Salary Survey Extra: Have you ever cheated to pass a certification exam?

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Have you ever cheated on a certification exam? We all know what the "right" answer to that question is ...Like most other kinds of exams, certification exams are vulnerable to cheating. And as happens most other kinds of exams, certification exam cheaters occasionally slip past whatever measures have been put in place to stop them.

Sometimes those protections are elaborate. A 2012 press release marking the 10th anniversary of testing giant Pearson VUE’s innovative launch of professional testing centers notes the following: “Pearson Professional Centers’ patented design features a glass-enclosed proctor station that allows a direct, panoramic view of all workstations.

“Additionally state-of-the-art video and audio surveillance supports Pearson-employed proctors to prevent fraud or cheating. A layered system of biometric verification, which includes palm-vein recognition technology, provides assurance of a candidates’ identity and deters cheaters from testing as someone else.”

Cheating on a certification exam, of course, does much more than just put the perpetrator at risk of an embarrassing confrontation with testing center watchdogs. In addition to its many collateral effects and unintended consequences, the direct result of cheating is that cheaters are generally unqualified and unprepared to do the very things that their credential says they can do.

At the end of 2018, we launched a Salary Survey first by including a question that asks people who actually get IT certifications whether any of them have ever cheated on an exam. Last year, we decided to make the cheating question a permanent part of the survey.

In addition to asking survey participants whether they’ve ever cheated on a certification exam, we’ve also tried to get some information about why cheating happens. What was the motivation that led to the cheating? Here’s what we learned:

Q: Have you ever cheated on a certification exam?

No — 94.5 percent
Yes. I needed to recertify and didn’t have time to study. — 1.6 percent
Yes. There were no negative consequences and I don’t see the harm. — 1.1 percent
Yes. I was in over my head but I needed a job. — 1 percent
Yes — 0.7 percent
Yes. I did it because of [fill in the blank]. — 0.6 percent
Yes. I did it to expose flaws in the system. — 0.5 percent

The first thing to note about cheating is that most people in the IT certification world either don’t cheat or would never admit to having cheated. Just 5.5 percent of all survey respondents felt any need to come clean. Some of them didn’t have anything more to say about it: 0.8 percent of those surveyed say they have cheated, but didn’t say why.

For 1.6 percent of survey respondents, the pressure of recertification drove them to cheat. Some who cheated didn’t suffer any blowback from cheating and don’t see why it matters. A few cheated out of a perceived need to get a job, or  espouse the semi-noble motive of having cheated to reveal how easy it is to cheat.

We also gave survey participants the opportunity to explain themselves in their own words: “Yes, I cheated, but here’s why.” What follows is a sampling of some of the answers to come from that group. Some people appear to have been largely forthright, while others probably just wanted to sound clever.

“I never know the practice exams were the actual exams.”

“I wasn’t aware of a brain dump at the time.”

“The questions in the exam is irrelevant and does not test my knowledge of the products, it’s designed to ask silly questions that add no value.”

“The test itself was flawed and had incorrect answers,”

“Unaware that practice exam held real questions. Felt ashamed and have not used practice exams since.”

“We didn’t really cheat but our teacher told us to use a document full of what we wanted to write from notes to use for our certification.”

“common in our culture (non US)”

“i had an employer at the time that facilitated it to collect required credentials for business standards.”

“i’ve got a exam training that turned out to be a dump. Ive figured out once I was mid-exam and noticed some questions were equal.”

“this survey is stupid”

“requested by the company”

“the way I cheat is also a way of learning. So reading and excercise first and then STUDY the for e.g. answers from Pass4Sure or whatever. Sometimes I can’t effectivly learn Host Topics as I don’t work on Hosts but Host Questions are part of an Certification. But I think that’s not really cheating as on the Exam I will have nothing excepts myself. So do I utilize “Helpers” yes for sure….but they way I use them is more to deepen the knowledge and make sure I pass as good as possible.”

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CertMag Staff

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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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