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New Approaches

More and more professionals involved in IT certification have started to advocate a new approach of raising expectations. David Foster, founder and president of Galton Technologies, concisely pointed out the responsibilities of a certification candidate and how he or she can partner with the certifying organization to protect the test and its questions:

First, don't ever share any of the content of any test you have taken. Second, resist temptations to cheat. Refuse to use industry "cheat sheets" or so-called preparation materials and programs that just teach you to answer specific test questions believed to be on the test. Third, report such materials and programs to the certifying body. Fourth, discourage cheating by your friends and colleagues and encourage them to get quality training that would allow them to pass the test properly. Fifth, encourage the certifying organization to adopt even stronger security measures and higher testing center procedures. (Certification Magazine, February 2000)

Many other organizations that are intimately involved in the certification process work hard to enhance and maintain the credibility of IT exams. Bob Evans, president of Self Test Software, points to the fundamental differences between practice tests and "brain dump" sites, which not only "can devalue the very certification that candidates are trying to achieve," but which sometimes lead candidates astray because "questions are poorly worded and the answers given are often incorrect." The provision of a legitimate practice test gives candidates an ethical and more helpful preparation method.

"In a reputable product like Self Test Software practice exams, questions are written to the vendor's standards by highly trained developers. Tests cover exam objectives to help students focus their study, and questions are presented in a test-like environment to minimize test anxiety," Evans said. "The product does not harm the vendor's certification program by giving away actual exam questions."

Probably most encouraging is the fact that certification candidates themselves are more often taking the initiative to protect their own profession. They are truly interested in getting trained, building up experience and attaining certification credentials to garner the respect of employers and peers. Those people clearly understand that without professional behavior, they cannot enter into a relationship of trust.

Is it too much to expect that future technical leaders in the IT industry act ethically while also encouraging others to do so? Not according to the growing number of candidates that come back to certification vendors showing a very personal interest in protecting their professional reputations.

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