you must continue to meet the MCSE requirements as Microsoft updates them. Existing exams are often retired or replaced with new versions, and exams for new products are added.
Microsoft usually retires (discontinues) an exam when the product it refers to becomes obsolete or is replaced by a new version. For example, the Windows NT 3.51 exams were retired in June 2000. The NT 4.0 exams were retired on December 31, 2000.
When one of the exams you took for the MCSE is retired, you are given time (usually six months to a year) to take a new exam to keep your certification. This can be the exam for a new version of the same product or another exam in the same category (i.e., elective exam). For the NT 4.0 exams, you have until December 31, 2001, to upgrade to the Windows 2000 certification, and you can take the accelerated exam to replace the four required core Windows 2000 exams.
When you need to take the new version of an exam to replace a retired exam, Microsoft usually offers a 50% discount if you take the new exam within 6 months.
If you take a new version of an exam you passed the previous version of within 3 months after the new version is released, you are given a 50% discount on the price.
When a new exam is first developed, it is offered as a beta exam. These exams are available for 50% of the normal price. They include a large list of questions; after the beta period, some of these questions will be compiled into the real exam. Beta exams do not usually use adaptive testing.
You receive credit for passing a beta exam, but you don’t receive the results immediately; they are sent to you by mail after the beta period ends. Microsoft uses the results to develop the scoring to be used in the final version of the exam.
Recently, Microsoft has changed their beta program so that only a select number of candidates, chosen by Microsoft, can take beta exams. You cannot take most beta exams unless you have been explicitly invited.