Doing Things Right: Certification Testing

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Here’s a picture of a scary world: You walk to the store and there’s a 30 percent chance you’ll buy milk that’s spoiled. You get in your car and there’s a 30 percent chance your brakes will fail. You rush to a policeman for help and there’s a 30 percent chance he’ll shoot you himself.

It’s easy to see that 30 percent of professionals not doing their jobs right is a pretty sizable number, with repercussions on even the unsuspecting.

So what do you think when I tell you our annual survey of IT professionals again produced a stark result—30 percent of respondents are using brain dumps. In other words, nearly a third of the IT industry (viewing our survey as a representative sampling) is going about things the wrong way.

I’m going to write this column under the assumption that you are on the right side of this line in the sand, the devoted 70 percent who take their studies seriously. Statistically, I know that’s not true, but I can still hope, right?

In this issue, we look at the certification testing world in depth, taking you behind the scenes of the tests that can change your life and showing you the dark side of the moon, where test pirates cheat you out of the prestige of having certified skills. But let me set the stage first.

What’s wrong with a brain dump anyway? Can 30 percent of the people be wrong? Brain dumps not only violate vendor privacy agreements, but the information on them is often just plain wrong. Think about it—you’re relying on the memories of people too lazy to study properly.

But worst of all is the perception problem. Certification is out of its infancy to be sure, but in many ways it’s still fighting for acceptance in a skeptical world. When unqualified people shortcut the process and use a flawed system to advance to a plateau they aren’t ready to reach, we all suffer. Just try telling your employer how valuable your certification is after she’s fired an unqualified administrator who boasts the same acronym.

I hope I’m preaching to the choir here when I say the responsibility to ensure your certification’s value is as much yours as its vendor’s. It starts with proper preparation, extends through quality training, is validated with proper examination and is proven with stellar performance. Short-circuit any of those elements, and you might as well just draw the Microsoft logo on your business cards.

Am I wrong? Am I missing the point? Am I right on target? Write to and let’s hear what you have to say.

Tim Sosbe
Editorial Director


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