Reporting Bad Certification Experiences

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While scanning the online discussion boards on our Web site (, I notice the occasional flame of a certification exam or training program. As far as we’re concerned, it’s great. This virtual meeting place allows our readers to discuss these matters in ways that the editorial staff at CertMag simply can’t.


The best part about this is that the people who have contributed comments thus far been very specific in their criticisms, which have rarely been mean-spirited and never obscene in tone. For instance, a few of you took to the boards to censure a certain training vendor (which will go unnamed here—if you want to see it, you’ll have to check it out for yourself), citing refund policies and customer service as problems. On the other hand, a couple of you rebutted these remarks and maintained that you had used the company’s products to great effect. On another board, a reader discussed his recent experience with a certification exam. He had failed it, but added that the exam questions weren’t especially well-written and many of the answers were confusing.


Certification programs and the educational offerings around them obviously aren’t perfect, and given their brief history, some bugs can be expected. That said, these credentials play an important role in the IT industry, as they’re designed to verify whether or not someone possesses the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed in a given occupation. For the benefit of all parties involved—IT professionals, employers, and certification and training vendors—concerns about things such as irrelevant or obsolete content, poorly worded questions and answers or levels of difficulty that don’t properly align to job roles need to be reported.


But who do you tell about a bad certification or training experience? That depends largely on the situation. For example, if the testing or training center where you took an exam or class left something to be desired, but there were no problems with the content itself, then you could report the problem to the proctor, instructor or perhaps even the manager of the site. You also might notify someone who works for the certification provider of your encounter so they know their tests are being administered in a substandard environment, but be clear that the problem was the testing center not the exam.


If the issue is with the test content, you should report it to the certification’s program manager or someone who works with him or her. State your problem as implicitly as you can, mentioning exact details. You don’t want them to misdiagnose the malady and fix something that didn’t need fixing and not address the original glitch. And give them some time to work on it before you get on the Internet and fire flames in all directions. These things can’t be dealt with overnight, after all. Finally, be sure to track updates to the exam to see if they’ve adopted the changes you suggested. If a significant amount of other certification candidates reported the same problems, then it’s likely that they’ll consider a revision. Additionally, they’ll probably appreciate input from an informed member of their target audience.


If a certification program or training provider continually dispenses extraneous or slapdash offerings, and you feel really strongly about it, then tell others. I’m not suggesting launching a coordinated smear campaign against them, but if someone asks about it on the discussion boards or around the office, speak your mind without hesitation or regret. After all, they failed to adequately meet the needs of at least one customer, and you shouldn’t feel bad about simply telling the truth. Conversely, if you’d had a great experience, the company would want you to tell others about that. That’s how the consumer market works.

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