The Voice of the Certified People

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When you’re part of a large group of people—like the IT community for instance—it’s easy to believe one voice speaks for all. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way; the IT universe encompasses a diverse web of ideas, perspectives and biases.

If you don’t believe that, here’s a true test: Pick a topic, any topic, and survey your colleagues, peers and friends. Whether it’s open-source software or outsourcing, there’s a variety of views out there driving debate and keeping the industry vibrant. I’ve got one more to add to that list: open-book testing.

In this column in last month’s Certification Magazine, we told you about a new move from NACSE, the National Association of Communication Systems Engineers, which is introducing open-book testing for its certifications.

The open-book test may be the dream of every seventh grader caught unprepared, but is it the right course of action for adult learners? If the volume of mail we received from IT experts is any indication, there are no easy answers.

Most letters applauded the idea, though with reservations. Some were dead-set against it. Others straddled the proverbial fence. Here’s a sampling:

  • “That is a ridiculous idea,” Joe Jones of Greenfield, Ind., wrote. “I’d rather certifications be extremely hard. That way, those people with certifications are considered experts in those fields.”


  • “Does ‘open book’ invalidate a test? Not necessarily,” wrote Brett Osborne of Orlando, Fla. “If the test adequately evaluates one’s knowledge, then the goal is adequately served. An open book does not mean easier than a traditional certification test. Indeed, it probably should be more exhaustive and detailed.”
  • “In my opinion, it’s great to see that some people finally are getting it,” said Richard Bedford of Raleigh, N.C. “Unless you have a photographic memory, great concentration skills and the desire to spend all your free time studying the latest technologies, there is no humanly way possible to memorize everything needed to pass all the various certification tests.”
  • “Albert Einstein said it best: ‘Never memorize what you can look up.’ I fully agree,” said Jim Neumueller of Wausau, Wis.OK, so there are simple questions but no easy answers. Feel free to weigh in on the issue, and read the full text of the letters these and other readers shared with us. We’ve posted many of the letters received at, and we welcome your contributions.

    A community is a collection of voices, whether or not they speak in unison. No matter where you stand on the subject of using reference materials during testing, there is one common ground in this campaign, and it’s worth celebrating: The issue has kicked an industry once again squarely in the complacency. Ongoing debate leads to ongoing improvements, investments and engagement in the certification world. No matter what you think, it’s good to speak up.

    Tim Sosbe

    Editorial Director



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