Why some professional certifications are not trustworthy in some countries?

Read the original article I wrote in LInkedIn here.

I was in a brainstorm meeting to design a new training program for developers, and one suggestion was to have a mandatory certification as part of evaluation criteria. Most of us were not in agreement with the idea but a justification comment from one person caught my attention “certification exams are just memory tests!“.

Microsoft do not conduct Beta exams in few countries and it is clearly mentioned in the About page of Microsoft’s Certifications:

Candidates located in China, India, Pakistan, or Turkey are not eligible to participate in beta exams for security reasons.

In one of the Microsoft Community forums, a Microsoft agent even shown the courage to explain the reason that the fraud percentage in these countries are almost 80%. (sorry, I am unable to trace that page now. May be that comment was removed after some reporting)

“Certification in X is preferred” is one of the usual line in Job Descriptions, but the fact is interviewer do not really give a damn about the certification unless the candidate really showcases the skills. This fate definitely is not applicable for all the exams, I have to admit.

I took my PMP exam at an exam center Dubai, UAE where I felt like I was in a demilitarized zone where I am being monitored by ‘someone’ every microsecond. I was allotted a locker where I was asked to put all the belongings including my watch and belt there and I had to walk though a scanner. I was guided to a cubicle where an overhead CCTV camera was pointing at me like a gun. After about three months of study by spending almost 4-6 hours a day, I also practiced the exam by answering about 1000 questions to get confidence. Surprisingly I did not encounter same question repeated in my actual exam and, the amount of joy I felt when the last screen of “Congratulations” gave was very blissful.

Compared to my PMP, back in my home town, the few other exams I took (mostly Microsoft exams) at local exam centers were very casual. No strict checking of body or ID card, nobody to monitor, no strict adherence to timing etc.

But why?

When I say “certification exams are for testing memory”, what I am trying to imply is that, you get “brain dumps“, the exact exam questions and its answers in your hand in advance so your job is just to memorize those questions and answer options so you might even get 1000/1000 marks.

One of the problem with local exam centers is, along with exam vouchers selling and facilitating the exams, they are also giving, or selling brain dumps too. They use some kind of screen recorders, or other methods to collect questions. There are many people in social media like Telegram, through the exam preparation groups are giving/selling same. But now since the exam providers also allow candidates to attend exams from anywhere, it has become too easy to cheat the exam by collecting questions, or by using another methods like impersonation. There are many websites also provide brain dumps, in the name of practice questions.

See how easy is it to write a program to take screenshot every few seconds so that you can do a second attempt exam by memorizing these questions:

System.Drawing.Rectangle captureRectangle = Screen.AllScreens[0].Bounds;

System.Drawing.Graphics captureGraphics = System.Drawing.Graphics.FromImage(bmp);

captureGraphics.CopyFromScreen(captureRectangle.Left, captureRectangle.Top, 0, 0, captureRectangle.Size);

bmp.Save(path + “\\” + DateTime.Now.Ticks + “.mib”, System.Drawing.Imaging.ImageFormat.Jpeg);

Another cheating method is to use a ‘proxy’ person support. Using some screen sharing software, your friend/proxy can login to your machine remotely and attend the exam while you sit idle in front of the computer.

How to make these exams trustworthy?

Exam process and systems are improving and embracing latest technologies. With the introduction of AI, there are effective solutions available which will monitor candidate’s facial movements, eye contact, body language etc. in addition to improving the exam quality – by intelligent selection of questions or alternate evaluation methods. Also, in addition to multiple choice questions, if we can introduce practical-oriented exams also, then we can make the candidates ready for the industry. Scenario based questions do exist, but those are again memoizable. However, we might have to wait a while more because, at the time of writing this exam also, I can see there are exams which you can easily pass if you have the capability to memorize brain dumps.