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Protection Plans

Given the high stakes, it is hardly surprising that all parties involved take every conceivable step to protect the integrity and security of their exams. All leading testing vendors, such as Prometric and VUE, maintain systems to protect the security and confidentiality of the many exams that they deliver on behalf of their clients.

It all starts with the testing sites that register the candidate, deliver the actual test and report the results back to the test publisher. Test-center administrators cannot hold certification or licenses in areas that are being tested. The individual candidate can be registered only after showing appropriate identification. Candidates are limited in what they are allowed to bring into the testing center, and no notes can be taken out of the room afterward. The test itself is fully proctored, either by a certified administrator in the room or by video surveillance supervised by the test administrator. The proctor monitors the test and candidate behavior closely and reports any concerns.

Data storage and transmission are encrypted and carefully guarded, both at the local testing sites and at the central collection points. Account managers regularly visit test centers and talk to customers about their testing experience. Furthermore, any information about security breaches or negligence in following security rules is immediately investigated. Customer surveys and statistical reports can be used to help identify potential loopholes. Disappointed customers and disgruntled employees are an excellent source of information for fraud prevention.

Test developers have created a whole array of tools to protect the security of their exams. Large pools from which the actual test questions are being selected help to prevent memorization of test questions. Even more effective, new test technologies such as adaptive testing reduce the exposure of individual test questions while maintaining the accuracy of the test score. Companies like Novell and Microsoft started using adaptive testing several years ago. CompTIA, already well protected due to large item pools, has recently changed its popular A+ exam to an adaptive format to further protect the program.

All efforts focus on providing a secure and well-protected testing environment, from the initial exam development process all the way to the individual test-taking that thousands of candidates experience every day. The IT certification industry has gone a long way toward ensuring the quality and integrity of its assessments. But it cannot ignore that the professionalism of the individual test-taker makes a big difference. Surprisingly, this—the missing piece of the puzzle—is rarely mentioned in discussions about the security of IT certifications. We are very familiar with scrutinizing the exam vendors, test publishers, testing sites and the like on the exam-delivery side. We are not used to doing the same with the candidates—the receiving end of the IT testing experience. Their behavior is hardly ever mentioned, rarely questioned and almost never criticized.

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