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The Evolution of Braindumps

Well, I suppose that of late I have been predisposed toward discussing IT certification exam security. What inspired this topic, I think, is the staggering number of students who ask me in all innocence, "Should I use braindumps to study for my tests?"

When I entered the IT field full-time in 1997, the term braindump as it pertains to IT certification referred to ad-hoc Web sites, often hosted at semi-disposable Web hosting services such as Geocities.com, where unscrupulous individuals invited site visitors to post their remembrances of their cert exam content.

The upshot is that these old-school braindump Web sites typically presented a largely uncategorized hodge-podge of item fragments, most of which contained suggested "solutions" and "explanations" that were sometimes barely accurate and other times flat out wrong.

As I have said elsewhere in this blog, I wrote practice exams for Transcender and PrepLogic and never once did I or any other content developer "steal" content from the corresponding live certification exams. In fact, we were always ultra-careful to author practice exams that were reasonably close in content to their live counterparts, but added value to the customer by providing top-notch research and thoughtful, accurate explanations.

Fast-forward to 2008. The old "braindump portals" of the late 90's appear to have disappeared for the most part. In their wake are individuals and/or organizations who sell word-for-word transcriptions of IT certification exams under the guise of offering "practice exams."

For $50, $100, or for no cost if you are a "knowledge is free" type of individual, you can download a PDF file or even a Java-based practice test engine to assist you in memorizing actual IT certification items and to help you pass your exams with literally no product knowledge at all! How can you lose, I ask you?

The "quality" (if you want to call it that) of these current-generation braindump documents is stunning, I must admit. For instance, if a particular IT certification exam contained 10 network diagrams, then you can expect to see those same 10 images, pixel by pixel, in your "practice exam."

Aside: Sorry about all the air-quote stuff in this essay. It's just that I refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of these braindump materials.

We could argue all day long about how pirated "practice exams" devalue IT certification and fill the industry with so-called "paper tiger" job candidates, to the detriment of all involved. Truly, that would constitute a useful line of discourse.

However, my argument against braindumps today is focused in a more personal direction; namely, the fact that your using these resources to help you pass your exams can very well be a career-limiting move.

You need to understand that if a certification vendor were to learn (how that would happen specifically, I don't know) of your reliance upon illegal braindump materials in your preparation, then they will decertify you immediately and without prejudice. Forever. That is to say, you will be barred from attaining any future certifications from that technology vendor. If you don’t believe me, then visit Microsoft's or Cisco's exam policy documents and read it for yourself.

Depending upon where you live in the world, being barred from vendor certifications may SEVERELY hamper your opportunities in the IT industry. Keep that in mind.

Finally, consider what the business industry gurus say about professional ethics: before undertaking a particular course of action, would you be happy if that action were recorded on the front page of your local newspaper? It’s something to ponder, for sure.