[BSDCert] thoughts from an over certified BSD geek
cbuechler at gmail.com
Mon Apr 4 21:49:14 EDT 2005
I've been lurking since the day this was announced. Now that the
chatter has slowed, I figured I'd throw in my 2 cents. :) Many areas
have been covered well, and I'll try to avoid those. I hope I have a
unique perspective, as I'm likely one of the most certified people on
the list, with 15 individual MS certs, MCSE, MCSA, MCDBA, MCSE
Messaging, CCNA, CCDA, routing and switching parts of the CCNP, A+,
Network+, Server+, Security+, and SSCP. And I may have forgotten
something, I don't remember. ;)
I'm involved in a number of open source BSD projects, in writing
documentation and administering systems, outlined here if you're
I'd mainly like to address two areas. One, testing location (I know
that's been covered pretty well, but I have some experiences most of
you probably don't), and two, so-called "brain dumping".
I know VUE and Prometric are being shied away from for cost and other
reasons. I agree that this is a good idea. I've taken tests at 6
different VUE and Prometric centers in Louisville KY, Evansville IN,
and Jeffersonville IN. The quality of the facilities varies
drastically, from a monitoring and compliance with procedures
perspective, as well as the quality (or lack thereof) of equipment.
Sometimes you're watched on camera, with microphones, and through a
window, other times they don't really know or care that you exist, and
several situations in between. Some test centers have nice machines
with good monitors, some are absolutely horrible. I took one test at
a location with a 10+ year old 14" CRT monitor that must have had a
dot pitch of .5, and it was dying so it flickered badly and did other
nasty eye straining things. On top of that, it was on a desk that
would violently shake if you exhaled (and I'm not exaggerating by
much). I came out of there with an incredible headache, though still
managed to pass the test somehow.
By contrast, the SSCP (which is tested alongside the CISSP) was the
most comfortable, organized and well proctored of any of the tests
I've taken. I definitely think this is the approach to take, though
the pencil and fill in the circle answer card was quite retro. :)
On the subject of brain dumping (or plagiarism in general). This has
been the number one devaluing factor, in my opinion, of certifications
in general, especially Microsoft. Cisco and other vendors have
suffered the same. If you haven't been playing the certification game
and/or been around a lot of people in the game, brain dumps are
basically people either memorizing the questions and typing them out
upon leaving, or getting them out of the testing center in some other
fashion (writing them down, tape recorder, etc.). Then you have sites
like mcsebraindumps.com that offer the test questions to anybody and
everybody (not just MS, virtually every cert).
With thousands of VUE and Prometric testing centers around the world,
it's pretty much impossible to eliminate bad ones, and I feel this is
the primary contributor to this plagiarism. I could have written down
all the questions and walked out with them a few of my 20+ times.
The CISSP and SSCP are notably missing for the most part from brain
dump sites. Why is anyone's guess. My first thought is far better
proctoring. Secondly, maybe the work experience requirement makes
these dumps in less demand, though the certifications are clearly in
high demand and are highly valued (overly so, in many circumstances,
or touted for the wrong reasons or under inappropriate circumstances).
Lastly, maybe the code of ethics has something to do with it.
Microsoft, Cisco, and all the other big names, with their huge
resources, have attempted to get these done away with. They've been
successful in some limited circumstances, but overall not very much.
Cisco seems to have taken a good approach recently. Their question
pool, it seems from the braindumps, has increased from around 150 or
so questions several years ago to 600-700 questions, and they appear
to be rotating in new questions frequently. I surmise this by what
I've seen from browsing various brain dump message boards in the last
week or so, compared to what I've seen in years past.
Used to be people could pass the CCNA (as an example) on the first or
second shot using nothing but brain dumps. Now I see people talking
about failing 4-5 times and how many of the test questions weren't on
any dumps. Cheers to Cisco for seemingly taking action to alleviate
My point, and I'm going to end this novel now, is we need to do
everything we can from the start to keep this from becoming a problem.
If the deep pockets of Microsoft can't do away with this after the
fact, we certainly can't.
If anybody's still reading this, Scott Ullrich (DragonFly and FreeSBIE
committer, amongst other BSD projects) and I are making the trip up to
BSDCan from Louisville KY USA. Hope to meet many of you there!
disclaimer: I'm truly an honest test taker that hasn't used brain
dumps, my knowledge of the area comes from curiousity and those around
me that aren't so virtuous.
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