How to Combat Cheating on IT Exams

By Gina Roos  |  Print this article Print
cheating on IT certification exams

Red Hat's director of certifications is taking the lead on finding ways to thwart IT exam fraud, which could dilute the value of certifications in the future.

Another growing problem is proxy test takers, Russell said. "You have to validate their identity during the test taking process. Red Hat requires a government-issued photo ID and has policies in place for name changes."

Russell is a big believer in online learning for the same reasons the training industry is moving toward it—convenience and flexibility. But following this trend on the testing side, at the expense of security, is a mistake, he said.

Red Hat combats exam fraud by conducting exams in a classroom setting, which it has done for years, and offering individual exams that allow the exam taker to schedule the test for a convenient date and time. Its test centers have multiple security cameras and desktop sessions are recorded.

Ultimately, the key is making sure the exam publisher has the right elements in place: a proctor, system-level security and a good identity checking and validation regime, Russell said.

He also urges recruiters or hiring managers to do a bit of due diligence when thinking about using a certification as a hiring tool.

"Ask the candidate how did they test, where did they test, what were the testing options, and ask yourself, would there be a way to abuse this," he said. "Otherwise, over time they will find that certifications are less and less a reliable measure of skills."

When an individual has a certification, recruiters know they are going to get that level of knowledge from that individual, said Bryan Kainrath, CompTIA's vice president of certification development.

Although Kainrath agreed that cheating on exams could damage the certification's value, he doesn't think the industry will walk away from CompTIA certifications, for example, because of what other certification bodies are doing in terms of security protocols.

CompTIA, a vendor-agnostic certification group, invests heavily in its security routines and employs similar security protocols to keep cheating at a minimum, such as adding simulation items on the exam, and recycling out exam questions and simulation items. In addition, CompTIA will de-certify individuals if they are caught cheating.

If the word gets out to individuals that CompTIA reviews exam data and can de-certify them, it will help thwart some of this cheating, Kainrath added.

Gina Roos, a Channel Insider contributor, focuses on technology and the channel.