IT Certification Council Encourages Pushback Against Cheating

Even the most straitlaced individuals among us almost certainly enjoy the occasional sensation of getting away with something clever, gaming the system, putting one over, and so forth. It's human nature to savor the thrill, at least once in a while, of slipping past the gatekeeper. We even root for, and admire, such shenanigans in others.


Kirk Eats Apple

In the sci-fi thriller Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral James T. Kirk reluctantly confesses his long-ago method of beating the fabled "no-win scenario" — built around the unlikely rescue of a stranded merchant freighter — that tests the character of Starfleet cadets. "I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship," Kirk says.


Kirk's son, scientist David Marcus, calls his old man out: "He cheated." In the movie, Kirk reports that his unique solution got him a commendation for original thinking. And viewers already know that the sharp-thinking former captain of the Enterprise went on to have a long and very successful career. His circumventing of the rules paid off.


In the IT certification world, however, cheating on exams rarely if ever provides any lasting benefit, and can actually do a great deal of harm. Certification cheating is the topic of a new white paper published earlier this month by the IT Certification Council. The ITCC, a tech industry coalition that promotes the value of certification, doesn't wink at any degree of cheating when it comes to certification exams.


It's not just undeservedly successful certification candidates who suffer from the effects of bending or breaking the rules to pass exams. Those individuals do incur a cost, typically at the expense of their own employment security, when claiming a professional endorsement of skills they don't actually have leads to work being done badly, or not done at all.


Having one's career blow up in one's face, however, is just the immediate and personal effect of certification cheating. There's a healthy degree of collateral damage as well. Legitimate certification holders may be treated with suspicion. The reputation of certifying organizations is besmirched. Employers suffer the effects of lost productivity and  wasted hiring resources.


The time-honored observation that cheaters never prosper holds true, but it's not just the certification cheater who ultimately reaps the whirlwind.


What's the Solution?


Woman cheats on computer exam

The ITCC white paper notes that cheating on certification exam, or Non-Independent Test Taking (NIT) — using some means of unauthorized aid to complete and pass a certification exam — takes a number of different forms. Combatting the problem, therefore, requires that a variety of different methods be proactively employed.


For example, some cheaters violate intellectual property protections by stealing exam content, or purchasing stolen exam content, prior to attempting a given exam. Others may not actually ever attempt the exam, but use forged documents to represent themselves as being a legitimate holder of a given credential. Sometimes this amounts to nothing more than falsely claiming a certification on a resume.


Some test takers may actually have the skills and knowledge to take and pass a given exam, and do so legitimately ... before the crossing a line into cheating by disclosing exam content to others, or even selling questions and answers remembered from the test. Such problems haven't yet become epidemic in nature, but a full-blown crisis is brewing.


The ITCC report summarizes a number of actions that test producers and certification organizations are currently taking to combat all forms of cheating. The most critical element in the anti-cheating equation, however, is communication and cooperation. The ITCC call on all parties involved to help stem the rising tide of NITT.


If you have an interest in the future of IT certification, then be a part of the solution. Commit now to help protect and preserve the value of certifications by attacking cheating on all fronts.


GoCertify is a participating member of the ITCC.

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

GoCertify's mission is to help both students and working professionals get IT certifications. GoCertify was founded in 1998 by Anne Martinez.