The MCA Board exam is the cornerstone of Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certification. It provides experienced consultants the opportunity to demonstrate their technical expertise and business acumen to an appointed committee of industry experts. MCA candidates who successfully demonstrate their mastery of six select competencies to the Review Board earn their MCA certification and entrance into the exclusive MCA community.
Resources for preparing for the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) Board exam are program-specific and are available on our registration site.
The MCA program is designed to certify individuals who can be described by the following statements:
They have earned a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) certification in the current version of the technology for which they wish to pursue an MCA certification.
They are practicing architects, actively delivering solutions to customers and the industry.
They are able to conduct meaningful communication with technical, business, and architectural stakeholders.
Their work is repeatable and they have the skills, processes, and techniques to ensure consistent success.
Their solutions are durable and of high technical quality.
They act as trusted advisors with enough knowledge and objectivity to make the best recommendations possible on behalf of their clients.
During the MCA Board exam, the candidate's skills and qualifications are measured against six competencies and ranked on skill maturity:
Skill Level 1 – The candidate exhibits a basic level of competency.
Skill Level 2 – The candidate exhibits partially developed skills in the competency.
Skill Level 3 – The candidate exhibits fully developed skills in the competency.
Skill Level 4 – The candidate exhibits mastery in the competency.
These are the six competencies required to achieve MCA certification.
Discover and refine requirements
Discover business landscape: project goals, business environment, culture, industry, business requirements, stakeholders
Discover technical landscape: technical dependencies, technical requirements, maturity model, delivery methodology/framework(s)
Discover/refine requirements: clarifications, refinements, changes, engagement terms
Analyze and prioritize requirements
Analyze and prioritize project requirements: acceptance criteria, risks, design goals
Analyze and prioritize external factors: project constraints, risks
Analyze business value; prioritize conflicts and interdependencies: project impact, alternatives and consequences
Design a solution that meets requirements
Design for business requirements: project scoping and planning, cost-benefit analysis, roadmap planning, attainment of goals
Design for technical requirements: durability, innovation, service delivery method selection, test regimen, roadmap planning
Design for operations requirements: effectiveness, process integration, support planning
Govern solution delivery, operation, and maintenance
Select and apply delivery methodology: standard delivery methodology usage, suitability
Build stabilize/testing and validation: completeness, test validation, use of acceptance criteria
Deployment: pilot planning and execution, milestone management
Operate and maintain the solution: governance process, roles and responsibilities, service monitoring
Adoption and solution lifecycle management: documentation, training, process/solution improvement
Demonstrate effective leadership skills
Project delivery: project scale, solution complexity, prioritization
Project leadership: leadership as it relates to specific project teams
External leadership: leadership as it relates to those external to the project team
Thought leadership and mentoring: community impact, thought leadership
Demonstrate effective communication skills
Documentation skills: structure, content, persuasiveness, mechanics, use of visual aids
Presentation and facilitation skills: structure, delivery, clarity, use of visual aids
Situational awareness and extemporaneous communication skills: cultural/behavioral awareness, communication tool selection
Listening and feedback skills: active listening, feedback solicitation
Conflict resolution and composure: composure, focus, conflict recognition and resolution
Planning your portfolio documentation and presentation
The Review Board will be looking to your portfolio documentation and presentation for evidence of the required six main competencies. You should allow an adequate amount of focused time to prepare your portfolio submission.
The portfolio documentation must describe one project within the prior 12 months for which you served as an architect for your technology. The entire portfolio submission may need to draw on multiple projects, examples of community and industry contributions, publications, and other demonstrations of community and industry leadership to provide adequate breadth and depth of evidence in relation to the scoring criteria. Your presentation itself should ideally be constrained to a single project, featuring your participation in an architect role.
The current or prior version of the technology must have been used in the project.
The portfolio documentation must not exceed 50 pages, excluding diagrams, topologies, and tables, which may be provided in appendices.
The documentation must be in English, and it must not contain any sensitive customer information.
At least one phase of the project must be in production use by your customer.
Portfolio submission guidelines
The following topics should be addressed in your portfolio documentation and your presentation. You are not required or expected to use this as a template for your documentation, but rather as an aid in preparing your documentation.
Existing technical landscape
Solution delivery, operation, and maintenance
The MCA Board exam
The MCA Board exam is a scheduled session that takes place in a conference room with a large table, a projection screen, and a white board. On the day of your appearance, an assigned proctor will be responsible for keeping you on schedule, ensuring you know the timings of the various segments, and ensuring you are ushered to your conference room or a board room as needed.
The names of Review Board members are not disclosed to candidates before the exam. Review Board members are not allowed to answer individual inquiries from candidates until the exam is complete and the candidate's certification status has been communicated. The Review Board members will not ask you content questions.
Each exam adheres to the following agenda.
After introductions are made, the goal of this component is to evaluate the candidate's recent experience in leading a complex project and to demonstrate whether the candidate has sufficient experience in guiding customers to a satisfactory solution.
The candidate is expected to present pertinent topics from a real-life customer engagement. Typical contents include the following:
Project and organization overview
Project goals and success criteria
Details of initial state
Key decisions and rationales
Key risks and mitigation methods
Delivery, deployment, and operations plans and processes
Details of end state
The question and answer (Q&A) discussion is an interview that is based on the candidate's portfolio presentation and portfolio documentation. The Review Board assesses the candidate's strength across each core competency of the MCA certification.
The candidate leaves the room during the break.
Up to 3 hours, varies by program
Case study preparation
The candidate receives background materials and requirements for a case study relating to the specified technology. The candidate is expected to prepare a 10-minute presentation in response to the case study during this time.
The candidate leaves the room during the break.
10-15 minutes, varies by program
Case study presentation
The candidate presents a response to the case study, which should include the following high-level topics:
High-level project plan
Rough estimate budget
Case study Q&A
The Review Board conducts a second round of Q&A, based on the case study contents and the candidate’s case study presentation. The Review Board assesses the candidate's strength across each core competency of the MCA certification.
The candidate makes any additional comments, and the Review Board responds.
Deliberation and conclusion
The candidate leaves the room while the Review Board members perform the scoring and deliberation process.
The candidate receives performance results by email within two weeks.