Finding a place for unproctored certification exams

The vast majority of IT certification exams require that candidates be tested in a controlled environment that is monitored by a testing proctor. This is meant in part to ensure that every candidate taking the exam will do so in an environment as similar to all other exam candidates as possible. Obviously, a significant portion of the rationale is to eliminate (or at least reduce) the number of candidates who cheat on the exam.

That said, there are a handful of certification exams that can be taken in an unproctored environment. Usually it is possible to take these via any computer with an internet connection. A significant number of professionals feel that any certification program that includes one or more of these exams is considerably less valuable. Their logic is that anything that makes it easier for candidates to cheat on an exam also makes it more difficult to trust the competence of people who have passed a certification track that includes one.

It is hard to argue with that thinking. If I were going to write about whether or not it is easier to cheat when taking an unproctored exam versus a proctored one, this would be a very short article. The question I am exploring, however, is what value we should attach to such tests and, by extension, whether they have a valid place in a certification program.

At one time, I most likely would have dismissed the possibility that these exams held any value. However, a number of…

Matthew Morris


Matthew Morris is an experienced DBA and developer. He holds Oracle DBA Certifications for releases 7, 8i, 9i, 10G and 11G; Expert Certifications for SQL, SQL Tuning, and Application Express; and is an Oracle Linux 6 Certified Implementation Specialist and an Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Professional. He is the author of several Oracle certification guides. His Web site, Oracle Certification Prep, is dedicated to providing links to resources for Oracle certification preparation.

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  • JamesOwens11

    The Cloud Security Alliance’s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) exam is very good, very worthwhile and unproctored.

    As you say, few people work in an environment where the information isnt available electronically – the key is setting realistic questions and testing people’s ability to understand the problem well enough to work out how to solve it.

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