Preventing Cheating on Certification Exams
BackBy Deanna Hartley — Jan. 12, 2009
Unfortunately, it’s a given fact that some aspiring IT professionals will resort to underhanded, unlawful means to receive certification credentials — especially in today’s cutthroat job market. As a result, legitimate certification holders and employers are substantially disadvantaged.
However, a leading software company has adopted a proactive stance to curb cheating on certification exams.
“As stakeholders in a large program, we have a big interest in [preventing cheating] in order to protect our credentials,” said Paul Sorensen, director of global certification programs at Oracle.
Though most cases of cheating are intentional, there are some candidates awaiting certification who cheat inadvertently.
“Some people don’t understand they’re cheating sometimes, and I don’t think some people understand they’re facilitating cheating,” Sorensen said. “A good example of this is when people [innocently ask], ‘Hey, what’s on the test? You took it.’”
While it appears that cheaters themselves have something to gain, Sorensen said he can’t understand why legitimate certification holders would choose to publicize exam content.
“A lot of times people give [information] away on brain dump sites, and I think that’s absolutely stupid on the part of people taking the test,” Sorensen said. “If they’ve earned the credentials and they share the information with other people, then they’re actually turning around and giving away part of the value of their credential. Why would you shoot yourself in the foot? It’s very shortsighted for people to put information voluntarily on dump sites.”
Furthermore, cheating puts employers at a disadvantage since companies use certifications as a barometer to determine whether a candidate is qualified for a position.
“If candidates haven’t legitimately earned [the credentials], and if an employer puts too much emphasis on that and doesn’t double-check their references, work experiences, etc., then it’s possible that they will make incorrect hiring decisions,” Sorensen said.
And a poor hiring decision could prove to be detrimental to an organization.
“What if an under-qualified person [accidentally] brought Amazon’s Web site down or Wal-Mart’s Web site down or PayPal’s Web site down?” Sorensen said. “I’m sure those companies have checkpoints in place so that one person couldn’t do that, but what if it were some smaller company [wherein an individual] brought down a Web site [that generates a] tremendous amount of revenue or activity? That could be devastatingly costly.”
For this reason, preserving the integrity of certifications by curbing cheating must be a joint effort between IT companies and individuals.
“It’s our job to ensure that the items are revised periodically, to ensure [tests are] offered in a proctored environment and to make sure that we’re trying to shut down Web sites that are sharing that information,” Sorensen said. “We try to police the user groups where this [content] is being shared and put policies in place that take action against people who we catch cheating or catch sharing information.”
In an Oracle blog series, Sorensen outlined a few strategies legitimate certification holders can implement to help prevent cheating:
- Advise peers that it’s unacceptable to cheat and dissuade candidates from sharing exam-related content.
- Avoid posting any type of sensitive information on or directing others to brain dump sites.
- Share stories you may have heard of facing the consequences of cheating.
- Let others know how legitimately obtaining a certification has advanced your career.
- If you observe or come to know about an incident involving cheating, bring it to the attention of the certification program or test center.
– Deanna Hartley, firstname.lastname@example.org