IBM certification overhaul emphasizes quality control, exam security
Posted on
January 9, 2017
IBM is out to improve its certification program.

It's a New Year, a time of new beginnings, a time to commit to excellence and self-improvement. Many IT professionals are probably thinking about certification, pondering what they can do to increase the breadth of their IT training, or add to the depth of their IT knowledge.

Organizations, as well as individuals, frequently get an urge to scratch the personal (or organizational) betterment itch. And as the IT industry embarks into 2017, the IBM Professional Certification Program has turned over a new leaf, setting out to deliver certification and training that is more effective, more responsive, and more secure.

IBM certification has consistently provided a straight and smooth path to excellence for IT professionals who use IBM solutions to address IT challenges. Now, according to a new IBM Professional Certification Program briefing, the process that the company uses to create its certification exams has been "thoroughly reassessed and transformed."

To improve IBM certification offerings and ensure their continued relevance, IBM has organized a "certification leadership council." The council's core purpose is to provide direction and guidance to the IBM Professional Certification Program.

Among other initiatives, IBM exam developers will now follow standardized test development guidelines created using the Bloom's taxonomy educational model. In particular, developers are implementing principles of the cognitive domain of Bloom's taxonomy into their work, with the end goal of ensuring that certification candidates master all levels of learning required by a given credential.

IBM certification officials believe that the program-wide transformation will make IBM certification exams more consistent, provide better exam prep materials, and make certification more geared to real-world IT problem-solving. Behind the scenes, IBM certification personnel will also be able better monitor test effectiveness and efficiency while offering enhanced feedback channels.

The IBM certification portfolio has also been expanded to include an open badge program. Following a much-discussed model under consideration at a handful of other certification organizations, the IBM Professional Certification Programs will use badges to provide additional learning opportunities to certification holders.

As noted by IBM certification officials, badging "allows for skill updates between certification test updates." Since most certifications are on a refresh schedule generally no shorter than three years (and frequently longer), offering digital badges between exam updates lets certification programs quickly respond to changes in technology.

A final key consideration in the IBM certification overhaul was to address the ongoing challenge, faced by all certification entities, of providing greater exam security. While many, indeed, perhaps most, certification candidates make a legitimate effort to study for and pass exams, cheating persists at all levels of certification testing.

Citing research by the IT Certification Council that reveals a strong negative opinion among certified IT professionals of cheating and its unintended consequences — including overall skepticism of certifications in general — IBM certification has developed strong countermeasures to block cheaters.

In particular, testing officials will use a non-independent test-taking program  (or NITT) to monitor test takers and ensure test policy violators are punished. The NITT programs flags exam candidates who discuss test questions with other candidates, use unauthorized exam preparation materials, fraudulently obtain exams, fraudulently obtain exam answers, or copy the work of other candidates during testing.

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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